Frederick Starr Piano Forte Manufactory and Music StoreA man of many talents and much ambition, Frederick M. Starr was born on May 1st 1799 in the dawning days of the United States.

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.

Frederick Starr Piano Manufacturer Rochester NYIn 1850 he changed focus, sold off his furniture business, and founded a piano company.

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.

Starr's Furniture Manufactory, which later became his Piano Manufactory and Music Store
Starr’s Furniture Manufactory, which later became his Piano Manufactory and Music Store

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.

Numismatic Specimens

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.

Miller NY-1022 Frederick Starr Music Pianos

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. The Buffalo Business Directory Vol 1, Hunter & Ostrander, 1855, pg.191
  2. 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
  3. Semi-centennial History of the City of Rochester, William Farley Peck, D. Mason & Company, 1884
  4. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
  5. Windsor-Chair Making in America, Nancy Goyne Evans, UPNE, ©2006, pg.298
  6. The Library of Congress Digital Archives
Aaron Packard


  1. How do I contact Mr. Packard? I would like to request his permission to provide this article for the benefit of members of the Rochester Numismatic Association.

    1. Author

      Aaron Packard has contacted you by email at the address you provided. Thanks.

  2. I have a copy of a letter written from Frederick Starr JR, who was in Weston MO at the time, to his father in 1852 suggesting his father have these coins made. His son drew a sketch of what he thought the coin should look like. I can forward you a PDF of the letter if you would like to have it.

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