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1910 photo of William Tonk, Eastern piano manufacturer

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Posted 6 years ago

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William Tonk, a manufacturer of pianos in New York and Chicago, happened to be a good friend of my grandfather's. A photo of him, personally signed "Most Sincerely, William Tonk" always had a prominent place on top of the upright grand in my grandparents' living room. I haven't found much written about Tonk other than this explanation of the term "honky-tonk":

What's a Honky Tonk Anyway? The origin of "honky-tonk" is unknown, according to Merriam-Webster. But The New York Times' Ed Boland reports "... many musicians say the term, which can mean a type of ragtime music or a tawdry nightclub, stems from Tin Pan Alley.

In the early 1900's, every music production company had a piano in the office, and from the street you could hear people banging away. Many of these pianos were made by William Tonk & Brothers at 10th Avenue and 35th Street. The pianos and the sounds they made soon became known as honky tonk."

Q+A in FYI Section of New York Times' City Section

Sunday, July 6, 2003

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