The year was 1903, and a momentous time it was for the Steinway family as their renowned piano company had reached a milestone, 50 years.
Joseph Burr Tiffany, a relative of Tiffany & Company’s founder Louis Comfort Tiffany, was Steinway’s chief designer for their celebrated Art Case Department. To commemorate this historic golden anniversary, Tiffany commissioned his top artists to design several Golden Grand pianos.
The most famous was designed by R.H. and J.H. Hunt to be presented to the White House as a gift to the country. Juan Ayuso, Steinway’s carver extraordinaire, crafted the seals of the thirteen original American colonies that were gilded in 24 Carat gold. The piano was presented by the Steinway family to President Theodore Roosevelt and is now displayed in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Another golden grand was designed by Tiffany himself and executed, once again by Juan Ayuso. An imposing Louis XV motif was meticulously carved from solid mahogany then clad in 24 Carat gold. The ornately carved legs were gilded in 22 Carat gold. The piano, serial # 108, 815, was 6 feet 10 inches in length.
Completed on February 5th, 1904, the piano was purchased by William Stafford, a prominent New Yorker Banker, and kept at his Plaza Hotel residence. He died there in 1918, and his estate returned the piano to the Steinway Company.
On November 20th, 1919 Benjamin Sawtelle Hanchett, builder of the Grand Rapids, Holland and Lake Michigan Railways and a University of Michigan regent, bought the gold piano for his 16 year-old daughter. It remained in their family until 1983.
George Michalski, Forte Piano purchased the piano on July 15th, 1983.