Albert Schoenhut (1848-1912) was born in Wurtenberg, 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.
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.
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. Frank remains involved with the company as a consultant and also helps at trade shows (Toy Fair, NAMM, etc.).
Renee’s and Len’s dedication, the support of a superior staff, and the company’s excellent reputation have kept Schoenhut in the forefront as the best-known, most prestigious manufacturer of its kind in the world.