Ca. 1803 John Geib & Son square piano

John Geib (1744-1818), born in Germany, was originally an organ builder. In the mid-1770s he moved to London, where he supposedly worked for Schudi (predecessor to Broadwood), and later built pianos for Longman & Broderip and in partnership with Ludwig Lenkfeld. In 1786 he filed an important patent for an action with an intermediate lever between the jack and the hammer, and with an adjustable escapement. This action is usually called the "English double action," sometimes the "Geib action" or the "grasshopper action."

Geib moved to New York in 1797, and began making pianos and organs there together with his son John Geib, Jr. This piano, serial #5151 (which dates it approximately to 1804), closely resembles squares made in London around that time, including the Museum's Buntebart. There is a similar Geib, serial #5155, in the Smithsonian Museum of American History

 

Geib's piano is somewhat more refined as a piece of furniture than Buntebart's, but it still fairly plain, aimed at the more basic, lower end of the market. The legs on this instrument were replaced at some point. The original legs likely were similar to those on the piano referenced above, at the Smithsonian Museum.

The nameplate, with the words, "John Geib & Son," allow us to date the piano to within the period when that name was used, late 1802 - 1815. 

The range of the keyboard is five octaves, F1 to F6.

The soundboard is quite small (normal for the time), with tuning pins on the right. The treble strings have a very long back length.


Geib did not use his English double action on this instrument, though he did use it in an instrument dated 1808, currently on display at Colonial Williamsburg (on loan from the College of William and Mary). Instead, as in the Buntebart square, there is no escapement (a fixed jack on each key), and the hammers and dampers are hinged to their respective rails using parchment. The hammer levers ride on pins to keep them aligned to their strings. The dampers are pressed against their strings using brass springs.

The wires of the fixed jacks are visible beneath the hammer rail.

The hammer heads, apparently original, have an interesting sequence of coverings: two layers each of brown and white leather, with a long strip of brown leather stretched around them, five layers in all.


The bass end of the single bridge is considerably undercut, to allow the soundboard to vibrate more freely. Its interesting profile, with a bulge toward the end, was possibly intended to allow the bridge to vibrate in such a way as to enhance the lower partials of the lowest strings.