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Gottlieb Stralheim, Maytown, Pennsylvania, Pianoforte in the Ephraim McDowell House, Danville, Kentucky.

Description by Dwight Newton, 2006.

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The Ephraim McDowell House is a historic house and museum in Danville, Kentucky. McDowell (1771 to 1830) was the first physician to successfully complete an abdominal surgery. The procedure (removal of a 21 pound ovarian tumor from a woman who had been thought to be pregnant) took place in 1809 in this house, which also has an attached apothecary shop. McDowell is a famous and important figure in early Kentucky history.

The house is located adjacent to Contstitution Square in Danville, Kentucky's first capital, which is a memorial park that celebrates the statehood of Kentucky and the framing of its constitution in a tavern on the square that was used as a meeting house. There are several reconstructed log cabins in the square including the actual log building (moved from its original location a few blocks away) that served as the first post office west of the Alleghenies.

The furnishings in the house, as we have often seen, are a mix of authentic McDowell family relics, other period pieces, and a few old, but inappropriate pieces.

My colleague, Nikos Pappas, and I dropped by on a Tuesday afternoon in July because we were in the area visiting the Whitley house in Stanford where they had an Astor & Horwood piano. We went in to the McDowell House office and just asked if they happened to have an early piano. We were warmly welcomed by the director and her assistant and were ushered to the parlor where we saw not one, but two Viennese action pianos from Pennsylvania: an instrument by Charles Pommer of Philadelphia and an earlier (or at least simpler) piano by Gottlieb Stralheim of Maytown (about 50 miles west of Philadelphia).

The Gottlieb Stralheim Piano

McDowell Stralheim

This is a charming instrument of a simple early type with Viennese action. There are no effects mechanisms. Range is 5 octaves.

McDowell StralheimThe piano has a nice asymetric floral painted name board.

McDowell Stralheim
The action is obscured by a dust cover, but we were able to remove the name board and see it fairly clearly.

McDowell Stralheim McDowell Stralheim

There are two hinged interior dust cover panels that are simple frames of black silk. The lid supports fit into notches in the bottoms of these panels. It was not clear how the lid would be supported if these panels were down.

McDowell Stralheim

McDowell Stralheim
The metal of the under-dampers are visible here.

McDowell Stralheim

McDowell Stralheim

Copyright 2006 by Dwight Newton. All rights reserved.
© 2001-2008 D.Newton/

Updated 12/13/2006