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Rare Ruhlmann piano to be auctioned in NYC

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2013 at 6:30 am •  Published: February 14, 2013

Aboard the Normandie, the piano now up for sale occupied the ladies' drawing room and music room, which was decorated with Ruhlmann's furniture in tribute to the French designer, who died in 1933. The Normandie sailed its maiden voyage in May 1935.

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the U.S. Navy seized the Normandie while it was docked at Manhattan's West Side piers. The Navy planned to convert it into the troopship, the USS Lafayette, and the piano was sold along with the rest of the ship's contents in a series of auctions.

Before the conversion could be completed, a fire broke out aboard the ship on Feb. 9, 1942. Early the next morning, the ship capsized onto its port side at Pier 88. The vessel was eventually righted, but the conversion operation was deemed too costly, and the ship was sold for scrap after the war.

The Butler family, which founded and, until the 1970s, owned The Buffalo News, purchased the instrument at a New York auction in the early 1940s after having seen and played the piano while sailing aboard the Normandie, according to Sotheby's.

The piano has been passed down to the granddaughter of the original owners, who has declined to be identified.

The auction is scheduled for March 6.