The custom Steinway piano at Christmas, 2002
Pianos have been popular musical instruments almost since their invention over two centuries ago, and quickly found their way into the White House. And several presidents have been adept piano players. President Truman and his daughter Margaret played regularly and preferred traditional black Baldwin grand pianos. Margaret's piano leg poking through the floor of her second-floor sitting room was one of the things that prompted a full structural evaluation of the White House and led to the Truman reconstruction. President Nixon also played piano and even accompanied singer Pearl Bailey in a performance in the East Room.
The Eagle-Leg Piano
The most famous piano in the White House is the Steinway grand piano with gilt American eagle supports. It was designed by Eric Gugler (with help from Franklin Roosevelt) and was given to the White House in 1938 by the manufacturer. It is decorated with gilt stenciling by Dunbar Beck. It replaced an earlier custom piano from the 19th century that featured a similar eagle motif. It is normally kept in the East Room, but sometimes used in the Entrance Hall.
The White House has other pianos, generally kept in the upstairs residence rooms, such as the Central Hall. These are more traditional black grand pianos, most by Baldwin (which President Truman preferred).
Piano in the second floor Central Hall around 1997, looking east
Piano in the second floor Central Hall in 1992, looking west (HABS)
Custom grand piano in the East Room (Clinton Library)
Richard Nixon accompanying Pearl Bailey on the White House piano in the East Room in 1974 (NARA)
Former President Harry Truman playing a Baldwin grand piano in the East Room in 1961 (NARA - Kennedy Library - Cecil Stoughton)