Steinway 1877 Model B Grand Piano #39970
It was at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876 that Dr. Elliott Pyle first laid eyes on the Steinway Model A grand piano. A year later in 1877 he ordered a Model B, a smaller version of the Model A, and in 1879 it was delivered to Butler by way of Conover Brothers in Kansas City.
Dr. Elliott Pyle was a surgeon during the Civil War. He was also an accomplished pianist and vocalist. Following the end of the War he brought his family to Butler, MO where he set up a drug store and built a house on the Northwest corner of the Butler square. Business was good and he donated his land to his fellow Masons for them to build a Fraternal Inn. That house was relocated, and Dr. Pyle built a new home at the corner of Pine and High streets in Butler. The Steinway, of course, went with the family.
In February of 1898, Dr. Pyle slipped on ice near the Baptist Church and later died due to his injuries. The piano stayed in the Pyle home with his wife, Annie, and his daughter, Mary Eunice.
In 1979, Mary Eunice donated the piano to the Bates County Historical Society, and it was displayed in museum where it was used for sing alongs. Over the years the piano had started to fade. There was a cracked soundboard. It suffered dents to its intricately carved legs. Its ivory keys were cracked, and several were missing.
In April of 2014, a group of citizens met at the Museum to discuss the possibility of saving the Steinway. Soon after a “Save Our Steinway” campaign was in place to raise the $60,000 needed to have the piano restored by Steinway at their factory in New York. In conjunction with Schmitt Music in Overland Park, Kansas, fund raising began. Shares for one hundred dollars were “sold” to donors making the Steinway the “peoples’ piano”. After an article about the efforts to raise money for the piano ran in The Kansas City Star, donations started coming in, not only locally, but from around the state and the country. Donations were made in honor of loved ones or former piano teachers. The Union Avenue Opera Company from St. Louis volunteered their time and talents to raise money for the piano. In doing so, they became the “unofficial Save Our Steinway” singers.
In May of 2017 the necessary funds had been raised and the piano was off to the Steinway factory in New York City for a complete restoration. The restoration took 13 months and the Steinway returned to Bates County in June of 2018 with a new soundboard and 10 layers of varnish to its rosewood body. Those 13 months at the Steinway factory was the only time the piano had been out of Bates County since its delivery in 1879.
Since its return, the piano has hosted recitals and has been played by anyone who can tinkle the ivories. The Union Avenue Opera Company came full circle and again performed for Bates County to celebrate the Steinway’s return. The Steinway is on display in Robertson Hall at the museum. If you want to play this piece of history, all you need to do is ask.
1877 Model B Steinway Grand Piano after restoration at the Steinway factory in New York. In the background is a photo of the Dr. Elliott Pyle home.
1877 Steinway Model B Grand Piano #39970 before restoration.
Eunice Pyle with her mother, Annie (Walker) Pyle
An artist rendering of the Steinway display at the 1876 Philadelhia Exposition. It's here that Dr. Pyle first say the Steinway.
The Pyle drugstore in the late 1860s to early 1870s.