Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Edward Betts, piano maker: the "Co." in Knabe, Gaehle & Co.

Our ancestor Edward Betts was a piano maker. He moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore between 1842 and 1846. There he was an employee of, and later a partner with, William Knabe and Henry Gaehle, who had one of the most prestigeous piano-making firms in the U.S. Our knowledge about Edward's work with the Knabe company from city directories and court records.
Edward began working for the Knabe & Gaehle “at the bench”, making pianos, on March 1, 1847. In October 1848 Knabe & Gaehle asked Betts to superintend the business as foreman.

1847-1848 Matchett's Baltimore Directory
directory listing: Edward Betts; piano maker 113 Lee St.
[the same information is found in the 1849 and 1851 directories, and the 1850 US Census]

As Henry Gaehle’s health deteriorated, he convinced Betts to purchase 1/8 interest in the business, with an agreement dated February 7, 1852 (backdated to January 1, 1851). The business was called Knabe, Gaehle & Co. (see newspaper articles)

1853-1854 Matchett's Baltimore Directory

directory listing : Edward Betts, firm Knabe, Gaehle & Co., 113 Lee near Sharp
advertisement: Knabe, Gaehle & Co.; mentions Edward Betts
(the factory was at "Nos. 4, 6, 8, & 9 Eutaw St, opposite Eutaw House" - near the intersection of S. Eutaw and Baltimore St.)

1853 Baltimore Wholesale Business Directory and Business Circular
advertisement: Knabe, Gaehle, & Co. (page 1, page 2); mentions Edward Betts

The relationship between the partners became acrimonious, and Gaehle withdrew from the firm in 1854, with his brother, William, taking charge of his interest. The firm was dissolved in 1855, with the assets distributed after lawsuits filed in 1855 and 1857.

1855-1856 Matchett's Baltimore Directory
(note that information for city directories was usually taken the year before publication)
directory listing: Edward Betts; Knabe, Gaehle & Co., h 95 Lee
advertisement: Knabe, Gaehle & Co.; mentions Edward Betts

1856-1857 Woods' Baltimore Directory
directory listing: Edward Betts: 95 Lee [no occupation listed]
advertisement: the post dissolution firms Wm. Gaehle & Co and Wm. Knabe & Co.

The Betts family moved to New Freedom in York County, Pennsylvania, where Edward died in March 1859.

Additional Information :
Map showing location of 113 Lee St. in Baltimore's Otterbein neighborhood, which still has 19th century houses (more here and here). In the 1850s this was in District 15, near Camden Station & yards (now the Oriole's Stadium) and the piano factory on Eutaw St. 95 Lee street is within a block or so of 113 Lee St.

Baltimore Superior Court Record Index (source of Edward's basic employment history):
1/17/1855 William Knabe vs. Henry Gaehle and Edward Betts. Dissolution of Knabe, Gaehle & Co.
8/31/1857 William Gaehle vs. William Knabe, Edward Betts, and Western Bank of Baltimore. Dissolution of Knabe, Gaehle & Co.

Knabe Piano Information (none of which mention Edward Betts)
Restoration of an 1841 Knabe & Gaehle Square Grand Piano
Brief history of the company from the present-day Wm. Knabe & Co. web site

Original summary of Edward's work history extracted from the Superior Court records by Rich Kolm (thanks Dad!).

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At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I find your information very helpful in my search for William Knabe, Henry Gaehle and Edward Betts. However, I've hit a wall on Gaehle and can't find anything additional information about him. I guess my question is, do you know his birth/death dates, what city in Germany he was born, etc... I would appreciate help with anything you can provide. Thank you, CFORD-BALL@MSN.COM

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