Chickering & Sons was an American piano manufacturer located in Boston, Massachusetts, known for producing award-winning instruments of superb quality and design. The company was founded in 1823 by Jonas Chickering and James Stewart, but the partnership dissolved four years later. By 1830 Jonas Chickering became partners with John Mackay, manufacturing pianos as “Chickering & Company”, and later “Chickering & Mackays” until the senior Mackay’s death in 1841, and reorganized as “Chickering & Sons” in 1853. Chickering pianos continued to be made until 1983.
Jonas Chickering made several major contributions to the development of piano technology, most notably by introducing a one-piece, cast-iron plate to support the greater string tension of larger grand pianos. Jonas Chickering also invented a new deflection of the strings and in 1845 the first convenient method for over stringing in square pianos. Instead of setting the strings side by side, the company introduced substituting an arrangement of the string in two banks, one over the other. This does not only save space but also brings the powerful bass strings directly over the most resonant part of the sound-board, the principle which remains to this day in the construction of all pianos, both grands and uprights.
Chickering was the largest piano manufacturer in the United States in the middle of the 19th century, but was surpassed in the 1860s by Steinway. In 1867, Jonas’s son Frank Chickering had the Imperial Cross of the Legion of Honour, then one of the world’s most prestigious non-military awards, bestowed upon him by Emperor Napoleon III for services to the art of music, one of more than 200 awards the piano manufacturer garnered over the years.
The company became in 1908 part of the American Piano Company (Ampico), and continued after the merger in 1932 of American with the Aeolian Company, to form Aeolian-American. That company went out of business in 1985, and the Chickering name continued to be applied to new pianos produced by Wurlitzer and then the Baldwin Piano Company. The brand is now defunct.