Albert Avery Grinnell, Abraham Lincoln, & Me

Entrance sign to Roseland Park Cemetery in Berkley, Michigan

Entrance sign to Roseland Park Cemetery in Berkley, Michigan

The final place of A.A. Grinnell

The final place of A.A. Grinnell



Albert Avery Grinnell, Abraham Lincoln, and me. Seems to be a strange combination for a title and subject of a blog posting at How do they all intersect? Well, since I am the webmaster of this blog, it starts with myself. Let me begin to try and sort it out by focusing on Mr.Grinnell. A little history-mostly personal. Albert Avery Grinnell was a wealthy businessman. His passion, it seems, was collecting coins and currencies. I mostly know this from a scant search on the Internet. I also know this because of the coin I own that honors him with his likeness on the front-which also contains the inscription: Albert Avery Grinnell-For Advancement of Numismatic Science (see picture below). The back of the coin indicates that the occasion for it being issued was to commemorate the 400th meeting of the Detroit Coin Club, January 23, 1941 in Detroit, Michigan (see picture of reverse of coin below). Grinnell’s connection with Lincoln will be considered momentarily. First, let me tell about his connection to me. There isn’t one, per se. You see, Mr. Grinnell was from the Grinnell family- the one that was in the piano business. Ever hear of a Grinnell piano? If, dear reader, you are from Detroit-or have roots in Detroit-you certainly have heard of Grinnell pianos! There were Grinnell music stores all over the Detroit area back in the day. At the stores, one could purchase pianos, instruments, and sheet music. Now a little personal history…



I grew up in Detroit with a Grinnell piano in the home. Oh, for a hot minute I took a lesson or two on it. But, I wanted to go out and play-so I never learned piano. That is one of my life regrets, for sure. The piano belonged to my mother. By the way, I should mention also that in what must have been some sort of revenge act (I guess)-I eventually carved my name in the side of the piano with a knife. Or, I might have just been acting like a 7 year-old-which I was. Anyway, back to my mother. She was a piano player. I mean she could play-and still does. Consequently, I grew up listening to piano music-the classics, as well as, the popular music of the day. From 1960 to 1963, my mother worked at the Grinnell Brothers store in downtown Detroit. That particular store, was the grand store, by all accounts. If you re old enough, you might have seen my mother at Grinnells-she was the attractive young lady playing the piano in the window of the store. She loved it. People passing by would stop and take a listen to the beautiful music coming from the other side of the window. When my mother wasn’t playing in the window, she was worked in the sheet music department. Everyone bought sheet music back then. She sold sheet music, by the way to Van Cliburn-that “tall handsome Texan” who was also a piano master. She had a regular customer also by the name of Liberace. “Real nice man,” my mother says. The Grinnell piano that belonged to my mother and stayed in the family for what seemed like forever is gone now. It was pretty worn out. The Salvation Army took it a few years ago. I had refused to learn piano, as I mentioned a minute ago. Instead, when I became a teen, I took up guitar. This was not unusual for a teenager in the 1960’s. I took formal lessons. I remember walking or riding my bike to the Grinnell store by the Civic Theater on Kelly Road-not far from Denby High School-where I graduated-to purchase sheet music. I carried on the Grinnell tradition for a time in the family. In the early 1980’s, as I seem to recall, Grinnell Stores were no more. But Grinnell Stores and Grinnell pianos were part of my history and the history of my family. This fact brings me back to Albert Avery Grinnell. Obviously, his family had a part in my history (as stated). But recently I came across a curious object that really, in effect, became the basis for this blog posting with it’s seemingly odd mixture- Albert Avery Grinnell, Abraham Lincoln, and me. Here are photos of the object:




The object is a wooden desk paperweight. The front features a metal plate with Abraham Lincoln’s image. The rear side also has a plate. It contains the following inscription: Compliments of Albert A. Grinnell Detroit, Michigan. Apparently, Mr. Grinnell had the desk paperweight made for distribution as gifts. I assume he had many of them made. So, it seems obvious that he had great admiration for Lincoln. This is the part I don’t really know. What truly was Grinnell’s admiration for Lincoln? I don’t own any books on Grinnell. The Internet is silent on this. This is a mystery. If, dear reader, you have some knowledge on this-please share. I know that there is a connection between Albert Avery Grinnell, Abraham Lincoln, and me. I may never know how deep the connection is.

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