Aeolian Pianos


Aeolian Co; Aeolian-American; Aeolian Corporation

Aeolian PianosThe year, 1908, marks a significant turn of events in the world of piano manufacturing, for this is the year the American Piano Company aquires the revered Chickering piano, a company that had gained a supurb reputation for producing the highest quality pianos money could buy. In fact, Edwin Good, the historian and writer, includes Chickering in the top three list for the "finest pianos made in the 1870s." (Good, 226) But there is more to the significance of 1908, for this is the year the American Piano Company sets in motion its earnest goal of controlling as many commercially viable piano companies that it could. Just a quarter century later, a new name emerges that will have a major impact on the piano manufacturing industry of the 20th century: the Aeolian Corporation.

The 19th century had produced incredible innovation in piano design and manufacturing and the industry had grown so much that by the end of the century, craftsmen in the United States were producing over a quarter million pianos a year. According to piano historian and writer, Arthur Lesson, even though the Aeolian Company and the American Piano Company were business ventures aimed at aquiring more and more piano companies and piano factories across the country, the two companies at their peak were only claiming about 10% of overall production, at least at the turn of the century. (Loesser, 573). Thus, there was still an intense competitive force driving the business.

Customers often wonder about the quality of pianos that have the Aeolian name. The querstion is an interesting one. Aeolian aquired existing factories and technologies, including highly regarded names like Chickering, but one would wonder whether quality standards were laxed on certain production lines, on names, for example, that were already considered to be low to mid range quality. But it seems that the company strived for quality and durability even though they were expanding and absorbing. Perhaps because of the tradition of pride in American piano manufacturing coupled with the reality of a popular product within an extremely competitive market, Aeolian was forced to maintain high standards in order to protect their brand name. Of course, it would have made good business sense to offer a high quality product that the consumer will love, a piano that will last through generations. (The goal of maintaining a good piano into the future still makes good sense.)

Whether or not Aeolian was forced by market conditions to uphold the tradition of quality that the company banked on early on, we have found that the pianos that were made under the Aeolian name are usually well built and deserving of repair and restoration. But it's also true that many types of pianos were build under the Aeolian name and every piano is unique in its history.

If you have a piano with the Aeolian, Aeolian-American name and would like to discuss the prospects of restoration, refinishing, refurbishing or repair, please contact Michael Sweeney directly. Michael will be glad to help you assess the prospects of repair and/or complete restoration of your Aeolian piano.

(Before the Aeolian Corporation, the name change resulting in the merge between the American Piano Company and the Aeolian Company was the Aeolian-American Corporation. At some point that name was changed to the Aeolian Corporation. Edwin Good reports that the Aeolian Corporation was finally purchased by the Wurlitzer Company, marking the end of Aeolian as a name for pianos.)

Sources for this information include Michael Sweeney's 30+ years experience in the piano restoration business as well as the following texts: Giraffes, Black Dragons, and Other Pianos: A Technological History from Cristofori to the Modern Concdert Grand, Second Edition by Edwin M. Good; Men Women and Pianos, A Social History by Arthur Loesser, and Pierce Piano Atlas by Bob Pierce.

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