- Baldwin Piano Company
name = Baldwin Piano Company
foundation = 1857
location_country = U.S.
key_people = Henry Juszkiewicz (
The Baldwin Piano Company is the largest US-based manufacturer of
keyboard instruments, most notably pianos. It is a subsidiary of the Gibson Guitar Corporation.
The company can trace its origins back to 1857, when Dwight Hamilton Baldwin began teaching piano, organ, and violin in
Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1862, Baldwin started a Decker Brotherspiano dealership and, in 1866, hired Lucien Wulsin as a clerk. Wulsin became a partner in the dealership, by then known as D.H. Baldwin & Company, in 1873, and, under his leadership, the Baldwin Company became the largest piano dealer in the Midwestern United Statesby the 1890s.
In 1889–1890, Baldwin vowed to build "the best piano that could be built"cite web | title = Baldwin Pianos | publisher = Baldwin Piano | url = http://www.gibson.com/Products/Pianos/Baldwin%20Pianos/About%20Us/ | accessdate = 2007-05-31 ] and subsequently formed two production companies: Hamilton Organ, which built reed organs, and the Baldwin Piano Company, which made pianos. The company's first piano, an upright, began selling in 1891. The company introduced its first grand piano in 1895.
Baldwin died in 1899 and left his estate to fund missionary causes. Wulsin ultimately purchased Baldwin's estate and continued the company's shift from retail to manufacturing. The company won its first major award in 1900, when their model 112 won the
Grand Prixat the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the first American manufactured piano to win such an award. Baldwin-manufactured pianos also won top awards at the Louisiana Purchase Expositionand the 1914 Anglo-American Exposition. By 1913, business had become brisk, with Baldwin exporting to thirty-two countries in addition to having retailers throughout the United States.
Baldwin, like many other manufacturers, began building
player pianos in the 1920s. A piano factory was constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The models became unpopular by the end of the 1920s, which, coupled with the beginning of the Great Depression, could have spelled disaster for Baldwin. However, the company's president, Lucien Wulsin II, had created a large reserve fund for such situations, and Baldwin was able to ride out the market downturn.
World War II, the US War Production Board ordered the cessation of all US Piano manufacturing so that the factories could be used for the US war effort. Baldwin factories were used to manufacture plywood airplane components for various aircraft such as the Aeronca PT-23 trainer and the stillborn Curtiss-Wright C-76 Caravancargo aircraft. While the employment of wood components in military aircraft could by no means be considered a resounding success, lessons learned in constructing plywood aircraft wings ultimately assisted in Baldwin's development of its 41-ply maple pinblock design used in its postwar piano models. [Gibson Guitar Corporation, Baldwin Division, "About Baldwin" http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Divisions/Baldwin/About/]
After the war ended, Baldwin resumed selling pianos, and by 1953 the company had doubled production figures from prewar levels. In 1946, Baldwin introduced the first
electronic organFact|date=August 2008|please verify the content of this passage| () 06:56, 11 August 2008 (UTC), which became so successful that the company changed its name to the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company. In 1961, Lucien Wulsin IIIbecame president. By 1963, the company had acquired C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrikand remained its owner until 1986. In 1965, Baldwin constructed a new piano manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, originally to manufacture upright pianos: by 1973, the company had built 1,000,000 upright pianos.
The company next attempted to capitalize on the growth of
pop music. After an unsuccessful bid to buy Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Baldwin bought Burns of London in 1965 for $380,000, and began selling the guitars through the company's piano retail outlets. Unused to marketing guitars, the Baldwin stores failed to interest many guitar buyers, and sales proved disappointing.] By 1982, however, the piano business contributed only three percent of Baldwin's $3.6 billion revenues. Meanwhile, the company had taken on significant debt to finance its acquisitions and new facilities, and was finding it increasingly difficult to meet its loan obligations. In 1983, the company was forced into bankruptcy with a total debt of over $9 billion--at that time, the largest bankruptcy ever.
During bankruptcy proceedings in 1984, the Baldwin piano business was sold to its management.Citation | title = "G.E. Credit Signs Deal With Baldwin" |publisher = The New York Times | date =
June 19, 1984| url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E05E7DD1739F93AA25755C0A962948260 | accessdate = 2007-12-17 ] The new company went public in 1986 as the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company.Citation | last = Rothstein | first = Eward | title = "For the Piano, Chords of Change" |publisher = The New York Times |date = September 27, 1987| url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE5D91E3FF934A1575AC0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=3 | accessdate = 2007-12-15 ] The company went private again in when it was sold to an investment group in 1993 for approximately $62 million.Citation | title = "Baldwin Piano Agrees To Be Acquired" |publisher = The New York Times | date = January 29, 1993| url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE5D91E3FF934A1575AC0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=3 | accessdate = 2007-12-17 ]
However, difficulties continued as demographic changes and foreign competition slowed sales of keyboard instruments. The company responded by acquiring
Wurlitzerto increase market share and by moving manufacturing overseas to reduce production costs. Throughout the 1990s, the company's fortunes improved, and by 1998, the company's 270 employees at its Conway, Arkansas facility were building 2,200 grand pianos a year. However, in 2001, Baldwin was again in difficulties, and filed for bankruptcy once again. In 2005, the company laid off some workers from its Trumann, Arkansas manufacturing plant while undergoing restructuring. [KAIT8 News, Trumann Piano Plant Lays Off Workers While Undergoing Restructuring", http://www.kait8.com/Global/story.asp?S=2779233&nav=0jshUwbM]
The company is currently part of the
Gibson Guitar Corporationand manufactures instruments under the Baldwin, Chickering, Wurlitzer, Hamilton, and Howard names.
Notable Baldwin artists
The Baldwin Piano Company notes the following as "Baldwin Artists":cite web | title = Baldwin Pianos | publisher = Baldwin Piano | url = http://www.gibson.com/Products/Pianos/Baldwin%20Pianos/Baldwin%20SubPages/Artists/| accessdate = 2007-03-01 ]
Wladimir Jan Kochanski
Amy Lee( Evanescence)
Roger Williams (pianist)
* Crombie, David. "Piano: Evolution, Design, and Performance." Barnes and Noble, 2000. First printed by Balafon Books, Great Britain, 1995. (ISBN 0-7607-2026-6)
* [http://www.answers.com/topic/baldwin-piano-organ-company Baldwin Piano & Organ Company] "Encyclopedia of Company Histories." Answers.com. Accessed
March 1, 2007.
* [http://www.gibson.com/en%2Dus/Divisions/Baldwin Baldwin Pianos]
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