A History of Mason & Hamlin
Based in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Mason & Hamlin was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1854 by the son of famous American hymn composer Lowell Mason, Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin, to manufacture melodeons, a type of pump organ. However in 1855 they debuted the organ-harmonium, a flat topped cabinet organ that served as the basis for the popular American style reed organ, which relied on suction. In the 1870’s they were the largest and most important reed organ manufacturer, having a roster of employees numbering around 500 and pumping out nearly 200 organs a week. Building organs for many successful composers, they named their patented selective sustain mechanism – sillier to the sostenuto in pianos, after arguably their most famous client, Franz Liszt.
By 1883 Mason & Hamlin began manufacturing pianos, starting with upright pianos, patenting a method of tuning and tensioning the strings they called the “screw stringer.” An independent piano designer from Germany, Richard W Gertz, fully restructured their piano manufacturing wing in 1895. Gertz’ piano department thrived, and he was elected as secretary of the company first in 1903 then president in 1906. Gertz patented what he called the “Tension Resonator” with Mason & Hamlin, designed to the destruction of the soundboards, and was first included in their grand pianos in 1900. This Tension Resonator is still used in all Mason & Hamlin pianos. With over 100 years of production, these proprietary construction methodologies lead to pianos that are rock solid and will most definitely stand the test of time. It is this quality that makes them wonderful second hand purchases, but you are also purchasing a genuine piece of American history when you consider a used Mason & Hamlin grand piano for sale.
The Artist’s Piano
Sergei Rachmaninoff recorded in Second Piano Concerto on a Mason & Hamlin. While this is more than enough to solidify the brands legacy, don’t take our word for it, Maurice Ravel, famous composer, said “While preserving all the qualities of the percussion instrument, the Mason & Hamlin pianoforte also serves magnificently the composer’s concept by its extensive range in dynamics, as well as the quality of tone. It is not short of being a small orchestra. In my opinion, the Mason & Hamlin is a real work of art.”
Mason & Hamlin was sold to the American Piano Company, who held a stable of brands, considering Mason & Hamlin to be the artist’s piano of their lineup. Due to the great depression, a struggling American Piano Company sold Mason & Hamlin’s equipment, trademark and inventory to Aeolian. The manufacturing facilities were sold separately by the end of the following year. Financial struggles continued and American Piano Company and Aeolian merged in 1932, forming Aeolian-American. Mason & Hamlin, who had been treading water in the Hallet, Davis & Company factories in Massachusetts had their production moved to Rochester New York. In a bid to revive the company, Mason & Hamlin started the Mason and Hamlin Prize piano competition.
The Second World War saw production lines all over America repurposed for war time efforts. Mason & Hamlin’s factory was tasked to produce military gliders. In a tumultuous postwar America, the brand changed hands many times, eventually joining the Sohmer Piano Company in 1985. Throughout this uncertain stretch, Mason & Hamlin continued to produce pianos of outstanding quality and craftsmanship, though the design of the more modern Mason & Hamlin pianos had little to do with the pianos of the pre-Depression era.
A Return to Form
In a romantic bid to return the company to the pre-Depression glory a Seattle based businessman, Bud Greer, purchased a piano factory from manufacturer Santi Falcone along with the Sohmer Piano Company, moving the business to Haverhill, Massachusetts and combining all of his efforts under the name The Mason & Hamlin Companies. After a short run of success, Greer sold the company to Burgett, Inc. The pianos are still manufactured in Haverhill, Massachusetts today.
While collectors prize the pre-Depression Mason & Hamlin pianos for their historical value, nearly every model produced under the Mason & Hamlin name has been a piano of astounding quality. If you’re looking for a piano that’s exemplary of the American Legacy and one that has a past characterized with stories of stalwart values, then consider a used Mason & Hamlin grand piano for sale. Our stockroom and warehouse are brimming with new and used grand pianos for sale, each tenderly cared for and restored to a beautiful status. Read more about purchasing a used grand piano HERE. If you have any questions about our new and used grand pianos for sale don’t hesitate to reach out and call (770) 717 8047.