At the age of 20, Starr moved from his birthplace of Warren Connecticut to New York City, where he started work as a clerk at his uncle’s bookstore. After gaining sufficient business acumen and confidence a mere two years later, Starr relocated to Rochester, and opened a furniture manufactory.
Like his earlier furniture business, his piano factory quickly prospered. During that period in history, the parlor was the main entertainment room of homes, and oftentimes a piano was the center of attention.
In most homes, at least one family member knew how to play the piano. As a result, Starr’s business skyrocketed.
At its height around 1860, the operation had over 100 employees and occupied a large four story building on Rochester’s Main Street.
Around the age of 63 Frederick Starr retired to pursue his other civic interests fulltime, including politics and philanthropy. Among his various pursuits were the Temperance Movement and the Presbyterian Church.
A staunch abolitionist, he was a Free Soiler and an early member of the Republican Party. He was also a strong proponent of the women’s rights movement, being an advocate for women receiving higher education.
A strong believer that education was a key to providing opportunity for all, he was an ardent advocate of free public schooling for all, assisted in the organization of Rochester’s first high school, and helped establish the Rochester Female Seminary.
After his retirement from his music business, his foreman DeWitt Gibbons took over running the manufactory. For another 32 years Gibbons continued endeavors himself until his death in 1894. In 1912 Frederick Starr’s music store remained in operation. By that time it had become Rochester’s Old Reliable Music House.
Starr himself died at the age of 70, on November 27th, 1869.
Frederick Starr issued two tokens for his Rochester music manufactory in the early 1850s. Both measuring 22mm in diameter, the purpose of the tokens were two-fold. As with many merchants of his day, proprietors issued tokens to both advertise their businesses, as well as provide privately-issued coins that could be given out as change and redeemed by customers.
Below is an example of a Frederick Starr merchant token. Catalogued as Miller NY-1022, the specimen was struck in brass and is approximately Uncirculated in grade. Starr also issued a second variety which was identical in devices and planchet composition, but was silvered.
Notes and Sources
The Buffalo Business Directory Vol 1, Hunter & Ostrander, 1855, pg.191
Rochester and the Post Express: A History of the City of Rochester from the Earliest Times, John Devoy, The Post Express Printing Co, 1895, pgs.209-210
Semi-centennial History of the City of Rochester, William Farley Peck, D. Mason & Company, 1884
Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
Windsor-Chair Making in America, Nancy Goyne Evans, UPNE, ©2006, pg.298
The Library of Congress Digital Archives