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MMD > Archives > October 2006 > 2006.10.25 > 10Prev  Next

Unusual Aeolian-Weber Themodist Upright
By Julian Dyer

The piano illustrated on John Tuttle's web site is much earlier than
1919 -- more like 1905.  This earlier date makes it a great deal easier
to figure out.

I've seen one other Weber Pianola with the flap at the rear of the keys
hiding the controls, which was a 65-note instrument.  The illustrated
instrument is also a 65-noter, albeit with an 88-note tracker bar!
It was not uncommon for Aeolian to make this adaptation in better
instruments, these adaptations naturally appearing factory-fitted
because that's exactly what they are.

Being effectively a 65-note pushup works installed directly into a
piano, this instrument is the very earliest form of the Pianola-Piano.
Later adaptations shifted the controls to a more rational position
in the keyslip so you could see the keys as the instrument played,
and also led to the governors moving to the underside of the keybed.
This is therefore very interesting to the historian but of low market
value in terms of the player action, the value obviously being in the
wonderful casework and high-quality piano.

Age giveaways are the lack of tracking system beyond a knurled nut in
the spoolbox, narrow wind motor boards, having the wind motor governor
and Themodist regulator mounted on the top action.  Also a giveaway
is the colour-coordinated spoolbox, common on 65-note pushups but
superseded by black with everything later (I have a pushup where even
the takeup spool has the case finish).  The 65-note stack can be
observed from the gap between the case and end of the stack in one of
the pictures.

At this date all Pianola construction (i.e. the player action part)
was in America, with works shipped overseas as and when required.
Aeolian's European factories started with the July 1905 acquisition of
the Ernst Munck factory in Gotha, renamed Steck in 1906, and the London
Weber factor didn't open until 1910.  This piano isn't a Gotha Steck
masquerading as a Weber (it's completely different in construction),
and too early to be from London, which points to its being American.
The use of decals is characteristically American, European instruments
inevitably having inset brass or boxwood lettering.

The expression system is a straightforward Themodist one, but with
pneumatic on/off via palette valves rather than the more common
mechanical slide valves.

The case is consistent with the date in the form with the folding doors
(the famous Manxman design), but unusual in that it's done with a fancy
veneer rather than the fairly austere oak cases that such pianos
normally have as befits their Arts and Crafts background.

Julian Dyer

(Message sent Wed 25 Oct 2006, 21:31:43 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Aeolian-Weber, Themodist, Unusual, Upright

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