I have some information for you, but it will take me a few days if
not until after the holidays to get more of it for you. One of my
own pianos is a George Bent ("Crown" is the piano brand) piano.
It is my only non-player, but it was my grandmother's piano and it has
a beautiful Victorian case. I had the action redone when I was single
and thought I would always have enough money for such projects! This
piano has 4 pedals, including one to control an original mandolin rail
which can be locked at half-deployment or at full deployment, to
George Bent was a major Chicago-area piano manufacturer at the turn of
the century. He is mentioned in a very interesting book "The Piano In
America" by Craig Roell (no relation to Harvey Roehl). That book
mentions George's autobiography which I sought through my local
library. They found a copy in Texas for me and I photocopied parts of
it. Unfortunately much of the text is social and rather dull. There
were however quite a few photographs of piano industry men and piano
convention group shots which I copied.
I also have a small George Bent piano catalog which includes very nice
line drawings of their piano case styles (the very first one shown is
my grandmother's!). Believe it or not, the catalog actually includes a
section suggesting what instruments the piano can imitate: a banjo,
zither, guitar, I can't remember what else, and even a bugle!! (?!!).
The catalog makes no mention of player instruments.
Finally, there is an interesting article & set of photographs in the
25th Anniversary MBSI book of a George Bent piano with a very early
player installed. I believe the article describes the author's father
buying the piano at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, so it is clearly a
VERY early roll-playing instrument. I believe the player mechanism was
all add-on, below the keybed and behind the piano.
The article mentions a manufacturer of the player mechanism other than
George Bent, but I can't recall who. I wonder where that piano is now.
I asked Mrs. Fabel at an MBSI meeting who remembered the member, but
she thought he was dead now. If anyone has any leads I'd sure like to
know about it! I love early stuff like this (BTW, they have a very
early, unrestored player at the Shubert Club in Minneapolis with the
heavy paper played in a transverse drawer under the keyboard; I
remember seeing at the 1986 joint MBSI/AMICA convention).
I would be interested in seeing photographs of your piano and
mechanism. Perhaps we can arrange a trade through the mails.