A Euphonious Icon

Euphonicon, an upright harp piano, invented by Dr. John Steward in 1841.
Upright Harp Piano, manufactured by F. Beale & Co., 1843. 1

The Euphonicon (from Greek, meaning ’sweet-toned’) is more piano than harp as the strings are struck by hammers in lieu of being plucked. But unlike the harp, this unorthodox keyboard instrument was equipped with violin-shaped resonating boxes, delicate hand-painted scrollwork, and exposed strings rising vertically to the left within an iron frame.

Dr. John Steward (b. 1808) of Wolverhampton, England, patented his invention (English no. 9,023) in 1841, though his idea may have originated as an improvement upon the Johann-Christian Dietz’s German Claviharpe from 1805. It never gained much popularity; though it is rumored Florence Nightingale may have played one.

One author wrote wistfully at the hopes of its return: “Personal experience of the Euphonicon must admit that the iron frame renders it heavier than an ordinary cottage pianoforte…”

For drawing-room use, however, and for the voice, the Euphonicon seems to me as much more suitable than a loud Érard, or Broadwood, as it is more graceful: it is in fact an effort of genius, a new and poetic creation, not founded at all on the usual pattern, but wholly distinct. It is to be hoped that some enterprising firm will one day revive this artistic and neat design, which ought to drive out of the field the vulgarities of the clumsy form we have borne with so long, as we bore all other eyesores fashionable between 1820 and 1860.
Mary Eliza Joy Haweis from The Art of Decoration 2
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Page Sources

"Upright Harp Piano, Manufactured by F. Beale & Co., 1843."  Under License, Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.
Haweis, Mary Eliza Joy.  The Art of Decoration.  London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1881: pgs. 322-323.  Google Books.  Web.  11 Nov. 2015.
Additional References:
  • "Euphonicon Piano."  Collection.VAM.AC.UK.  V & A Images, n.d.  Web.  4 Aug. 2015.
  • Palmieri, Robert, ed.  The Piano: An Encyclopedia.  2nd Edition.  New York: Routledge, 2003.  Google Books.  Web.  4 Aug. 2015.
  • Ripin, Edwin M., and Phillip R. Belt.  The Piano.  London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.  Google Books. Web.  4 Aug. 2015.