1828-1833 Scherr Square Piano (Philadelphia)

Emilius Nicolai Scherr was born in Copenhagen in 1794, the son of piano and organ builder Johan Nicolai Scherr, and apprenticed there in A. Marschall's piano and organ factory until 1819. He had further training with an organ maker in Linz before immigrating to Philadelphia in 1822.

Scherr built high quality pianos as well as other instruments, including guitars and organs, until his retirement in 1855. In later years, he adopted the modern innovations of his time, including the iron frame, as seen in the advertisement to the right, dated July 31, 1835. It is interesting to note that in 1833, Scherr contributed to a public dispute about the use of the iron plate, between Alphaeus Babcock (its inventor) and Thomas Loud. At that point, Scherr expressed his skepticism, writing, "With Mr. Loud I join in agreeing with a number of manufacturers in France, England and America, as to the badness of the plan of making piano frames of iron."

In 1831 Scherr patented an unusual form of guitar he called the "harp guitar." Its narrow, elongated tail rests on the floor, so the instrument would be held diagonally, rather like a cello. In 1841, Scherr reportedly provided a piano for the White House. He retired about 1855 and sold his business to Birgfeld & Ramm.

There is a single pedal, operating the dampers.

Six ornately turned legs, with casters, support the fashionably decorated rosewood case, with rounded front corners and rounded nameboard ends. The candle holders appear to be a rare original feature.

Though the nameboard inscription says "new patent," no piano patent is recorded for Scherr.

The range is six octaves, F1 to F7.

This printed label identifies Scherr as a "Piano Forte and Organ Builder." The tall instrument in the middle is an organ, flanked by a square piano on the left, and a cabinet upright, or possibly chamber organ or "organized piano" (combination piano and organ) on the right.

A bass bridge separate from the treble bridge had become standard by the 1820s.

Bass string windings continued to extend over the bridge to the tuning pins, at the right side of the case.

The soundboard extends toward the left, concealing the key levers and action, unlike our earlier Buntebart and Geib pianos. 

The dampers are held in a pivoting frame raised by the pedal. A downward-pressing leaf spring returns the damper frame to rest.

The brass hitch pin plate at the extreme treble includes pins to terminate the speaking length of the strings.

Hammers continued to be covered with multiple layers of leather at least until the 1830s, when the French piano maker Henri Pape patented the use of felt.