FOUNDATION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF CHICKERING AND EARLY AMERICAN KEYBOARD INSTRUMENTS
About the Chickering Foundation
Because of his numerous and groundbreaking contributions to the development of the piano as it is known today, Jonas Chickering has frequently been called the “father of the modern piano.”  ​​In spite of the undisputed importance and singular role he and the Chickering & Sons company played in American musical and industrial history, his name is all but unknown outside of the piano industry.  The Chickering Foundation has been created, therefore, to promote awareness and scholarship of Chickering and to the collection, preservation, and display of their instruments.  To be sure, various institutions and organizations hold important Chickering instruments and information among their general collections.  The Foundation’s exclusive focus and energetic dedication, however, will afford otherwise unattainable results and service to American history.
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​​Thus, the Foundation's activities are primarily two-fold: 1. those related to the preservation and display of the physical collection of Chickering and related instruments; and 2, those related to the research and dissemination of information relating thereto.
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Collection and Museum

To carry out the first anticipated activity, we are striving to collect a complete representation of Chickering's output of interest (i.e. at least one complete specimen of each major model and style) as well as instruments of general historical interest or significance.  From the perspective of the Foundation, the Chickering instruments of interest are those produced from the inception of Jonas Chickering's first piano manufactory (1823) until around the turn of the twentieth century (before 1910).  Instruments of general historical interest or significance to the Foundation (i.e. non-Chickering instruments) include primarily those keyboard instruments manufactured before 1830, with particular interest of instrument manufacturers leading up to the time of Jonas Chickering, both domestic and European.

The collection of these instruments itself serves three goals.  First, the centralized collection of a complete representation of Chickering instruments affords a significant view and discourse of not just the development of the Chickering instruments themselves but of keyboard and industrial manufacturing in general.  Second, access to each of the primary styles and scale designs of Chickering and related instruments will aid in the accurate restoring and rebuilding of extant instruments, their reproduction, and the technical study of the development of keyboard manufacture.  Finally, we will undertake for the complete, historically accurate restoration of certain of its instruments, particularly those representing a distinct evolutionary stage in development.  This will provide an inventory of performance instruments for academic study and allow for a concert series on instruments appropriate to a large portion of the classical keyboard repertoire.  In sum, this collection of restored and unrestored instruments will form the basis for a display, performing, and study museum.
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Research and Dissemination

The second primary anticipated activity of the Foundation is to act as a national clearinghouse for information relating to Chickering instruments of interest.  As described above, one aspect of this activity takes the form of the collection and dissemination of detail, measurements, structure, materials, etc. of Chickering and related instruments to the community of keyboard technicians, rebuilders, historians, etc.  Additionally, we are compiling and organizing a library of material and resources (print, photographic, and computer based) to prepare new studies and articles relating to Chickering and related instruments.

Primacy of place in this aspect goes to our work on the sales ledgers of the Chickering instruments.  Formerly available only by personal visit to the Research Library of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the sales ledgers detail the style, sale date, purchaser, purchaser location of nearly every Chickering keyboard instrument of interest by serial number.  Historians, technicians, retailers, and appraisers across the country have found access to these sales ledgers—challenging as it is—to be of great value and assistance.  The Foundation has digital copies of the sales ledgers for the instruments of interest and aims in the coming months to compile the relevant portion of the sales ledgers electronically and to make them searchable by style, scale design, purchaser, and purchaser location.  This will not only greatly extend access of this valuable information, but will enable identification of Chickering instruments otherwise not identifiable.  Furthermore, a detailed study of the ledgers, will provide a further critical view of the development of Chickering instruments, keyboard instruments of the time, and the industry in general. ​​

In parallel with translating the sales ledger data, the Foundation maintains a registry of every identifiable, extant Chickering instrument of interest of which it becomes aware.  We carry out this activity primarily through observing the offers, sales, and references to these instruments and through in-person visits to collections or individual instruments where practical.  We amplify this effort through personal relationships with related organizations, individual technicians and shops, and private owners throughout the country to register and track instruments not otherwise readily discoverable.
 
The registry, in combination with the sales ledgers, assists in tracing the provenance of instruments of interest and in filling in notable gaps in the registry (missing original volumes and limits on recorded data).  The registry and ledgers should also prove useful in suitably establishing instrument age with respect to importation and transportation of ivory-containing instruments.

Having such a registry also enables the accurate determination and identification of instruments the serial numbers of which have are not present or legible.  This greatly assists in dating and evaluating such instruments.

Finally, the Foundation collects, organizes, and compiles print, digital, and recorded media relating to instruments of interest, with a particular focus on Chickering instruments.  We are particularly interested in print catalogs, advertising, and other media produced by Chickering during the relevant historical period.