The History of Schoenhut Piano Company – Mark Well the Name

Posted on December 17 2019

The History of Schoenhut Piano Company – Mark Well the Name

The Schoenhut Piano Company is an American manufacturer of toy pianos, dolls, and a plethora of other unique wooden toys. German immigrant and woodcarver Albert Schoenhut originally founded it in 1872 in Philadelphia as the A. SCHOENHUT COMPANY. Albert Schoenhut had begun making toy pianos during his youth in Germany. Both his father and grandfather had been toy and doll-makers. The company began with making toy pianos and soon thereafter expanded to other toys such as dolls, dollhouses, and circus figures.

By the time of Albert Schoenhut's death in 1912, Schoenhut Piano Company had grown to become the largest toy company in the United States, and the first to export its products to Germany. The Great Depression forced the company into bankruptcy in 1935, but a year later Otto Schoenhut opened a new company called O. Schoenhut, Inc., continuing the legacy. The Trinca Family purchased it in the 1980s. 

Schoenhut toy pianos, designed by Albert Schoenhut, were the company's first products. Various models were produced beginning in 1872 until 1935. Schoenhut, Inc. continued to make toy pianos into the twenty-first century.   

More on Albert Schoenhut – The Creator

Albert Schoenhut (1848-1912) was born in Wurttemberg, Germany to a toy-making family. His father and grandfather made wooden dolls, rocking horses, and wagons. At a young age, Albert began making toy pianos in his home. The hammers on the early toy pianos struck a sounding bar made of glass instead of the strings used on real pianos. He later exchanged the glass bars for those made of metal, making the instruments more durable. Albert's toy pianos, more than just playthings, stayed in tune and were accompanied by sheet music to encourage children to play.

In 1866, John Dahl, a buyer for Wanamaker's department store, heard of young Albert's talent and brought the 17-year old to Philadelphia where he worked as a repairman on glass sounding pieces in German toy pianos that had been damaged in shipping.

Now stateside, Albert struck out on his own in 1872, founding the Schoenhut® Piano Company. As his toy piano business grew, Albert added other instruments including a ukulele-banjo, xylophone, and glockenspiel. He also expanded his line to include dolls, circus figures, and toys. You can view Schoenhut's current toy roster on our online store .

By the time of Albert's death in 1912, Schoenhut Piano Company® was the largest toy company in America and the first in the United States to export toys to Germany. The business then passed through a succession of owners located in various parts of the United States. In 1984, Frank Trinca purchased the company. He continued manufacturing some of the toy piano models that had been designed by Albert in the early 1900's. Twelve years later, wanting help with new concepts and in expanding the business, he asked his brother and sister-in-law, Len and Renee Trinca of St. Augustine Beach, Florida, to become partners. Optimistic about the potential for Schoenhut with its excellent reputation and enamored with the small instruments, they jumped at the chance.

Len and Renee acquired ownership in 1996. Four years later, they moved the entire contents of the factory from NY to a new facility in St. Augustine where it remains headquartered today. As we close 2019, Len and Renee Trinca remain very hands-on with this family run business. Bringing quality musical toy instruments to children all over the world has brought such joy to this hardworking family. 

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