|William H. Bush, the founder of Bush and Gerts|
Years ago my Mom bought an old upright. It was big and heavy, and out of tune. I thought she wasted her money. It is a Bush and Gerts. She had it tuned, and it has held up. I did begin to like it more even though I still judged it by its cover.
Then one day I came across a used book in Indian Path Bookstore in Spring City, Pa. The book's title is Pianos and Their Makers. It was published in 1911. In it, the author details information about Bush and Gerts. Let me include that here:
(Excerpt from Pianos and Their Makers by Alfred Dolge)
“Among the many remarkable men who have made their mark in the development of the piano industry of the west, William H. Bush stands out as one of those sturdy characters whom misfortune only spurs on to greater efforts.
Coming from good old Holland stock, William Henry Bush was born in 1829 on a farm near Baltimore, Md. One of the first railroads built in the United States ran through the Bush farm to the City of Baltimore, and we find William as a lad of 14, with remarkable enterprise, contracting for the use of the steam engine and the one freight car of which the railroad could boast to carry his vegetables to Baltimore, so as to be the first in the marketplace. In 1854 he landed at Chicago and soon engaged in the lumber business, accumulating a fortune. The great fire of 1871 burned up his lumber yard and reduced him again to the point where he had started 17 years before. Success was his, and in 1886 he started in partnership with his son, William Lincoln Bush, and John Gerts, under the firm name of W. H. Bush and Company, for the manufacturing of pianos.
William L. Bush, born in 1861, had served his apprenticeship with Geo. H. Woods & Company as an organ and piano maker, and from 1881 to 1883 as salesman for the W. W. Kimball Company. John Gerts had learned piano making in Germany, thoroughly mastering all branches of the art.
With W. H. Bush at the head as financier, the concern prospered from the very start, and was changed to a corporation in 1891 with a paid-up capital of $400,000.
Philanthropically inclined, the elder Bush planned to create for Chicago an institution which should serve music and the arts, but before his well-conceived plans materialized he passed away in 1901 at the age of 74.
The Bush Temple of Music was started in 1902 and completed in 1903, and stands as a monument to the enterprise, energy and liberality of the Maryland farmer boy, as one of Chicago’s landmarks.
William L. Bush, a talented musician himself, is very solicitous for the lasting success of the music school, which has achieved a far-reaching reputation. He also established similar institutions at Dallas, Tex., and Memphis, Tenn., thus assisting in the propaganda for musical development not only as a manufacturer of excellent pianos, but also as a lover of the art for art’s sake.
The Bush and Gerts Piano Company is known for its zeal in upholding and defending the ethics of the piano trade. William L. Bush is using his forceful pen with telling results in the warfare against the illegitimate stencil and dishonest methods of selling, insisting that the maker’s name should be on every piano and fixed selling price established by the maker.”
I gained a new respect for the name of Bush and Gerts after reading this. I had been looking, waiting, to find a grand piano that was of good quality, but that fit into my budget. Last spring I decided to search on Craigslist for a Bush and Gerts piano. I did not expect to find anything because they are not that easy to find really. Also, the upright models are more available these days than the grands. However, one popped up!
On mother's day 2017, I went to check it out. For its age, everything was there. All of the keys looked good and worked for starters! The middle sostenuto pedal functions as it should (holding up only one damper at a time). The sound was even and round and full. It was the opposite of my usual experiences of checking out an older piano.
I decided to buy it, and the piano was moved to my house in August. It has been a special, meaningful experience. The seller grew up practicing on this piano, and it has been in her family for many years. Her mother was the first in the family to own it, having acquired it with her own earnings when she was a teenager. She had bought it second hand those many years ago, and became very good and even taught piano. When the person who sold it to me was 8 years old, her mother passed away. She said she remembers sitting under the piano as her Mom would play. Remember, it was mother's day when I looked at it. The next day was the seller's birthday, and my daughter's and I played/sang happy birthday to her on her Mom's piano on mother's day. It was a special moment.
After all of the waiting and looking for a grand piano, I couldn't have asked for one that is better than this. I am very happy and grateful that it has come to me in this way.