BUSH & LANE EMPIRE UPRIGHT
S/N 25666, CIRCA 1906
The Bush & Lane Piano Company was established in 1901. They were originally located in Chicago, Illinois. After several years a factory and offices were constructed in Holland, Michigan. Bush & Lane produced some of the finest upright pianos ever made by an American manufacturer. They produced a few grand pianos but their reputation was established largely upon their upright pianos.
The "Bush" in Bush & Lane referred to the two Bush brothers of Bush and Gerts fame. Those were money men working at the commercial end of the production spectrum. The design genius was Walter Lane, who, like Ernest Knabe, is all but forgotten and relegated to a mere footnote in the history of the American piano. He deserves to be remembered.
Bush & Lane was noted for their massive cases, heavy cupular plate construction, and a series of soundboard, bridge, and framework innovations all designed to give them a quality of tone, projection, and carrying power second to none. In this respect, the Bush & Lane could give similar vintage uprights produced by the likes of Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Knabe, and Weber a real run for their money. The single best upright that I have heard in terms of tone-quality, projection, and carrying power is this Bush & Lane. In a list of the top 10, three would be Bush & Lanes, the others Steinway, Weber, Knabe, and etc. They were that good!
From first to last, the Bush & Lane company of Walter Lane was a first-class operation. They produced expensive, limited-production instruments of the highest quality. As they lived, so did they die. The crash of 1929 and the ensuing "Great Depression" killed off the piano industry almost overnight. In 1925, 3/4 of all the pianos made were player pianos. By 1930, they were almost all gone. Those companies that survived did so by merging with other companies and corporations such as Aeolian.
In 1930 Walter Lane had a decision to make. He could either return to making non-player pianos once again, and probably have to compromise quality in favor of economic survival like his competitors. He could sell out his corporate soul and reputation to Aeolian, like so many others chose to do. Or, he could simply call it quits, close up shop, and let his reputation rest on what he had accomplished during the preceding thirty years.
A class act to the very end, he chose the latter option.
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