Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

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a99collectible
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Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by a99collectible » 07 Sep 2008, 04:37

I have my grandmother's Steck baby grand player piano. From the info I've read about Steck pianos I believe it was made in the early 1900s after Steck was bought by Aeolian. Both names are forged into the iron. There isn't any forged serial number that I can find, other than a hand written, painted number, 102. What does that mean? On the wood portion under the strings (I don't know pianos, so I don't know what that portion is called) it also says Steck, Manufacturers to His Majesty the King & H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. I think all that means is that it was made in the UK. Any help, or direction of where I can look to further investigate would be helpful. Thanks.

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Bill Kibby
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Steck

Post by Bill Kibby » 07 Sep 2008, 09:53

Pianos have lots of numbers, most of which mean nothing to us. As to finding the actual serial number, I have no particular advice about Steck if it is not easily visble inside the top, but when you have found it, you will have to be aware of the problems and inaccuracies with Steck's dates, Have a look at the Numbers page at my website. The Datemarks page may also help you. The reference to royalty is exactly what it says, they made pianos for royalty. This information appears on hundreds or thousands of pianos.
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pianotechman
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Post by pianotechman » 19 Oct 2008, 18:40

The Aeolian factory was situated in Silverdale Rd, Hayes Middlesex, Infact the old building is still there, now individual offices. It ceased production in about 1934, UK producers of Steck. Weber, Aeolian and 'Orchestrell' pianos & pianolas. I hope that's some help to you.
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Re: Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by ds23geoff » 05 May 2009, 12:17

Here is the factory as found on Google Street Maps

http://static.panoramio.com/photos/orig ... 910778.jpg

Below I have copied the caption. No guaranteres for its accuracy.

Geoff

The subject of this image is the brick building on the right. It is known as the Benlow Works and is a Grade II listed building. The original purpose of the factory was to produce 'Aeolian Orchestrelle' organ players (like pianolas but with pipes). A bit of a sorry sight now, with broken windows and downpipes etc.

pianotechman
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Re: Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by pianotechman » 06 May 2009, 09:43

That's the building, used to have a clock on the top of it as well! You can find out more about it in local history books of 'Hayes Middlesex'. It had some links with the EMI building, [electrical & musical industries] or known Locally as the 'Gram' as surprise surprise, they started by making gramaphone records at about the same time as Aeolian were producing the 'Orchestrelle'. Both companies were located close to the GWR railway, which was ideal for bringing in parts and the extensive workforce.
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Re: Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by PianoGuy » 08 May 2009, 20:52

pianotechman wrote:That's the building, used to have a clock on the top of it as well! You can find out more about it in local history books of 'Hayes Middlesex'. It had some links with the EMI building, [electrical & musical industries] or known Locally as the 'Gram' as surprise surprise, they started by making gramaphone records at about the same time as Aeolian were producing the 'Orchestrelle'. Both companies were located close to the GWR railway, which was ideal for bringing in parts and the extensive workforce.
Aeolian made the cabinets for HMV (later EMI) gramophones.
PG

The opinion above is purely that of PianoGuy and is simply the opinion of one person ....

If you're buying a piano, try as many as you can and buy the one you like, not a similar one of the same type.

pianola
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Re: Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by pianola » 30 Jun 2009, 12:02

Just to set the record straight about the Aeolian building. The first part of the building which now remains was put up in 1909, and it was extended to its current length in 1912. It was initially used for the construction of Weber pianos, and the installation of Pianola actions, which were at that stage imported from America, into Steck pianos from Gotha in Germany. A separate building was soon established for the manufacture of music rolls, and this was demolished in 1977. During the First War part of the workforce was involved with the construction of wings for De Haviland 9s, and suffered as a result of the doping chemicals.

After the War, the buildings on the site were greatly expanded, and because of the new import duties, Pianola actions were manufactured, as well as Steck pianos, and various other brands, such as Aeolian and Farrand. There were also reed organ and pipe organ departments, though the era of the Aeolian and Orchestrelle organs had largely passed.

The Aeolian Company in the USA had set up a wholly owned subsidiary called the Orchestrelle Company in 1899, registered in Garwood, New Jersey, but trading in the UK, the British Empire and other far-off lands. The parent company tended to name its subsidiaries after the main instrument it was building at the time, and the name Orchestrelle was presumably chosen because this development of the Aeolian roll-operated reed organ looked like being the company's main activity. In fact, it was almost immediately the Pianola which sold like hot cakes, and when the Australian subsidiary was set up about two years later, it was called the Pianola Company Pty. But although manufacture of all kinds of instruments began in earnest after the First War, prior to that time the Hayes works was simply used for the construction of Weber pianos, the installation and adaptation of mechanisms and instruments from the USA, and the manufacture of music rolls.

George Steck was a German who emigrated to the USA and set up his own piano company in New York in 1854. Aeolian bought the company in 1904, and it manufactured Steck pianos in the US. Quite soon afterwards it purchased the piano firm of Ernst Munck in Gotha, Germany, and began manufacturing European Steck pianos there. In the early 1920s that factory was bought by Ludwig Hupfeld in Leipzig, and Aeolian transferred its European Steck manufacture to Hayes. The Gotha factory is now a shopping mall, and I have eaten a very decent Greek dinner in its historic surroundings, which are in rather better shape than the poor old hulk at Silverdale Road, Grade 2 listing notwithstanding.

I have never seen any evidence that Aeolian made gramophone cabinets for HMV, but it did have its own record labels, Aeolian and Vocalion, and it manufactured the Vocalion record player, which in those days meant joinery as much as anything else.

I have been interested in the history of Aeolian for many years, and in the 1970s and 80s I used to interview elderly gentlemen who had worked there. Some while ago I uploaded a series of photographs and descriptions of the Aeolian buildings and land to the website at HayesMiddlesex.com. The link is here: http://middx.net/photopost/showgallery.php/cat/842.

You can also find a good deal about the history of player pianos at http://www.pianola.org.

Good luck to your website!

mattnewsome
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Re: Steck, The Aeolian Company Ltd.

Post by mattnewsome » 18 Feb 2017, 19:11

Thanks for the information on this page - it was fascinating to read about our Aeolian GB piano and the information was very useful.

I've narrowed down the history of our piano to manufacture between 1952 and 1956. I'm guessing completion of manufacture and initial sale would have been much closer to 1952.

The paper order label below the keys indicates it was made by Herrburger Brooks for Aeolian for an H15 (that model number also stamped, along with Aeolian and Steck onto the iron frame). The Herrburger Brooks name, and Long Eaton, are also stamped on the side of the lowest of the keys, which are ivory. The label looks like it says the action was made in 1952.

There's an ink note on one of the inside of one of the keys, seemingly written by a piano tuner who seems to have tuned the instrument and noted he raised it by a 1/4 of a tone in June 1956.

This piano moved with us from London to Massachusetts, USA, where we now live.

I'd love to confirm the date of manufacture by Aeolian, but the only serial number I can find on the frame is 531202, which doesn't seem to square with any of the serial number ranges I've found online. Can anyone point me at something that can confirm the date?

More interesting than that, to me, though, is the idea that somewhere there are recordings or transcripts of conversations with some of the craftsmen who manufactured the pianos in Hayes. The Middlesex site seems to have gone away, along with the photos, and the closest I could get was this page:

http://web.archive.org/web/200810091559 ... hp/cat/842

Can the photos be shared somewhere else, ideally along with those interviews please?

Thanks again for the site and info - hugely useful.

Matt

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