Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Mahogany piano

c. 1835-1840
Emil Scherr

Collection of the National Park Service, LIHO 36

Pianos were symbols of gentility found in Springfield’s best homes. Families who owned pianos had the means to purchase them, the space to display them, the leisure to use them, and the cultivation to appreciate them.

Piano playing was considered a female “accomplishment,” and well-to-do young ladies were taught to play the piano to highlight their refinement in social situations. Musical performances created an opportunity for young women to be noticed by potential suitors; a woman could not pursue a man but she could display her talents and hope that a man would notice.

This piano was made by Emil Scherr of Philadelphia. It belonged to Ninian and Elizabeth Edwards and reportedly played the music at the Lincolns’ wedding.