Hi Deidre, Back in the "Good Old Days", it would have been easier to
find out information about who previously owned your player piano by
just asking the seller where it came from. Usually it was Aunt Jessie
and Uncle Ned who no longer needed it in the home.
Many player piano dealers affixed a decal or other notation in some
hidden spot which would indicate where the piano was purchased. If
it was a reputable music store, they would probably have a record in
their archives of who the original purchaser of the piano was. And,
if the piano (mostly grand pianos in a fancy art case) were of great
value, the manufacturer of the piano did have a record of the piano
(by serial number), and who had ordered that specific art case piano.
Lesser grand pianos and uprights that were more likely ordered by a
music shop might have an indication to what music store it was sent.
In some records that I have seen, certain pianos that had an Ampico
system installed were just noted that the piano was sent to the
American Piano Company. Since the Aeolian Corporation in later years
owned all their piano companies (save one), Aeolian would have had
their own records.
The exception was the Steinway Corporation which had a contract
with Aeolian to produce for Aeolian a certain number of grand pianos
with room for the Duo-Art mechanism to be placed into the piano upon
the order of said piano. It is uncertain if these pianos were kept
by Steinway in there warehouse, or if they were shipped to Aeolian.
This contract caused much consternation by Aeolian, especially as the
Great Depression was realized by the world. I am uncertain who would
have had records of the original owners of these pianos.
I can say that with the dogged determination of Ron Olsen in
Minneapolis; I know that he saved our Mason & Hamlin Ampico grand
from being gutted by an unscrupulous piano dealer, but also that its
original owner was a Mr. Palmer, who, in the late '20s was the owner
of the Arrow Shirt Company.