Jonas Chickering

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Jonas Chickering

Jonas Chickering (April 5, 1798 – December 8, 1853) was a piano manufacturer in Boston, Massachusetts.


Jonas Chickering was born in Mason Village, and raised in nearby New Ipswich, New Hampshire where his father Abner Chickering kept a farm and worked as a blacksmith. Chickering apprenticed three years as a cabinet maker with John Gould.

Greenville, New Hampshire Town in New Hampshire, United States

Greenville is a town in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 2,105 at the 2010 census. It is located at the junction of New Hampshire routes 31, 45, and 123.

New Ipswich, New Hampshire Town in New Hampshire, United States

New Ipswich is a town in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 5,099 at the 2010 census. New Ipswich, situated on the Massachusetts border, includes the villages of Bank, Davis, Gibson Four Corners, Highbridge, New Ipswich Center, Smithville, and Wilder, though these village designations no longer hold the importance they did in the past. The Wapack Trail passes through the community.

In 1818 Chickering removed to Boston with Gould's permission, working for cabinet-maker James Baker, but one year later began working for pianomaker John Osborn at 12 Orange Street. In 1823, Chickering formed a partnership with pianomaker James Stewart; they produced 15 pianos the first year at workshops at 20 Common street and sold their first piano on June 23, 1823 for $275.

Washington Street (Boston) street in Massachusetts, United States of America

Washington Street is a street originating in downtown Boston, Massachusetts that extends southwestward to the Massachusetts–Rhode Island state line. The majority of it was built as the Norfolk and Bristol Turnpike in the early 19th century. It is the longest street in Boston, and it remains one of the longest streets in the state of Massachusetts.

Tremont Street Road in Boston Massachusetts

Tremont Street is a major thoroughfare in Boston, Massachusetts.

Stewart & Chickering dissolved after four years, and in 1830 Chickering became associated with John Mackay, a merchant, as well as organ and pianomaker who had worked with Alpheus Babcock, doing business as Chickering & Co. at 416 Washington street. In 1837 Chickering & Mackays (with Mackay's son William H. Mackay) built a new five story factory, with warerooms and a small concert hall, at 334 Washington Street, and warehouse at Franklin square.

Alpheus Babcock American piano maker

Alpheus Babcock was a piano and musical instrument maker in Boston, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the early 19th century. Babcock is best known for patenting a complete iron frame in a single casting used to resist the strain of the strings in square pianos, he also patented a system of stringing in squares, and improvements in piano actions.

John Mackay was lost at sea February 1841, and Chickering mortgaged the factory and bought out his and William H. Mackay's shares in installments. The Washington street factory burned December 1, 1852 putting out over 200 workmen and amounting to $250,000 loss, as well as all the tools and patterns, and a nearly completed prototype for a grand piano (later indicated as being overstrung). Chickering organized a temporary factory, and began construction of a new steam-powered factory started at 791 Tremont street, designed by Edward Payson to Chickering's specifications.

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Chickering died before the factory's completion, on December 8, 1853. Over 800 people, including leading piano manufacturers and many of the societies of which Chickering had been a member, marched in his funeral procession and the mayor of Boston ordered the ringing of the city's church bells.

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1853 advertisement

At the time of his death, Chickering's company had built over 12,000 pianos and was producing about 1,500 a year worth $200,000, almost twice the sales of Timothy Gilbert, his largest competitor in Boston. His pianos at the London International Exhibition of 1851 earned a gold medal with special mention for the grand, which was noted for brilliancy and power as well as its great solidity. Chickering patented single piece iron frames combined with wrest plank bridges and damper guides in square pianos, and with massive wrest plank terminations in grands; Chickering & Mackays were assignees of an action patented by Alpheus Babcock, and licensed actions patented by Edwin Brown and George Howe. Chickering pioneered pronounced curved hammer strike lines in squares which permitted larger hammers, and is also credited encouraging Ichabod Washburn to develop the first music wire produced in the United States.

Timothy Gilbert American piano maker and aboliotonist

Timothy Gilbert was an American piano manufacturer, abolitionist and religious organizer in Boston, Massachusetts. His brother Lemuel Gilbert was also a piano manufacturer.

Ichabod Washburn (1798–1868) was a church deacon and industrialist from Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. His financial endowments led to the naming of Washburn College, now Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and the foundation of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Chickering, with Henry W. Pickering and Edward Frothingborn incorporated a charter to erect the Boston Music Hall, paid for by subscription and built in 1852. He served as president of the Handel and Haydn Society, and of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, which he joined in 1829, until his death.

Boston Music Hall

The Boston Music Hall was a concert hall located on Winter Street in Boston, Massachusetts, with an additional entrance on Hamilton Place.

Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association

The Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (est.1795) of Boston, Massachusetts, was "formed for the sole purposes of promoting the mechanic arts and extending the practice of benevolence." Founders included Paul Revere, Jonathan Hunnewell, and Benjamin Russell. Through much of the 19th century, the association organized conferences and exhibitions devoted to innovation in the mechanical arts.

Chickering married Elizabeth Sumner Harraden November 20, 1823. They had four children: Thomas E. Chickering, C. Frank Chickering, George H. Chickering, and Anna Chickering. Chickering's sons worked as pianomakers, and became partners in the company in 1853 forming Chickering and Sons.


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    A Chickering piano in 2007 2007 Chickering piano 2811286779 54c29de5d5 o.jpg
    A Chickering piano in 2007