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MMD > Archives > February 2006 > 2006.02.06 > 07Prev  Next

Serial Numbers of Standard Player Action
By Bob Pinsker

Hi, all!  This query is doubtless the first of a series, as I've
recently bought an upright player and I have a number of questions that
I haven't been able to answer from careful perusal of Art Reblitz's
books nor from searching the MMD archives nor from John Tuttle's very
useful web site.

The first question concerns the make of the piano.  It seems
straightforward enough: just look at the fallboard decal, or, if it's
absent, just read it off the upper right-hand corner of the plate.
Well, the piano was refinished, I guess in about the 1960s or 70s, and
the refinisher didn't attempt to replace the fallboard decal.  That
must be quite common.  But there doesn't seem to be any manufacturer's
name cast into the plate.

There is a US patent number -- number 1055323 -- to the left of the
appropriate spot.  If one looks that up on the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office web site at  one finds that this
1913 patent, by piano manufacturer Jacob Doll, Jr., covers a way of
making a "string-plate" (a harp, that is) of an upright piano to allow
for a detachable nameplate in the upper right-hand corner.  The purpose
of this is so that a manufacturer who provides those castings for a
number of piano manufacturers need only have one casting, yet each
customer can have their name in the usual spot.

Apparently, when this piano was worked on and the harp painted gold (a
bit sloppily, I must say, since they got gold paint on all of the areas
of the pin block that show around the pins, and on the pins, and on the
bit of the wood where the serial number is exposed, etc.) they appeared
to have detached the detachable plate and disposed of it.  In fact,
when one looks carefully, on the right-hand edge of the plate one can
see a slot where one end of that detachable plate went

Actually, there is a clue that indicates when that plate must have been
painted gold.  A tuner, named Wolford, noted in March, 1969, that the
he or she had raised the pitch a half-step to A440.  That note is in
pencil on the plate, so the painting must have been done before then.

At any rate, I can't find any other clue about the manufacturer of the
piano.  The piano's serial number is 172811, but that does no good
without further information on the manufacturer, I guess.  If the
player action were an unusual manufacturer, one could try to look at
the listings, on John Tuttle's Player-Care site for example, of the
piano manufacturers that used that action, and maybe one could deduce
something from that serial number.  Unfortunately, that scheme is
frustrated by the fact that the player action is _the_ most common --
the Standard action -- which according to several sources, was used by
over 100 piano manufacturers at one time or another.

Has anybody ever listed the serial numbers of Standard player actions
and determined the serial number ranges associated with each year?
I've been unable to find such a listing.  How much information is known
about the history of the Standard Pneumatic Action Co.?

One could place a limit by looking up the most recent of the many
patent numbers listed on the Standard nameplate above the spoolbox; the
action must have been manufactured after the most recent patent listed
there was issued.  Unfortunately, this doesn't help much, because the
highest-numbered patent listed there is 902,536, which is the patent by
W.J. Keeley, assigned to the Autopiano Co. of New York (which I guess
must have either turned into or was sold to Standard) for the split
hammer rail that's used to get volume control for the bass and treble,
and as one can see from the fact that that patent number is lower than
the Jacob Doll patent on the detachable nameplate, is earlier than the
latter -- to be specific, it was issued Oct. 27, 1908.  I presume that
this Standard plate was unchanged for many years after its initial
introduction, sometime after 1908.

The Standard action lower section has been pictured in both John
Tuttle's web pages (
and Art Reblitz's book as having a pair of reservoirs outboard of the
exhauster bellows.  Reblitz mentions that the left reservoir contains
an accent pneumatic which allows a given note to be accented with a
sharp pressure on the pedals, and that that pneumatic was sometimes
removed by rebuilders.

In both my Standard action and in at least one other example I've
examined, there are no reservoirs outboard of the exhauster bellows,
and instead the single reservoir runs across the top of the lower
section.  I take it that this is what John Tuttle refers to on where he writes, "Some of the
later ones did eliminate the primary valves; in this case, there was
a different type of bottom pump assembly having one reservoir across
the two pumps instead of one at either side."

Can anybody provide a date when Standard introduced this simplified
version of their lower section (and I guess a simplified single-valve
version of the upper section as well)?  I suppose that that accent
pneumatic disappears from the single-reservoir version of the lower
section, correct?

Well, I think that that's enough to start with!  Thank you in advance
for your responses, and thank you to MMD and all of its contributors,
Art Reblitz, and John Tuttle for providing all of the information that
they have already have made available.

Very best regards,
Bob Pinsker
San Diego, Calif.

(Message sent Tue 7 Feb 2006, 02:35:55 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Action, Numbers, Player, Serial, Standard

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