During the 19th century, Boston joined New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore as a major piano manufacturing center of the United States. Boston proved to be an especially favorable location for producing high quality pianos due to its close proximity to a vast and seemingly endless supply of spruce wood coming from the conifer forests of New Hampshire and Maine. At the time, both softwood and hardwood forests were so illimitable in the northeastern United States that it was said that a squirrel could travel from Ohio to Maine without ever having to touch the ground. This situation helped the city become both a strategic transportation hub and a consequent magnet for Europe's masterful woodworking craftsmen.
James Whiting Vose was born in 1818 at a time when other types of woodworking professions were already well established in New England. Thus, it was not surprising that James Vose would take up cabinetmaking as his initial trade in a city so central and so conducive to professional woodworking. As Vose honed his skills, he could not help but take notice of the booming piano making ventures taking place all around him in Boston. For a time, piano making was considered to be simply an extension of the woodworking trade, and it was not unusual for many craftsmen to apply their furniture making skills to building piano cabinets as well. As pianos became more and more popular for the American home as well as the stage, professionally skilled woodworkers were increasingly employed for the services of piano building. This was the case for James Vose, as Vose soon made his own transition from making fine "China Cabinets" to making exquisite "Cabinet Grands."
By mid-century Vose founded Vose Piano Company and soon earned a reputation for producing well made merchandise that competed with many of the pianos being made by the most respected companies in Chicago and New York. As was the tradition for many piano building and other woodworking crafts, Vose involved his sons in the homegrown business, eventually changing the name of the company to Vose & Sons' Piano Company. As the company grew, Willard A. Vose, the eldest son, became president and with his own skilled determination, succeeded in improving the company's good reputation even further than James Vose had done.
Many of these pianos survive to our present day. Technicians and piano rebuilders often speak of Vose pianos as "work horses," implying that the pianos were well made and consequently, that they hold up to heavy use. We consider such pianos worthy of restoration, repair and rebuilding.
1972. Alfred Dolge, Pianos and their Makers: A Comprehensive History of the Development of the Piano. Dover Publications, Inc., New York.
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