The First Piano Post

8 Sep

Yesterday our neighbor gave us a used piano she had found on craigslist a few years ago. She had intended to restore it but never got around to it, so it has been standing quietly in her garage.20140907_172827

If you have ever doubted that Josh is super cool and smart, you should have been here to see him move this heavy upright all by himself from her garage to ours.

20140907_172822 20140907_173204

Here is what we have learned so far about our new old piano:


The Cornish Piano & Organ company was established in Washington, New Jersey in 1879. It was a huge mail order house, selling organs and pianos directly to the consumer from the factory. This allowed Cornish to sell their instruments at a lower price than most, and their aggressive financing plans helped them become a major player in the American piano industry. Both Cornish pianos and organs were usually very elaborately carved, and they were generally very good quality overall. Sadly, the Cornish factory burned to the ground in 1922 and the firm never recovered.


A Cornish ad from 1910. $700 back then is about $17,000 now – what a bargain. Ours was probably cheaper because it looks a bit less fancy.

Because the company didn’t last very long, we can pretty much confirm that Josh’s winter project is between 92 and 135 years old! How cool is that?

I don’t know if you would call it well-loved but I would call it abused. Someone drew on most of the keys with crayon, and many of them are broken. There are some broken or missing pieces inside as well but at this point it seems like we should be able to find replacement parts with very little trouble and I think Josh can fix most of the structural problems. The wood is mostly in good condition, which is encouraging. It has not yet been determined how many mice are living inside it, if any.



It needs to get cleaned up and come inside before winter, because we don’t heat our garage. Then Josh can work on it in the house, when we’re not playing it.


10 Responses to “The First Piano Post”

  1. The Dad September 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Very nice recap of the company history! Great looking instrument, which should give hours of fun getting back into front-parlor-ready condition! :-) With a careful cleaning and oiling, you may find that it’s really not in that bad of shape after all. Hope that’s the case anyway.

    • littleapartment September 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      I hope so too! Thanks Dad :)

      • The Dad September 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

        How many keys are missing? Does it sound at all in tune? You will probably come across a serial number somewhere, and it’s possible you might find some “expert” online who can give you a ballpark guess as to when it was made. You may even find a “Cornish” blog somewhere. Though the factory burned down, it could be the records somehow survived (long shot).

        • littleapartment September 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

          I added a picture that shows the keys. 23 are missing the ivory, but they are all there.

  2. The Dad September 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm # — nose around this site some. There’s an email contact that may prove useful in finding out when your piano was made. I discovered that our Wurlitzer is fairly new — 1963. Kinda surprised me; thought it was some older.

    • littleapartment September 8, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

      They don’t have any Cornish at that link. That’s interesting about yours though! I wouldn’t have guessed it either.

  3. stephaniechayrez September 8, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Looks very cool! What a fun project! I would paint it some horrible color that everyone else would hate. In theory.

    • littleapartment September 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

      I don’t think you would if you saw it in person. I originally thought of spraying it glossy black but the wood is really nice looking.

  4. Anonymous September 9, 2014 at 6:18 am #

    Beautiful piano! It most certainly can be bought back to it’s original beauty with a lot of TLC. Also got to say, be careful making Josh swell headed! There’ll be no room for your piano! LOL!
    Love always, Mom-in law

    • littleapartment September 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Thanks, Linda! I know, it might go to his head but I can’t deny it was really impressive! We’ll see if he ever actually works on the piano though ;)

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