USS THOMAS A. EDISON SSBN-610
By James C. “Jim” LeVangie; LT; Blue & Gold Crews; 1965-1969
Our shipmates who attended the 1992 reunion started a project to locate the only piano ever to have been placed on a submarine. As reported by EDISON shipmate Jack Ensminger, National Commander, United States Submarine Veterans, Inc., "It was taken off when 610 went out of commission in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNSY) and its removal was witnessed by plank owner, Hoyt Burrows. He was employed at PSNSY at the time. It went to the museum in DC and was but two weeks from being dumped when we found it after the ‘92 reunion. After a few phone calls we got it shipped to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Government expense. I don't believe it has been displayed yet but it is supposed to be when the museum opens at its new location. When that will be I am not sure."
Ten years later Jim LeVangie went looking for the status of the piano. There was no record of the piano at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and their museum is completed and full. Jim requested that they check records of shipments from Washington DC in 1992 and they found only one suspect "crate.” That crate was listed for return or disposition in the near future. Visual inspection revealed a stencil on one side: "PIANO."
Jim established a plan to raise interest in the piano that it might be uncrated and brought out to a responsible and appropriate exhibit. He brought the Steinway Music Company into the project and found that they were preparing for their 150th anniversary celebration next year. Old Mr. Steinway responded with a picture of the piano being loaded on the Edison and a treasured letter from Thomas A. Edison that said the Steinway worked better than all else tried. Jim took this opportunity to bring the Thomas A. Edison Historical Site into the project as well. Steinway visited the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum storage facility and made an inspection for identification and condition.
At this time the status of the Edison Piano Project is: The piano is out of storage, uncrated for the first time since offloading at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 1986 Inspection of the piano itself leaves no doubt it is the Edison’s Steinway. The manufacturer is negotiating for a loan of the piano. The loan would be based upon Steinway reconditioning the piano for exhibit at their 150th anniversary celebration in 2003. Initial legal advice from Portsmouth lawyers indicates that the loan to the Steinway Music Company should be no problem. Jim will bring this up to the Director of Naval History, OP-09BH, Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, to sort of grease the skids. We now have the time to organize a search for a proper final exhibit location after the 2003 Steinway Celebration. Jim is visiting government and Navy museums, leaving the pictures and history of the piano onboard Edison to establish the fact of the Steinway piano onboard a submarine. The museum exhibit will be on display at the reunion.
We need each and every one to ask questions and seek out interest for a proper final exhibit and disposition of our own personal treasure, the Edison's Steinway. Please come to the October 2002 reunion in Groton, CT with ideas and suggestions that will allow us to review all options. Remember, the piano is government property. Final preservation must be in a government facility or a proper historical civilian facility. The facility must be reviewed and accepted by Director of Naval History, OP-09BH, Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard. Loans outside the government facilities are possible.
The Steinway service manager and representative provided the latest picture of the piano shortly after uncrating (see below). They were pleasantly surprised at its relatively good condition. Reconditioning is certain and will be a joy to Steinway if they can exhibit the piano at their 2003 anniversary celebration.