from 1932 ad

Sherman, Clay & Co. was a West Coast chain of music stores specializing in pianos. The company was founded and headquartered in San Francisco; there were different locations in Oakland over the years. They sold all manner of musical instruments and sheet music, and later added gramophones, Victrolas, and record players to their offerings.

The company was founded in 1870 by Leander Sherman, when he bought out A. A. Rosenberg's shop where he had worked as a clerk. Sherman's partner was Major C. C. Clay from 1876 until Clay's death in 1905. 3 The Sherman family had ownership until 1960, when the Schwartz family bought it. They owned it until the last store closed in 2013. 1,2

History in Oakland

new 1909 building

In 1882, Edwin A. James entered into an agreement with Sherman, Clay & Co. where they would provide instruments on credit for him to sell in Oakland and Alameda County. James had a $2,500 bond secured by John Cushing, E. M. Gibson, and Sabin Harris. Things appear to have gone OK for some years, but in 1885, Sherman, Clay & Co. said James owed over $10,000 to them and attempted to collect. He didn't have the money, so they reclaimed the instruments he had, cancelled the contract, and filed a lawsuit. James counter sued in 1886, saying the debt wasn't that large. 4 James lost the original suit, and filed a new suit in 1887, saying Sherman, Clay & Co. had broken the contract. It appears James lost that suit as well, as there's no further mention of it. 5,6

But the market for pianos and other instruments was there, and in 1893, Sherman, Clay & Co. opened their first Oakland location. 7

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the San Francisco location, and forced them to operate out of the Oakland location. The headquarters was there until a new building was constructed in San Francisco in 1907.

A new building was constructed in 1909 on the southwest corner of 14th and Clay, with Sherman, Clay & Co. to be the tenant.

In 2015, the Sherman Clay Building at 2131-2147 Broadway was sold for $5.64 million. The article says it was constructed in 1926 and renovated in 1981. 8

[ Q: What year did the last Oakland store finally close? ]

1916 directory listing

Location Years Notes
1112 Broadway 1893-1894 ref
1120 Broadway 1894-1909 ref
14th and Clay 1909-1932 ref
4th floor of Capwell's 1935 ref
2135 Broadway 1940s-?  
3420 East 14th (branch) 1929  

Madeleine Brockhoff, niece of Albert Vander Naillen, Jr.
courtesy David DeRosa
Harry Andrews, later Brockhoff's husband
courtesy David DeRosa

1898 ad1904 ad1932 ad

Links and References

1893 ad

  1. Historic Sherman Clay piano company shutters after 140 years SF Business Times April 2, 2013
  2. Sherman Clay piano merchant's swan song April 13, 2013
  3. Sherman Clay History
  4. Music That Had No Charms Oakland Tribune August 10, 1886
  5. Damaged James Oakland Tribune September 17, 1887
  6. Music For James Oakland Tribune December 1, 1887
  7. New Music House Oakland Tribune January 21, 1893
  8. Sherman Clay Bldg. Sells for $5.6M August 28, 2015