PianoGen A unique collection of historical and practical information about British and other pianos



NAMES & ALIASES

 

by Bill Kibby

PianoGen files refer mainly to piano makers and dealers, so although names of individual workers do sometimes appear, it is not easy to trace detailed information about someone unless they traded under their own name. Census records are probably the best chance there, and we do not have all of these.

What's in a name? Not very much when it comes to the average piano! Kellogs recently used the slogan "If it doesn't say Kellogs on the packet, it isn't Kellogs in the packet" but the same is not true of many pianos. We had a call from a Trading Standards Officer who was trying to establish whether a piano was genuinely a "Weber": Unfortunately, composers' names are very popular for use on pianos, and this one has the double appeal of sounding german too, so the name "Weber" appears on some quite different pianos: Some are german, some from the american player firm, some antique irish, some korean, and it is difficult to sort them all out, quite apart from the possibility of fake name transfers being added randomly to reconditioned pianos.

PianoGen deals with over twenty thousand names, and I would love to see statistics on how many pianos have the real maker's name on the front! Of course, a great deal depends on one's definition of a “real” maker: Most firms contracted out to ancillary trades for such things as frames, keys, action and various specialised items. Some used to buy in all the interiors, and build their own cases, but more would tend to have the entire, finished piano made for them by a factory, or perhaps they might personalise it with some of the minor decorative work. A century ago, headbars on three-quarter iron frames were very useful for adding a name to a wholesaler’s piano. None of this is peculiar to the pianoforte trade, gramophones and antique clocks come to mind, but it applies to many products.

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[Here's a perfect example of the sort of confusion which can occur:]
1914
The Music Trades Directory lists...
British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Managers; Messrs Windover.) Offices & Factories - Crown Place Kentish Town, London NW. (Wholesale only.) Manufacturers of the celebrated Melville Clark Apollo Player, "Wagener" Player-Pianos.

Windover is a name used on pianos, but apparently, Messrs Windover were only managers for the British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd.. They, in turn, were manufacturers of Wagener players, and apparently also of Melville Clark Apollo players. However, Apollo players were actually made in the U.S.A. by Melville Clark, Chicago, and the name was also used on some british pianos which had the Apollo player action installed in them!
1854
Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts & Manufacture states that "Some of the smaller dealers are, we fear, sufficiently dishonest to put the name of some eminent maker on their key-board, and thence enhance the price of the instrument.
At one time, when the name of Tomkinson was a sort of passport to an instrument, the small dealers would put Tomkisson on their name-boards, and thus escape the notice of the law." [Tomlinson appears to have made a blunder with his near-namesake, because the famous royal piano maker's real name was Tomkison, spelt with just one “S”, and not Tomkinson!]
1887
Ad in the Christmas Number of The Illustrated London News: ERARDS' PIANOS: Messrs. Erard, of 18, Great Marlborough Street, London and 13, Rue de Mall, Paris. Makers to Her Majesty and the Prince and Princess of Wales. CAUTION the public that Pianofortes are being sold bearing the name of "Erard" which are not of their manufacture. For information as to authenticity apply at 18, Great Marlborough Street, where New Pianos can be obtained for 50 guineas.
Photo of above artical

[The moral of this tale seems to be "Don't be a mokerard, pay the extra money and get a real Erard"!]

NAME TRANSFERS

The selling power of a german- sounding name is still exploited, even by japanese & korean makers. There are clues which can suggest whether a name on a secondhand piano is original, for example, if the name is inlaid in brass, or cast into the iron frame, it must have been originally intended as the name of the piano, but even that doesn't prove that it was the real name of the factory!

Better quality makers, such as Bechstein, would often inlay a brass name into the wood, but many firms just used transfers embedded in the polish. Hopkinson even provided an inlaid brass name on his little Miniature Grand, luxurious on an instrument which only sold for 78 guineas in 1942.

1878
G. Rutley's ad says "The best real gold name tablets for Pianofortes, Organs, &c., at
reduced prices, supplied by G. Rutley, Gold printer"
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[These were no ordinary cheap transfer. Of course, gold leaf could not be imitated in victorian times as easily as "gold" paint is today, so the genuine article was probably more common. ]

Because the transfer is sandwiched between layers of the polish, it has, for many years, been a common practise in piano reconditioning that when the original name transfer was lost during repolishing, unless the piano was by a famous maker, a replacement transfer would be chosen more or less at random, bought for a few pence each, with little or no concern about whether it was the original name of the piano, or even a real firm. These are unaccountably known as "Stencils" in the U.S.A. although they are not applied with a stencil, but this term is also used in connection with gramophones. I suppose it is predictable that composers' names are used, and anything german- sounding too, especially if it starts or ends with Stein. The word schutzemarke means trademark, but it, too, has become a fake german piano name. I wonder if these practices are still permitted under the Trades Descriptions Act?

There has always been an alternative, because a name can be made up from separate letters, and although these can look less artistically satisfying, sometimes distinctly home-made, and are often just block capitals, they may indicate an attempt to reproduce the genuine name.

Another choice is to simply say "Reconditioned By ...". From the historical point of view, it is all the more frustrating that the real name is often not even written inside the piano.

A memorable response from one trade counter when I asked for a particular name transfer was “We don’ goddat kind o’ crup mun!”. A rather genteel old tuner standing next to me was visibly shaken!

A trade catalogue from the 1960s offered cheap "gold" transfers for the following brand names:

English Names:

Clifford, London; Elmore & Son, London; Graham, London; Gresham & Co., London; Heywood & Sons, London; Lincoln, London; Powell & Co., London; Raymond & Co., London; Studholme & Sons; Windsor Model.

Continental Names:

Paul Gerard; Hoffman, Karl Lange; Schumann; Schonberg; Steinbach; Steinmayer; Steinmetz; Maxime Freres, London & Paris; Wagner Model.

In a way, it is far more worrying that some of them were real makers! For example, Gresham was real, but his genuine transfers were very large and fancy. Elmore was used by Luckmores, (L-More) Maxime Freres was a real maker, but the fakes are now more common than the originals. Windsor was a Berry model name, yet these transfers can be applied to any old piano!

NAMES - "MANUFACTURED EXPRESSLY"

This phrase usually implies firstly that the piano name is not the maker's name, and secondly that it was made specifically for sale by this firm, implying exclusive use, although this was often not true. Quite recently, I have seen a London name adapted so as to appear german, on a korean piano. As in other trades, many pianos are and were made by large factories, and sold by smaller retailers with their own name on them. Some big department stores only had small piano departments, or mainly sold famous makes, but they would also buy in pianos made expressly for sale under their own names. Another situation might arise when real makers wanted some specialised kind of instrument, such as Transposing pianos, Yacht Pianos, etc., or a factory might only be set up for uprights, and might buy in their grands from another firm.

Whatever the reason, the more honest approach was to mark them "Manufactured Expressly for ---- by ----", but many would just say "Manufactured Expressly for ----" and avoid giving the real maker's name. "Manufactured Expressly" can also refer to pianos made for particular uses, such as Tropicalised pianos, or School pianos.

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Circa 1865
Piano #7,100 by Ralph Allison & Sons, London Patent Repeater. Warerooms 108, Wardour street, Soho Manufactory: 1 Werrington street, Oakley square: "Manufactured for J.G. Morley, South Kensington".
Circa 1865?
Piano made by Henry Tolkien, King William Street, London Bridge, "By His Majesty's Royal Letters Patent Manufactured expressly for Extreme Climate".
1878
Chappell's Oriental Model Pianoforte was "Made expressly to withstand the heat and
moisture of extreme climate".
Circa 1880
H. Justin Browne "Irresistible Pianoforte", By Her Majesty's Royal Letters Patent, 237, 239 Euston Road, Tottenham Court Road. "Manufactured Expressly for Extreme Climates". Supplied by Joscelyne Brothers, Braintree.
Circa 1885
Neufeld upright #5,100 "Made expressly for Jens. V.Hoffmann, sole agent, 29 Eleanor Street, South Shields". The Neufeld name is cast into the iron frame, as well as on the fall.
Circa 1890
Charles Russell was described as "The sole distributor for Ernst Kaps" in the U.K., but some Kaps instruments of this period were also "Manufactured Expressly for Keith, Prowse & Co., London", and this may have been a get-out clause for treading on the toes of the "sole agent"..
1894
Rogers Yacht Piano "Manufactured expressly for J.B.Cramer & Co.".
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Circa 1895?
George Russell transposing upright "Manufactured Expressly for Henry Youens".
Circa 1896
Ad for William G. Thomas states that he was a "Manufacturer" with a "Steam Works", but some of his pianos of the period are marked "Manufactured Expressly" with no other qualification. If we accept that he made them, the phrase must suggest that the model was made exclusively for the particular retailer who originally sold it, yet the transfer is obviously adaptable to any supplier.
1896
Cramer piano "Manufactured for Geo. Culverwell, 136 Notting Hill Gate W."
Circa 1898
John Brinsmead piano "Manufactured expressly for J.W.Youens".
Circa 1913
Sewell catalogue includes their Class 8 upright, "made expressly by one of the Leading Manufacturers in Germany", with a 13" high decorative gallery on top.

NAMES WITH ROYAL CONNECTIONS

Names with royal connections are popular, but may still be the original names, like Alexandra, Albert, Balmoral, Charles Stuart, Osborne, Princess, Regent, Sandringham, Victoria, Windsor, etc.. Some of these have genuine justification, for example...

1931
Monington & Weston catalogue says of their Sandringham Overstrung: "We had the honour to supply two of these instruments to their late Majesties King Edward & Queen Alexandra".

The piano name "Dagmar" also has connections with the Royal Family - the sister of Queen Alexandra.

NAMES REVERSED

Are your desserts STRESSED? Would you pour something called MUTALIO into your bath water? Or wash your hair in SCIN-AGRO? If you have any idea what I am talking about, then you are probably one of those people who (like me) tend to look at words backwards as well as forwards. If that's the case, you won't be at all surprised to hear that DRANNEK pianos are made by Kennard, or that Lamberts used a cable address TREBMAL. Family folklore has it that "Wornum" was the surname of one William Munro spelt backwards with W (for William) added, and that it was changed following a squabble with his brother. Examples of reversed names are to be found in many different trades. There was, for example, a decorating supplies firm in Wales called REPAPLLAW, but I don't think YBBIK would be worth pursuing!

NAMES OF KOREAN PIANOS

According to an article in Piano Tuners' Quarterly, 1981, names produced by Korean piano factories included the following: Alex Steinbach; Apollo; Bachmann; Choiseul; Elysian; Gilbert; Hanil; Karl Muller Schutzemarke; Klingel; Landauer; Melford; Otto Renner; Reidsohn; Rosenstock; Sam Ick; Schumann; Stegler; Steinburg; Steinmeyer; Suajin; J. Thompson; Wagner; Weber, Berlin; Young Chang.

WHOLESALE MANUFACTURERS

In the late 1800s, and early 1900s, most british pianos were made in the London factories. Some manufacturers did not promote themselves directly to the public, and preferred to produce pianos anonymously to retailers, under various aliases, so although piano photos can help, it is very difficult to identify the souces of such pianos, unless there are markings hidden inside.

Kemble, Bansall & Brasted were just a few of the many makers who were practically unknown under their own names for many years, producing pianos for other names in the trade. Then there were the large retailers like Murdoch, Barnes and Ramsden, who often had pianos made for them under pseudonyms. Until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, german-sounding names were especially popular.

1851
Ballingall & Ballingall had a small ad in the Official Catalogue of the Great < Exhibition which describes them as "Wholesale Manufacturers" although they were advertising to the public.
By 1897
Murdochs, a large retail group, had bought or merged with the John Spencer piano factory, and were producing pianos under various aliases, for their own shops, and possibly for other firms too.
1887
Windover were established, according to their 1925 booklet, but originally, they only supplied pianos to the trade, using various aliases.
1927 to 1938
Kennards made "Drannek" & Brunger pianos for the trade. Lionel Sims tells me that the name "Brunger" was thought up by Charles McDougall of Edinburgh Co-Op, and originally used just for them. Other names included Atomette, Beethoven, Bertram, Dranola, Beau Monde, Charma, Magnet. Dealers who used their pianos included Allens; Barnes; Crane; Crayfourd; Duck, Son & Pinker; Saville; Shepherd; Wagstaff; Wilkes & Eccles.

Undated record sleeve (courtesy George Woolford) Ferry & Foster Ltd. Pianoforte Manufacturers & Exporters, 23, Fawcett Street and 120, High Street West, Sunderland. Telephone 1458, 1459. 'Grams "Ferifos, Sunderland. Proprietors of the following London factories: Wholesale only.

  • C. & J. Eungblut, N.W. (Est. 100 years)
  • Burling & Mansfield N. (Est. 80 years)
  • F.W. Emmerson Ltd., N.
  • C. Burlman & Co., N.
  • Carlton Piano Works, N.W.

Sole & Exclusive Agents for Bluthner, Weber & Steck Pianos, The "Pianola" and "Duo-Art" Reproducing Pianos. Send for free art catalogue. [The sleeve has a tiny illustration of the catalogue, and I feel a great urge to send off for it!]

Accredited agents for His Master's Voice Gramophones & Records. PIANOS direct from factory. F&F Piano Service, London, Leeds, Johannesburg. Manufacturers, Merchants, Retailers, Ferry & Foster Ltd., Sunderland.

NAMES OF LONDON FIRMS

At the core of many of the enquiries I receive about London piano and music firms is a group of names which share a complicated inter- relationship. In order to try to demonstrate this visually, I have compiled a chart of those names, which include Addison, Bates, Beale, Brinsmead, Broderip. Clementi, Collard, Cramer, Kirkman, Longman, Wilkinson, and Wornum: The chart ends with Kemble, who absorbed many of the old companies before they left London and moved to Milton Keynes

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It’s fair to say that most real manufacturers’ names are on file here, but even with over twenty thousand names, and general lists of London piano firms for every decade, there are still occasions when a piano name remains a puzzle, and all we can offer is a researched report on the piano, based on photos.



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