Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the first piano in Florence, Italy, in 1700. The first piano was a simple keyboard, but Cristofori experimented with the design over the years. By the 1730s, elite Europeans purchased and played pianos.
Pianos were made smaller in the 1760s so that rich families could have them in their homes. German immigrant John Behrent brought the piano over to America around 1770. Between 1770 and 1827, when Ludwig van Beethoven was alive, pianos gained more keys, which allowed them to grow in size and produce more sounds. Piano makers began designing pianos with iron to allow them to produce a louder sound. During the 19th century, women were often shunned if they were caught playing the piano in public.