Henry Steinway founded Steinway & Sons in 1853, his first workshop a small loft on Varick Street in Manhattan. Steinway pianos quickly gained a reputation for exceptional craftsmanship and "wondrous beauty"; here is a breathless account of the 1855 exhibition at which the theretofore unknown Steinway piano unanimously won the favor of the judges, who were mesmerized by "the singular merits of the strange instrument". This cartoon depicts the craze for Steinways that developed after their widely renowned showing at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris, which established the company as the world's premier piano-maker.
After Henry Steinway's death in 1871, his son William moved the company's operations across the East River to this location in what is now Astoria, Queens, where he built an entire town to house the factory's workers. Steinway Village, as it was called, counted among its amenities a post office, church, library, kindergarten, fire department, and trolley line.
The piano-making process has remained largely unchanged here in the intervening 140 years. You can read all about it in this extraordinary nine-part series following the construction of one concert grand piano over a period of many months at the factory.