From: Jeffrey R. Wood (remove .geentroep)|
To: Mechanical Music Digest - E-mail
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 13:06:16 -0800 (PST)
Subject: The Autopiano Co. & Auto Pneumatic Action Co.
This is my response to Michael La's January 6, 2010 request for information concerning his "Conservatory" model Autopiano.
My observations over the years fail to reveal any differences in quality among the various model designations, other than the usual tendency to build things cheaper as time went on. Names such as "Studio", "Home" and "Conservatory" were used to indicate the relative size (height) of the instrument.
The Autopiano Company built pianos of somewhat above-average quality into which they placed their "Auto Pneumatic Action", advertised in 1910 as being "used in ninety percent of the highest grade player pianos". Thus, a higher-end "Autopiano" would consist of the Auto Pneumatic Action built into an instrument of exceptional quality, such as the Kurtzmann of Buffalo or the Charles Steiff of Baltimore, to mention but two. Detailed photos of a piano by Eilers of Portland, Oregon, containing an early Auto Pneumatic Action, may be seen here:
A number of rolls played on this beautifully restored instrument may be seen and heard on the YouTube channel known as "deeney1990.
At some time during the mid-teens, the Auto Pneumatic Action Company introduced the "Standard" (brand) player action and the corporate entity created a new company to manufacture it, known as The Standard Player Action Company. The Auto Pneumatic action became the foot-pumped Auto De Luxe player action, or, in the electrically-powered version, either the Stoddard-Ampico or the Welte-Mignon licensee. Thus, the "De Luxe" designation refers the player, rather than the grade of piano into which it was installed.
Both Standard and De Luxe player actions were manufactured under the same patents and were of the double-valve type. Eventually, the foot-pumped DeLuxe actions were phased out and Standard player action production went to single-valve construction, in spite of earlier company literature extolling the virtues of the double-valve system. The latest Autopianos were built with single-valve Standard player actions.
An undated but circa 1910 illustrated advertisement in the Music Trade Review for The Autopiano Company describes "The largest factory in the world making automatic player pianos only". To see, go here and scroll down:
From this humble beginning there arose a huge factory complex occupying most or all of two city blocks near the shore of the Hudson River. Multiple New York City addresses are found in the literature:
The Autopiano Co. (R. W. Lawrence, Pres.)
Auto Pneumatic Action Co. (Wm. J. Keeley, President)
The Auto Pneumatic Action Company
Standard Pneumatic Action Company (W. A. Mennie, Pres.)
At one time these associated companies boasted having more than three thousand employees and a capacity of twenty-five thousand player actions per year. What percentage of these players that went into their own numerous makes (such as Kohler & Campbell, Francis Bacon, etc.), is not given.
For further reading, John Tuttle (Player-Care) offers several reprints of Autopiano, Auto Pneumatic and Standard Player Action publications on his web site:
A favorite of mine is listed as "Practical Guide for the Regulation of Player Piano Mechanism". This is an Auto Pneumatic Action Co. publication, but I have seen it bearing the name of one or another of the piano companies that used the Auto Pneumatic Action.
Jeffrey R. Wood
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Since "Player-Care" is an internet business, I prefer that we correspond via E-Mail (click here to fill out the 'Request Form'). However, if I'm not in the middle of some other activity, you can reach me at 732-840-8787. But please understand that during the hours from 9AM-5PM (EST), I'm generally quite busy. So, I probably won't answer the phone. If you get the answering machine, please leave a detailed message stating the reason for your call. Also, repeat your name and phone number clearly and distinctly. By necessity, I prioritize everything in my life. And, if you call and just leave your name and number, and ask me to call you back, it might be a day or two before I return your call. Why? Because I don't know why you want me to call and I might not be prepared to assist you in an effective and efficient manner. If you leave me an E-Mail address (which I prefer), spell it out phonetically. The more you do to help me, the more I can help you in return. Don't rush. You have four minutes to record your message.
407 19th Ave, Brick, NJ, 08724
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