This Model C is Serial #73505, manufactured in 1892 and has 88 notes. It lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for many years. The action was unplayable when I purchased it, so I never heard this instrument’s potential before purchase.
Before making big decisions about how far to restore this piano, I wanted to hear the tone of the original soundboard. So I installed gently used 20-year-old authentic Steinway action parts to be able to play it, and updated the damper under-levers with metal receptacles to hold the dampers securely.
The piano plays well-enough now to hear what it can do. I would judge the soundboard to have 80% of its original sustain remaining. It was re-strung and refinished quite some time ago (estimate 50 years) but is fully functional as is, and of course worthy of extensive restoration if desired.
A full history of the Steinway Model C:
The Steinway Model C’s Origin:
The early 218 cm Steinway and Sons Model C was first manufactured in 1878 with Steinway serial number #38675 being the first in the series to be completed on 24/8/1878. This 85-note Model C was also known as the Style 3 in catalogs. The scale design featured a 21-note bass section and was redesigned from the earlier parlor grand piano by C.F. Theodore Steinway. The Model C was introduced during a time of advancement for the Steinway Company. The early Model C was first produced with a sectional case design, and in 1880 production of Model Cs with a more modern style bent-rim case began. The 85-note Model C/Style 3 was in production until 1886.
1886 | The 88-Note Model C
In 1886 the Steinway Model C was extensively redesigned. This new 88-note Model C featured a completely new scale design with an overstrung, 20-note bass section once again crafted by C.F. Theodore Steinway. The new Model C #58952 was completed on 19/5/1886. These new 227 cm grands were then considered to be more comparable to the Model D than the Model B. In a letter to dealers William Steinway said: “This new Grand piano, the result of years of study and experiment, is 227 cm in length, and is the exact counterpart, in a shorter form, of our new [in 1884] Model D Concert Grand, with patent double cupola steel frame. This new Model C, 7 ¼” octaves, is the grandest creation in power, sonority and sympathetic singing quality, ever achieved in a Parlor Concert Grand.” William Steinway (who was the son who focused on the manufacturing and business management aspects) went on in that letter to point out that the price made it very acceptable for home use; however, the piano was more than capable of being utilized in normally sized concert venues. This move was an attempt to position the Model C in between the Model B and Model D both in function and in size. In fact, these 88-note Model Cs featured a scale design scaled down from the Model D, making them unrelated to the earlier designs.
The ‘New Curve’ Model C | Bringing This Piano Into the Present
The ‘Old Curve’ 88-note Model C lasted until 1892. In 1893 the Model C ‘New Curve’ was introduced with a newly designed rim. The Model C was still also known as the Style 3 until 1896 when the style numbers were dropped and model letters became more standard. New Curve Model Cs were in regular production in both New York and Hamburg until 1906. This is when regular production was ended in New York. Production continued in limited, custom requested quantities until 1936 when production ceased for good. With that said, the Hamburg Steinway & Sons factory continued and the Model C is still in regular production to this day. Out of the seven basic sizes of Steinway grand pianos, the Model C is the second largest with only the Model D reigning above it.
A Unique Instrument | The Conclusion
The Model C-227 and its history have been forgotten to some extent. It occupies a place between the full concert Model D-274 and the Model B-211, two legendary and well-loved instruments. However, it would be remiss to ignore the Model C-227. Contemporary Model Cs measure 227 cm in length and we have found these instruments to be very capable pianos with the larger soundboard area when compared to the Model B-211 to be evident in the piano’s tone. These pianos boast a clear treble and a dark bass section. The ‘modern’ Model Cs are fine examples of the quality expected of golden era Steinway & Sons grand pianos. With these pianos being crafted during late 19th and early 20th centuries, craftsmanship was high and top quality woods and other materials were available to be utilized. Hamburg continues that craftsmanship to this day. The rare Model C-227 is a wonderful piano with a well-crafted scale that features a character that is unique and all of its own. Since it is scaled down from the Model D-274 and is larger than a Model B-211, it has its own unique character of tone.