1806 Broadwood Grand Believed To Have Been Owned by Robert Fulton
 
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The Broadwood grand in the picture, serial number 3486, was entered in the company record book on Wednesday, August 20, 1806:

A GPF add 3 Pedals N 3486 and Cover, full set Strings, and Case – Mr. Fletcher’s Birmingham – Marked A, W, and sent as per Order, from Mr. Joshua Hutchinson N 3 Capry Court, Bartholomew Lane, to the Superintendent of London Docks, to be Shipped on board the New Galin – Captn Robt Hinckley, for Boston, and paid Wharfage and Shipping (4/ =).

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The dealer from whom the piano was purchased had the understanding that it had belonged originally to Robert Fulton, if not the inventor of the steamboat the person who developed it for practical use. Fulton had gone to England in 1787 to study painting, returning to the United States in 1806, the year of his marriage. The date, the immediate shipment to Boston, and the fact that Fulton was a painter and therefore interested in the arts support the possibility of his ownership of the piano. If Fulton’s ownership could be substantiated beyond doubt, the piano could have been a wedding gift to his wife. Robert Fulton died in 1815. His will mentions only furniture, not specifically a piano.

The singular importance of this piano is that it appears to retain – except for five hammers – the original hammer coverings seen in the photo of the action. More remarkable still is the relatively sensuous tone produced by leather-covered hammers over two centuries old. The crack in the soundboard reveals the 3/16-inch thickness of the soundboard, and the separation between the hitchpin rail and the case in the upper treble the result of the prolonged tension of the original stringing scale. Viewed from the side, this piano, like the 1816 grand, suffers from “cheek disease,” the twisting of the corner of the case also due over time to unsupportable string tension. As it stood new in the factory, this piano must have sounded like the Steinway of its day.

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