Baumeister Piano Company: First US Woman Piano Maker Suffers Through Fires and Lawsuits

Charles Baumeister was an experienced piano maker who was born in 1844 in Frankfurt, Germany who had moved to the United States around 1867 with his wife Ida.

In 1884 he partners with Augustus Baus (a clerk with the Behning Piano Company) to start manufacturing pianos under the Baus name. Being very inventive, he filed several patents for the designs of their pianos in 1885.

In 1886 the business was totally destroyed by fire and Charles nearly escaped with his life trying to save his employees. He was hospitalized from his burns.

The fire destroyed the company and they were forced to file bankruptcy in 1887. Baumeister finds employment with the Claflin Piano Company.

Nine years later in 1896, Charles starts his own piano manufacturing company and trains his two daughters, Hattie and Lillian.

In 1897, Charles introduces his “Orchestral Grand Model C”, a large upright piano which became a good seller for the company.

To grow the company Charles hires a salesman named Reinhard Kochman, who’s job was to travel the Country to boost up sales. This was a common practice and an effective method of advertising during this time.

In 1898, Charles, now semi-retiring, sells the company to his daughter Hattie and the name of the company changes to the H. Baumeister Co., This now possibly makes this the first woman owned piano making company

In 1899 Hattie and Lillian decide to take a month long vacation. The company was well established by now and they had worked several years without any time off. They also used the opportunity to bolster sales in Europe.

By 1900, Kochmann files a breach of contract dispute against Hattie, claiming he lost the opportunity to earn commissions on 300 piano sales.. Hattie claimed that Kochmann demanded a $20 advance in the middle of his contract, which she refused, because there was no sales yet. Kochmann said that this stopped him from performing his part of the contract in full.

Hattie lost the court case but she won the appeal in 1902.

In 1907 the company again suffers from a fire, leaving most pianos destroyed by the fire, and the water to put it out with.

She was able again to rebuild the company, and she continued manufacturing pianos until around 1919.

During his retirement, Charles went to Los Angeles Ca. to partner with A. M. Salyer to start the Salyer-Baumeister piano Co.

Charles would later return to New York, where he died in 1925.

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