J. Bauer Piano Company: The Story of William Bauer, the Most Creative Piano Designer
We will start with his father.
Julius Bauer was born in Berlin on July 20, 1831. At an early age he demonstrated a natural talent for making musical instruments, and by age 18 he had accumulated many years of experience working on pianos and violins. At that time, the 1848 revolution was erupting, so he left for America and arrived in New York.
Immediately after opening his own store, in 8 years his business had grown rapidly. He leaves his brother John in charge of the New York store and arrives in Chicago in 1857 with his other brother Herman. They sold various brands of pianos such as Behning, Miller, McCammon, and Knabe.
In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, his business was destroyed. For the next year and a half, he operated a church while a new building was being constructed. During this time of tragedy, his brother John dies, so the New York branch closes.
Although Bauer started out as a retailer, he soon began building pianos that were sold under his name. Bauer pianos became known for being exceptionally well-made pianos.
With its success, Bauer was able to afford luxurious warehouses in two major cities, Chicago and again in New York in 1880.
Julius died in 1884 and his wife Anna Marie took over the management of the company.
Their son William was born in 1870 and, after graduating from high school, he goes on vacation to Europe. When he returns to Chicago, he begins his career at the factory learning everything he can about pianos from scratch.
Now the fun begins. William turned out to be a talented piano maker with an inventive mind. In my opinion, he was one of the most original thinkers in the history of piano technology.
(The following may be a bit technical).
Their designs seem to be based on rigidity. Its plates are designed so that the string tension is placed in a horizontal plane within the center of the plate, whereas on a “normal” grand piano, the string tension is horizontally at the top of the plate.
Take another step into your upright position. A major flaw with studs is that the cabinet can muffle the sound. William addresses this problem by placing the soundboard at the back of the instrument for maximum exposure to sound, but the plate and strings are in the middle of the instrument. Connect the soundboard to the bridge and the dowel strings.
I recommend that you view their patents, which can be accessed online by searching for Google Patents.
Another example of his unique approach is the soundboard itself. You can easily spot a Julius Bauer piano because its soundboards have ribs on the top and bottom.
Later, he even invented a piano without a steel plate. It has a wooden plate that replaces the traditional cast iron plate in order to give the piano a sweeter tone.
His piano designs and construction methods were unique and highly praised in his day. Today they deserve a second look and are worth restoring.
He sold his company to the Wurlitzer Piano Company in 1930 and was hit hard during the Great Depression.
Wurlitzer continued to build the Julius Bauer name until about 1938.