Description by Dwight Newton, 2006.
This pianoforte is in the Liberty Hall Historic Site in Frankfort, Kentucky. The home was built by John Brown around 1796 and, because of its proximity to the state capitol, has been inhabited by a number of prominent personalities in Kentucky history. The house has been restored, but it contains an odd assortment of furnishings from various eras.
The piano was originally commissioned by former Governor James Garrard of Kentucky to be used by his daughter. It was made by Frankfort cabinet maker John Goodman ca.1825. The date on the instrument itself is 1801, but this is clearly not the date of manufacture. It's not clear why Goodman put this date on his cartouche.
The instrument is made in imitation of a 5-1/2 octave English style square very similar to an Astor-Horwood, of which there are a number of local examples. As with many instruments of this type, the keyboard has a separate extension for the top half octave that angles off under the soundboard. This instrument is single-strung and the family correspondence refers to its weak tone. The cabinetry is very nice, with attractive mahogany veneer work with inlaid brass and ormolu.
As far as we can determine, the instrument has never been restored. The external case is a reasonably good condition, with loose veneers here and there. The keyboard and action are in very bad condition -- most of the hammers are unattached and the strings are missing. The interior is very dirty.
The top half-octave action.
Lending support to the idea that local makers were purchasing actions and building cases around them is this serial number stamp inside the Goodman. We have no evidence that Goodman ever made another piano, yet here is a four-digit serial number in a prominent location very much like we have seen in the Astor-Horwood pianos. (Inset is computer enhanced.)
Copyright © 2006 by Dwight Newton. All rights reserved.
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