Chickering, Jonas

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Chickering, Jonas

Chickering, Jonas, American piano manufacturer; b. Mason, N.H., April 5, 1797; d. Boston, Dec. 8, 1853. He worked as an apprentice to John Gould, a New Ipswich, N.H., cabinetmaker before settling in Boston in 1818, where he worked as an apprentice to the cabinetmaker James Barker. In 1819 he was apprenticed to the piano maker John Osborne, with whom he worked until 1823 when he founded a partnership with the English piano maker James Stewart, who had been active with Osborne. The firm was organized as Stewart & Chickering, and continued until Stewart returned to England in 1826. John Mackay became active in the firm with Chickering in 1830. The firm became known as Jonas Chickering & Co. in 1837. After Mackay’s son, William H. Mackay, joined the firm, the enterprise was known as Chickering and Mackays from 1839 until the death of the elder Mackay in 1841. In 1842 the firm became Chickering & Mackay, but that same year the younger Mackay sold his interest to Chickering. By 1840 the firm was the leading American manufacturer of grand pianos. In 1843 it introduced and patented the one-piece cast-iron frame for the grand piano. The Chickering factory was destroyed by fire in 1852, but Chickering commenced rebuilding. After his death the following year, his eldest son, Thomas E. Chickering (b. Boston, Oct. 22, 1824; d. there, Feb. 14, 1871), became president of the firm, a post he held until his death. His second son, Frank (Charles Francis) Chickering (b. Boston, Jan. 20, 1827; d. N.Y., March 23, 1891), settled in N.Y. in 1859 to oversee the firm’s business interests there. His third son, George Harvey Chickering (b. Boston, April 18, 1830; d. Milton, Mass., Nov. 17, 1899), served as manager of the Boston factory. The firm received the gold medal of the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1867 and Frank Chickering was awarded the Imperial Cross of the Légion de’honneur. In 1878 P.J. Gildemeester became a member of the firm, and in 1886 he became a partner. During the last years of the century, C.H.W. Foster and George L. Nichols joined the Chickering brothers in running the firm. It became a division of the American Piano Co. in 1908. In 1927 the factory was moved to East Rochester, N.Y. In 1932 the Aeolian American Corp. took control of the firm. In 1985 the Wurlitzer company took over the firm.


R. Parker, A Tribute to the Life and Character of J. C. by one who Knew him Well (Boston, 1854); The Commemoration of the Founding of the House of C.(Boston, 1904).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire