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I hope someone may be able to help me with some details regarding my piano. It originally belonged to my grandparents and I believe would have been purchased new in Tasmania, Australia in the mid to late 1890s. From what I have been able to determine so far (through researching its serial number), it was probably made around 1893-4.
The piano stands 51" tall including the castors or about 49.5" without them. I believe the case is burr walnut veneer. On the wood immediately behind the keyboard, and just under the fallboard hinge, it has the words "Upright Iron Grand".
I am not particularly interested in the piano's value as it is a family heirloom and I don't plan on selling it. What I would like to know, however, is something about its type, construction, quality and history and how it would have compared with other pianos at the time it was made/bought. For instance, was it a good quality piano at the time. The advertising would say that it was, but I'm not sure if that is just "advertisting speak".
I have looked into the history of the John Brinsmead and Sons brand a little and noticed that they won a gold medal at the Tasmanian International Exhibition in January or February 1895. As my grandparents lived in Tasmania, I am thinking that they may possibly even have seen a similar piano at the Exhibition before buying this one. A local newspaper report on the Brinsmead display at the Exhibition in Hobart on 20 December 1893 (the day after it opened I think) can be seen at http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/9311542. It describes one piano like this: "No 6 is a beautiful upright iron grand pianoforte, in a burr walnut case, and is built on an entirely new construction, the iron frame having but one break, which enables the waves of sound, after the string has been struck, to have uninterrupted play on the patent sostenente sounding board, producing a tone which is simply charming". Do you have any idea if this instrument may have been similar to mine?
I have added two photos of my piano. I do have others showing the workings inside the piano, but don't seem to be able to upload them. Is there a numeric or size limit on photos that can be attached?
I would be very grateful for any information you can give me.
which also covers the subject of "Upright Iron Grand".
Brinsmead is a famous maker, and a great promoter of his pianos, but in retrospect, they don't seem that special when compared to other pianos of the period.
Thank you for all that information. Your Edwardian piano page is fantastic.
There seem to be two different opinions on the date of my piano - 1904 and 1894. I would be very interested to know what the 'discrepancies' you are trying to puzzle out are, and if they might help us decide on the most likely date. I'd also be interested to know if you are aware of any Brinsmead catalogues from either period online or elsewhere?
As far as I can see the medals on this model don't appear to include the 1895 medal gained at the Tasmanian International Exhibition in Hobart, but do include Jamaica in 1891 and nothing later, which is what has inclined me to favour the 1894 option. I recall seeing on one website that there were no medals awarded between these two years.
I have attached some other photos that might provide more information about the workings/construction of my piano to your trained eye and I would be very grateful for any further explanation of this that you might be able to give me.
On your Edwardian piano page you mention different types of stringing. I'm thinking, from reading your information, that my Brinsmead is vertical/straight-strung. Is that correct?
Thanks again for your help.
and this seems to favour it being before the 1895 exhibition. This would have been harder to read in 1912... Some Brinsmeads (especially Victorian ones) don't align well with the published numbers.
The piano is (like most British uprights of the period) vertical-strung (straight-strung).
The action appears to be the spring-and-loop type described as SLO, illustrated abut two-thirds of the way down the page at
I did look at an 1897 Brinsmead catalogue online a long time ago, I will see if I can find it. I tried Google Images but found myself looking at lots of my own pictures!
Thanks for all the new information. It is also good to have the approximate date of the piano reasonably confirmed at 1893-4 or at least before the 1895 Tasmanian Exhibition and after the 1891 Jamaica Exhibition. I'm so glad I didn't have to try and read your 1912 medals photo!
Do you happen to have any idea how long a model/run of pianos might realistically have remained on the market, or how long it might have been before they were available outside England, e.g. in Tasmania? Did Brinsmead replace or introduce new models often? I would imagine any particular model would still have been being sold in Tasmania for longer than they might have been available in larger places, or in England, but I may well be wrong.
I have a theory that the most likely times the piano may have been purchased are either:
a. At or following the 1894-5 Tasmanian International Exhibition which ran from December 1894 to May 1895, or
b. When my grandfather married and established his home in Queenstown, Tasmania in 1898.
I have seen one catalogue online, but I think it was for about 1907. I haven't had any luck finding the 1897 one you referred too, or any other earlier than 1907.
Also, are you able to tell me whether this particular piano, being a burr walnut veneer (and from what we can see, possibly walnut (not burr) internal structure) would have been more expensive than one made of another type of wood? I am trying to find out how much it would have cost in its day, but the only price range I have been able to find for Brinsmeads about 1894-5 is between £65 - £115 which covered both upright (mine) and horizontal (I'm assuming that means Grand) pianos. Do you have any idea if my piano would have been at the bottom of the upright range or more towards the middle or upper end?
you can read abut "The Manufacturing Process" and the problems in placing a single date on an old piano, and there can easily be a delay of up to 6 or 7 years from its completion to its sale. Sadly, no original archives are available to answer detailed questions such as how often models were changed, but the normal thing to do would be to introduce models occasionally, and phase out the ones that didn't sell after a few years. The medals suggest that it was made no later than 1895, so probably sold by 1901.
As for burr walnut (or burl walnut) it seems that almost every old piano we hear of is that, especially in America. In a 1904 list, British piano prices were from £37.10 to £120, and the Brinsmeads were £75 to £90, so mid-range.
Thanks again for your help. Wonderful, as usual.
I love your Datemarks page! It has inspired me to delve deeper into my piano and see what else I can find. But first, I'll have to convince the man of the house to do the hard work of undressing the piano I think.
I also have another piano which was my mothers, and which I thought held almost no information about its origin. I'll definitely have to delve into that one too, now.
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