Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Great-Grandfather.

I found some very interesting information on my great-grandfather in the Google book "Pianos and Their Makers" by Alfred Dolge.

Born at Berlin, Germany, in 1869, he had the benefit of that thorough training for which the schools of Germany are renowned. After passing through the grammar and manual training schools, he continued his studies of the higher branches at the evening and Sunday school, where he acquired all the knowledge of mathematics, drafting, etc., necessary to become a competent piano constructor. Under the personal tutelage of the well-known piano maker Eduard Werner, of Berlin, Richtsteig mastered in the course of lime all the details of piano making. Competent to earn his own living, he came to America in 1888 and engaged with Bush and Gerts, of Chicago. In order to perfect himself more particularly in the art of scale drawing, he bided his time for an opportunity to study under Henry Kroeger of Steinway fame. He remained at Kroeger's factory in New York for one year, when he was induced to assume the foremanship in the finishing department of his old employers, Bush and Gerts, of Chicago.
In 1898 he accepted the position as designer and constructor for the Starr Piano Company, of Richmond, Ind., where he designed scales for upright and grand pianos, including a concert grand. Eminently successful in these efforts, he became desirous of starting in business for himself. Opening business at Milwaukee, in 1905, he experienced all the trials and tribulations of the beginner, until he found in Edmund Gram a man congenial to him, filled with his own ideals, and possessed of the same ambition to build a piano of the highest order. Under the name of Gram-Richtsteig Company a partnership Gramwas formed in October, 1908. By the close of 1908 fifty pianos had been disposed of; the year 1909 closed with sales of two hundred fifty pianos, which number was doubled in 1910 and again doubled in 1911, so that larger manufacturing facilities had to be provided for. Richtsteig did not aim for a sky-rocket success; he knew that he had to train and educate men to build the artistic piano which he had designed. Deft handling of tools is not sufficient to make artistic pianos; the men must know the why and wherefore. To train his men properly, Richtsteig started the first technical school for piano makers in America, at his Technical factory, in 1908. The proposition was accepted with enthusiasm Scho°I by the young men in his employ. Only men who had practical experience in piano building were admitted. The tuition was free, Richtsteig devoting his evenings to teaching his men the fundamental laws of piano construction.
He soon had a sufficient force of thoroughly educated artisans, which enabled him to increase the output of his factory to keep pace with the ever-growing demand. The superior qualities of the Gram-Richtsteig piano were quickly recognized by the trade and the instrument was accepted as one of the leaders.

The thorough piano maker, Richtsteig, had succeeded in constructing a piano comprising all that modern methods suggest, and had embodied in it many original ideas which enhanced the durability and reliability of the same, yet he was not contented. He knew that all piano manufacturers were laboring under the difficulties presented by the delicate adjustment of the action parts, which would easily get out of alignment, because of the continual change in the atmosphere from dry to wet, and vice versa. F. C. Billings, a piano tuner, had Kail Action invented a metal flange in place of the commonly used wooden frame gange, furthermore a metal frame with steel angle rails to prevent the usual warping and twisting of the ordinary wooden rail. Richtsteig took up these inventions and commenced to put them to most severe tests, improving the construction and application until he was satisfied that with these improvements the obnoxious warping of rails or loosening of flanges would be a fault of the past. The use of these metal frame actions with brass flanges in the Gram-Richtsteig piano was hailed with enthusiasm by piano dealers and attracted the attention of piano makers to such an extent that a corporation, with Max Richtsteig as president, has been formed to manufacture these patented metal actions for the piano trade at large, under the name of Gram-Richtsteig Metal Frame Action Company.
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