This piano, serial number 35284, was built for and purchased in 1878 by Mr. Fredrich Schmeig from C.H. Whiting's Music Room in Burlington, Iowa for approximately $1,000. Fewer than 500 of this style piano were ever manufactured in the late 1800s, and fewer than 5 are currently documented to still be in existence. The 8’6” piano is made of rosewood and the eloquent designs were all hand-carved by a skilled craftsman at the Steinway Factory in New York City, on what is now known as Park Avenue.
Mr. Schmeig was a prominent businessman in Burlington, partnering with J.S. Schramm to own and operate Schramm and Schmeig Dry Goods. In his will, Mr. Schmeig left the piano to his two unmarried nieces, Margaret and Minnie Touscher, of Burlington. In the 1940s, the sisters' estate gifted the piano to the Heritage Free Methodist Church, where the sisters were devout members.
In 2002, West Music Company, Coralville, Iowa, purchased the piano from the church. Over the next three years, West Music's expert piano team repaired and refinished the piano and restored it to its original condition. In 2006, West Music made an in-kind donation to the Old Capitol Museum where the piano could be viewed, played, and appreciated by the public.
At 1,500 pounds, the piano was too heavy and too awkward to fit up the reverse spiral staircase of the Old Capitol Museum. The piano was carefully lifted by crane and hoisted through a northeast window on the 2nd floor to find its new home here in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.
Resources provided by:
Rhonda Frevert, Burlington Public Library, Burlington, Iowa
Pastor Wayne Ryan, Heritage Free Methodist Church, Burlington, Iowa
Steve West, West Music, Coralville, Iowa