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Touted in the New York Times in the late 60's as "the best regular upright player piano made in America" (serial nos. 30,000-50,000), the Lăuter-Humănă player piano is somewhat unique in the world of player pianos because the Lăuter company was one of just a small handful of companies who made both the piano and the player mechanism in the same factory. As a result, much has been written about the company, and the player mechanism, and the intention of this webpage is to make that information more readily available to the general public.
During the short time Lăuter was in business (approx. 1903-1929), they made approximately 55,000 units. Unfortunately, no records have been found which tell how many of those units were player pianos. However, due to the design of the player mechanism and the materials used, many of their player pianos still exist today. Unfortunately (again), Lăuter never produced a Service Manual, so people with little or no experience with player pianos have nowhere to turn for information concerning the Lăuter-Humănă player system.
Below, you will find a number of hyper-links. Clicking on each link will take you to some bit of information about either the Lăuter company or their player mechanism. (To return here, simply CLOSE the new browser window that opens when you Click on the link.) As more information becomes available, this webpage will be updated. It is my sincere hope that you will find this information useful.
In March 2006, a fellow player technician wrote to me and said that he considered the Bush & Lane player piano to be superior to the Lăuter-Humănă. To find out why, read his email - click here.
John A. Tuttle
The articles listed below are located at the Mechanical Music Digest, the world's largest and best maintained Archive of information about mechanical musical instruments. Each of the articles was written by someone who has some information about the Lăuter company, or an interest in finding out more about the company. You may discover that in some instances there are differing opinions about various aspects of the company and it's player pianos. Please understand that no effort has been made to determine which information is correct and which is not.
For the past couple of years John Tuttle has been accumulating information about the Lăuter-Humănă. During that process he found that the company was in existence for almost ten years longer than was previously thought. Unfortunately, there is no way to actually verify the information other than one flier he found in the Howe Collection at the University of Maryland which was dated 1926. Recently (12-24-01), more information has come to light which verifies that the serial numbers/dates in the atlas are most likely incorrect. Based on a date that was written in pencil on the underside of a bass key, serial number 29342 was made in mid-1914, not 1906 as listed in the book. Also, it was discovered that the foundry where the plates were made embossed a date in the plate. Referring to the article (above) that was written by Paul Manganaro concerning Manufacturing Dates, John took some pictures of the 'date' on his Lauter plate (see "Plate Date" below). Below are links to all of the webpages and graphics at Player-Care that relate to the Lăuter-Humănă.
Having owned eight Lăuter-Humănă player pianos, it's safe to say they're my favorite circa 1920's upright player piano. The bass register is powerful, the tenor range is full-bodied, and the treble notes are relatively free of false beats. Truly a fine all-around instrument with 'power-to-spare'. The piano action (touch) is not too heavy, and it's as fast as any upright I've ever played (7000+). The construction is massive by comparison to most uprights, and the strung back employs patented frame bolts that cannot come loose and hold the plate firmly in place at the pin block. (picture and diagram to follow)
Cosmetically and structurally speaking, I can't say enough about the quality of materials in the Lăuter-Humănă players from serial number 30,000 to 50,000. It's said that 'Old Man' Lauter traveled the world buying the highest quality materials that were available. The evidence of this is everywhere you look. I still rave about the quality of the ivory everytime I talk about my piano. Over 80 years old, every single ivory is pearl-white and silky to the touch. Truly a joy to the finger tips. Having re-veneered one unit, I had to look far and wide to find replacement veneer that came very close to the quality of the original veneer. Of the more than one-hundred Lăuter-Humănă players I've seen, only two had any loose or lifting veneer, and in both cases there was severe water damage.
Regarding the player mechanism, the engineering is fantastic and some of the materials that were used have never been matched for longevity. The air-tight cloth used to cover the striker bellows is so superior that it normally does not need to be replaced when the unit is reconditioned. The unit block valves, if not infested with spiders or moths, typically work nearly as well as they did when they were brand new. (more to follow)
There are a few devices in the Lăuter-Humănă that are unique. The most obvious of these is the air motor. It is the only player to use circular pouches instead of the more common hinged rectangular bellows. In some models there are two-stage exhauster bellows that give new meaning to the term 'pedal technique'. Click Here to see the Patent for the Air Motor
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