Piano from Pilgrim Baptist Church used by Thomas Dorsey

Created by
The Cable Piano Company, American, founded 1880
Used by
Dorsey, Thomas Andrew, American, 1899 - 1993
Medium
wood, metal, wire and vinyl
Dimensions
H x W x D (piano main body): 38 × 55 1/2 × 57 in. (96.5 × 141 × 144.8 cm)
H x W (piano leg at wideset point): 24 × 17 in. (61 × 43.2 cm)
Type
baby grand pianos
Place used
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States, North and Central America
Date
1930s
Caption
This piano once resided in the historical Pilgrim Baptist Church of Chicago, Illinois, where it was used as a rehearsal piano by music director, Thomas A. Dorsey, the "Father of Gospel Music." Hired by influential pastor Junius C. Austin in the 1930s, Dorsey helped make Pilgrim one of the largest churches in the country. With Dorsey as its music director, the church became known as the birthplace of gospel music. Albertina Walker, Mahalia Jackson, Sallie Martin, Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, The Staple Singers and The Edwin Hawkins singers are among those who have sung at the church. Famous members of the congregation include Bessie Coleman. When Pilgrim purchased new instruments for its music program, this piano was given to Pastor Austin. It would be played by Dorsey and others when they visited his home.
Description
This piano is paneled with wood and structured around a cast iron frame. When the piano's fallboard is open, the piano 'name' or maker is seen in the center of the fallboard's underside in stylized gold lettering which reads [Conover]. The piano has all 88 keys of its key board still in place. There is also a small locking mechanism in the center of the key bed. The cast iron frame is tinted gold with manufacturer and patent information stamped throughout in varying methods and sizes. On the second frame metal bar closest to the keyboard there is raised text which reads [CUPOLA CONSTRUCTON BELL METAL FRAME CAPO D'ASTRO BRIDGE]. In a small triangular depression in the frame on the right, close to the keyboard, is the manufacturer's stamp as well as the piano serial number [66/CONOVER/MFR'D BY/The/Cable/Company/Chicago/259608]. On the top right side of the plate are the patent dates stamped near the treble bridge [1 6 20/PAT. 11 23 20/5 3 21]. On the front right portion of the plate is the name of the frame style in script lettering surrounded in an oval of stylized foliage [FAIRY GRAND]. On the wood of the sound board, centered above the hammer rail, is the soundboard trademark logo in a dark green rectangle with square, gold corners. The letters inside the logo are gold [CROWNSTAY/REG. U.S. PAT. OFF.]. In the middle of the left edge of the frame is the stamped number [66]. At the back edge of the frame are additional stamped numbers [7-17]. The top board prop for the lid is located on the right side of the frame.
Topic
African American
Communities
Gospel (Music)
Instrumentalists (Musicians)
Religion
Religious groups
Urban life
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Rev. Richard C. Keller, Jr., Mr. Edward G. Keller and Ms. Paulene Austin Keller
Object number
2015.134.1a-g
Restrictions & Rights
No Known Copyright Restrictions
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Classification
Musical Instruments
Exhibition
Musical Crossroads
On View
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Culture/Fourth Floor, 4 053
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

NOTE: Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu.