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T. Gilbert & Company

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Timothy Gilbert (January 5, 1797–July 19, 1865) was an American piano manufacturer, abolitionist and religious organizer in Boston, Massachusetts. His brother Lemuel Gilbert (February 10, 1804–February 27, 1864) was also a piano manufacture

Gilbert was born in Enfield, Massachusetts, the second child of Timothy Gilbert and Fear Shaw and worked on his father's farm until the age of 21. He arrived in Boston December 1818, where he apprenticed with cabinet maker Levi Ruggles, and later worked for piano maker John Osborn before becoming a piano maker in his own right. He was an active member of the Baptist Church, to which he converted in 1817, and was an outspoken abolitionist.

He maintained his home as a station of the Underground Railroad, and on the passage of the Fugitive slave laws Gilbert announced in the papers that his door would remain open to runaway slaves. He was also member and director in secular charitable organizations and served as president of the Boylston Bank from 1855 to 1860.

Aeolian Pianoforte Manufactory

Gilbert married Mary Wetherbee in 1823 (Ashburnham, Mass., July 7, 1796–December 1843), and their only child, Mary Eunice, was born June 8, 1827. Following Mary's death, Gilbert married Alice Davis November 28, 1844, and in 1846 they adopted Alice (b.April 23, 1846). Their second daughter, Martha Fear Gilbert, was born April 27, 1847.

Gilbert died July 19, 1865 at his home in Boston. His funeral was held at the Tremont Temple at the expense of the Evangelical Baptist Benevolent and Missionary Society, both of which he had been instrumental in forming. He is buried at Mount Auburn cemetery.

Gilbert entered a partnership with piano maker Ebenezer Currier (1801–1835) by 1826, and they were listed at 393 Washington street by 1829, but dissolved that spring. Currier, with new partner Philip Brown, opened a showroom on the first floor, where they offered "all kinds of Upright & Horizontal Piano Fortes...embracing the latest improvements," and in 1831 he patented a square piano with hammers above the strings

In 1841 Gilbert patented improvements in uprights in which he claimed a spring attached to the hammer butt for the combined purposes of returning the hammer to its resting position, reseating the damper against the strings, and keeping the hammer in communication with the key, and he also included a screw adjustment for jack position and damper timing, and a secondary notch on the hammer butt to facilitate shakes and trills. Piano historian Daniel Spillane described that this patent was for "a number of ideas and inventions relating to uprights and squares… and a number of lesser improvements which came to nothing", but considered the upright action significant because it "outlined many ideas afterward claimed by Wornum… in England", referring to an 1842 patent by this manufacturer that Edgar Brinsmead dubbed the "tape-check action" in the 1879 edition of his History of the Pianoforte, in which the last claim was for methods coupling the damper and hammer.
The same year Gilbert was assigned tuner Edwin Fobes' patent for manufacturing hammers with a layer of soft leather covering a block of cork glued to the top portion of the hammer molding. Gilbert also licensed the Aeolian attachment patented by independent mechanic Obed. Coleman in 1844, which fitted a simple reed organ onto the bottom plank of an ordinary square piano, arranged to be played by the ordinary piano keys. Spillane described that Gilbert & Co. licensed the invention in 1846 "for a small figure"—an article about the inventor from January 1845 reported that the firm paid $25,000 for the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell pianos with it in Massachusetts, while New York manufacturers Nunns & Clark paid $25,000 in cash and offered $50,000 royalties for its use in the rest of the country. Spillane wrote that although the Aeolian attachment received some notice as a novelty in the Boston and New York papers, "little came of this…it having been proved that the piano section, at least, required to be tuned every month to keep it in tolerably good condition" a charge the firm reported had been raised by "many of the piano forte makers and others in their interest" and which they attempted to meet when they advertised in 1850 they would thereafter install the attachment only in pianos built expressly for it.



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