Last weekend we visited the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, Arizona. The lobby piano was a lovely McPhail Square Grand Piano.
This beautiful square grand piano is much like the pianofortes our Regency heroines played to demonstrate their accomplishments.
The McPhail of course is not English. It hails from Boston, where Andrew M. McPhail established his piano company in 1837. The Antique Piano Shop describes the history of these instruments:
In the last part of the 18th Century, John Jacob Astor started importing Square Grand Pianos to America from Europe. By the turn of the 19th Century, a handful of makers are recorded as having made some of the first Square Grand Pianos in America. For the next 100 years, the Square Grand Piano would evolve into a larger, heavier, and more mechanically refined instrument. During the 19th Century, American Piano Makers built and sold more Square Grand Pianos than Grand Pianos or Upright Pianos! Our vintage ephemera collections show these Square Grand Pianos selling for as much as $800 in the mid 19th Century – the cost of a small house! Sadly, however, they are all but forgotten today. By about 1880-1890, the American Upright Piano began to win favor as being more fashionable than the Square Grand Piano. Because they were smaller and took up less floor space, the Upright Piano caused the Square Grand Piano to become obsolete by 1900.
The Hassayampa McPhail had a large Do Not Play sign. Considering the difficulty of restoration described by the Antique Piano Shop, I can certainly understand that–but I so would have loved to play a tune on it!