The Steinway Mystique

The Enduring Name of Steinway & Sons

The Steinway name has endured for more than 150 years. The company has survived the U. S. Civil war, World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, and the age of electronics. More than once the company threatened bankruptcy, moves to liquidate, and faced intense political turmoil. In fact, at a time during World War II, piano production all but came to a complete halt while the Steinway factory in New York switched to manufacturing parts for gliders and aircraft -- Steinway even registered two patents -- for the U. S. war effort while in Germany, Steinway's Hamburg factory was commandeered for the Nazi war effort. Talk about a conflict of interest!

Perhaps the biggest threat to the Steinway's reputation was what many enthusiasts would call a "sell-out" of the entire name and tradition to the Musical Instruments Division of CBS. Suddenly Steinway was just one name among many owned by CBS (like Fender, Leslie, Rhodes and Rogers). Still the name survived, even amidst severe rumors and technical reviews claming that CBS had attempted to streamline production and increase profits by compromising Steinway's high quality standards.

In 1985 CBS sold its Musical Instruments Division to an investment group from Boston, MA. Hope for the company returned. From this transaction, Steinway & Sons was defined as a part of a larger venture called Steinway Musical Properties. In 1995 Steinway Musical Properties was sold to band instrument manufacturer, Selmer, but with the Steinway name continuing to be a powerful icon, the entire conglomerate, which includes previous CBS holdings, plus Selmer band instruments, Selmer Paris saxophones, Bach trumpets and trombones as well as Ludwig drums, became known as Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. Today, Steinway Musical Instruments is a thriving company with orders for Steinway grand pianos often exceeding the factories' production numbers.

Source: M. Eric Johnson, Joseph Hall, and David Pyke (February 18, 2008). "Technology and Quality at Steinway & Sons" (Online), Accessed July 22, 2008.