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Julian Dyer's Email to Player-Care

Below is a copy of the email (written June 2003) that Julian Dyer sent to Player-Care after reading one of my postings in the Mechanical Music Digest. In the posting (see below), I solicited information about foreign-made player pianos.



John Tuttle's "850+ Player Piano Makes & Makers" list of piano brands and their player actions is wonderful, a real achievement (as is his whole web site). However, there is one little problem for the global era - it's all American! Luckily, the MMD is just the right forum to fill in this slight omission.

Below are a few suggested additions to kick things off, but I'm sure that European and Antipodean MMDers can easily add many time more brands. I've grouped this list by player actions rather than piano brand because that's the way the information comes to hand, mostly from UK Autopiano and Ampico literature and the PPG instrument listing.

The piano brands in this are either German or English, with a couple of French entries and one Austrian. At the time player pianos were popular, the UK market tended to look to Germany for top-quality instruments (and rightly so). Some piano makes had many different players fitted, particularly better brands, such as Broadwood, that were not directly tied to a particular player maker.

1. Ampico (as fitted by Marshall & Co. in London, mostly using genuine Ampico/Amphion parts, but reportedly sometimes using left-over Angelus stacks):
English: Broadwood; Chappell; Collard & Collard; Challen; Hopkinson; Marshall & Rose; Rogers; 'Marque-Ampico' stencil piano (probably by Eavestaff).
French: Erard (and at least one Gaveau is known).
German: Grotrian-Steinweg.
Austrian: Boesendorfer.

2. Angelus (as fitted by Marshall & Co. in London): Brinsmead; Broadwood; Challen; Marshall & Rose / Sir Herbert Marshall.

3. APPA (Automatic Player Piano Actions, small-time successors to Aeolian's UK operation in the 1930s): Danemann; Kemble; Kingston.

4. Autopiano (American-made actions fitted in the UK by sole agents Kastner & Co.): Rachals; Lipp; Schiedmayer; Kaps; Kaim; Grotrian-Steinweg; Ritmuller; Feurich. (All of these German brands are advertised in a c.1910 catalogue, but other than Rachals and Lipp are rarely encountered.) UK brands include: Broadwood; Kastner (own-brand); Triumph (own-brand); Allison; Strohmenger; Challen; Monnington & Weston.

5. Carola (made by Bluethner UK in the early 1930s): Bluethner; Gors & Kallmann; Hopkinson.

6. Claviola - see Phonola.

7. Eastonola: W. H. Barnes; Eastonola.

8. Higel (presumably actions imported from Canada and fitted in Higel's London works): Allison; Challen; Hopkinson; Offer & Son; Steinberg; Strohmenger.

9. Phonola (Hupfeld): Bluethner, Roenisch, Grunert (the latter two eventually becoming own-brands). Many other brands were fitted with Hupfeld players, either Phonola or Claviola - a bit like a European Standard. I have records of instruments from Neumann, Niendorf.

10. Pianola (Aeolian, using imported or locally-manufactured actions): Ibach; Ernst Munck; Broadwood (all early, before the familar Steinway, Weber, Steck, Stroud, Farrand and Aeolian brands were used as in America - the Ernst Munck factory being purchased and renamed Steck).

11. Pistonola: Boyd

12. Welte-Mignon (original): Steinway; Bechstein; Feurich; Welte.

13. Welte-Mignon (licensee): Rushworth & Draper; Waddington.

As well as all these, the PPG list has loads of player pianos that didn't give enough information to identify the player action in them, so there's plenty of opportunity to fill out this list. There are also brands I don't have information at hand for, such as Pleyela, that clearly ought to be added.

When it comes to details of player actions, the worst omission from American-centred literature is probably Hupfeld, who produced massively-engineered works of jaw-dropping build quality and complexity. The majority of the other player actions commonly encountered were derived from American originals, some changed a bit. For instance, Standard actions fitted in Europe were offered with Themodist-like actions which do not appear in the original literature, and special inserts were stuck into the UK versions of the service manuals. Julian Dyer



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John Tuttle's Posting (2003)

HI All, Back when I started the "850+ Player Piano Makes & Makers" listing at Player-Care.com, I asked Durrell Armstrong, the owner of Player Piano Co., if he objected to me using his listing as a starting point. He did not object, and the list was turned into a webpage. (BTW, Durrell's list was last updated about two decades ago.)

Over the years that the list has been in place, I have made over 200 changes as new information comes to light. When I hear about a piano maker that isn't on the list, I go out of my way to find out as much as I can about the piano and the player system that is installed in the instrument. Sometimes this is very simple. Other times it's quite involved. But the quest for information is never ending.

So, when I read John Dewey's posting about the Pease piano with the Otto Higel action, I immediately updated the list again. I strongly believe that the listing at Player-Care is now the most comprehensive listing of its kind on the planet, but it remains a 'work in progress'. (It rarely stays 'static' for more than a month, and I think that's great!) And, next to the main index page at Player-Care, the "Makers" page is the most popular page in the Player-Care domain. It gets visited an average of 2,250 times a month (in 2003).

One of my new projects is creating a listing of reproducing and expression piano makers. In this case, the starting point will be the extraction of information from various reference books. However, just like the listing of regular 88-note players, I fully expect the list to grow as time goes by.

As I see it, one of the real beauties of the internet is the ease with which information can be updated. Unlike printed reference materials, which hardly ever change, making changes 'one-at-a-time' to a webpage is quick, painless, and extremely inexpensive (bordering on 'zero').

So, if you've got the time, check out the 'Makers' listing. If you know of any makes that aren't on the list, please send me an email (John A Tuttle). The list is at:

https://www.player-care.com/makers.html

Musically,

John A. Tuttle
Player-Care.com
Brick, NJ, USA
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This page was last revised November 25, 2021 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions
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