The sale of items from the legendary late collector set new participation records for a Sotheby’s UK auction.
The The Lester Piano Company was established in 1888 in Lester, Pennsylvania.
Brief history and description
The Lester Piano Company was a hallmark of the American piano industry during what is now referred to as the Golden Age of piano building. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century up until the early 1930s, pianos become increasingly commonplace in American homes.
Lester built a range of pianos under several name brands, including Lawrence, Gounod, Channing, Alden, Bellaire, Schubert and Leonard. The company insisted that every Lester piano was built to tolerate the same musicality and at its height, the Lester grand piano was the preferred choice for auditoriums, concert halls, conservatories and schools and homes alike.
Lester’s earliest models, those produced before the 1930s, had a reputation of being of exceptional build quality and produced a full toned and sweet sound. Even in the high register, Lester pianos were noted for not producing a tin-like sound which distinguished them from their cheaper counterparts. Accordingly, many famous pianists and American musicians, such as Alice Nielsen and Franz Kneisel used Lester pianos.
The most famous of all the Lester Piano Company’s products is unquestionably their Betsy Ross spinet, a small upright piano that was manufactured around the 1930s. The huge success of this piano is often credited as saving the Lester Piano Company from financial bankruptcy during the Great Depression, which was a time when the majority of other American piano manufacturers were forced to close.
After over eight decades, the Lester Piano Company eventually closed shop in 1960.
The Lester Piano Company has the distinction of producing some of the leading pianos during the Golden Age of piano making in America. However, they paled in comparison with America’s leading piano makers of that time, such as Steinway & Sons and Chickering & Sons. Nonetheless, Lester pianos were consistently constructed to a high standard and as a result, are usually reliable examples for antique piano restoration.
The most desirable models of Lester pianos are their grand piano range. The Louis XV was developed during the 1920s and was made of burled walnut. A fully restored example, according to Digitalpianokeyboardsreview.com, can fetch up to $25,000.
Other antique grand pianos sought after by collectors are the Lester Victorian and the Lester Mahogany. Built from the 1930s and constructed in mahogany, examples of these pianos have been sold by Antiquepianoshop.com from $11,000 to $20,000.
Lester pianos for sale are more likely to be found at online antique piano dealerships and are usually fully restored. Unrestored pianos can be sold for as little as a few hundred dollars, however, conditions can vary significantly and the likelihood that these pianos still function are extremely rare.
A 1922 Lester Mahogany baby grand piano was recently sold on Antique Piano Shop for $15,000. Restored to its original condition, the piano is made of real mahogany wood and was built during the height of the Lester Company’s production era.
A 1900 Lester Victorian upright piano, made in 1900, was sold on Antique Piano Shop for $11,000. Constructed from walnut, the piano was also equipped with a matching stool.
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