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#1964879 - 09/26/12 04:35 PM Dumpster or Restoration?  
Joined: Mar 2009
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M.O.P. Offline
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M.O.P.  Offline
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Ocala, Florida
We recently acquired a 6'4" Germain Grand Piano (art case) on a trade in. We think it may be circa 1903 from a signature and date on the action rails (granted, this isn't necessarily the date of manufacture, nor a reliable way to make that determination). Initially skeptical, once we got it into the shop and went through it, not only did we find this piano is built like a tank (deeper inner rim, beams, etc. than either the restored vintage Steinway A1 or Mason AA we have on the floor), but it has survived in better condition than was originally thought. It could be a candidate for restoration. Among other things, it has an original Wessel, Nickel & Gross action, something you don't see much of these days.

We know this is an American made piano built in Saginaw, Michigan. The following is what we've been able to cobble together so far:

Pierce's - just bare bones info on the company, no stock/serial numbers.

Google+ & Internet Search - Some old Music Trade Review pages and the like have yielded a little information about the original Germain brothers starting up the company. While interesting information to have in a file, this isn't anything we can really work with regarding this specific piano.

Ancestry.com - Entry from a Tom Germain in Saginaw, who indicated his great grandfather was one of the founding brothers of the Germain Piano Company, and he had a full catalog with piano models & information. There was an email link, but after 3 inquires, still no response.

Castle Museum in Saginaw - has/had a 'Piano Manufacturers in Michigan' exhibit that included a 1910 Germain Upright & a few pictures, including one from the later Germain piano showroom in Detroit.

If you've made it this far, thanks for your perseverance. Just two more things:

1) If anyone on the forum has any information on the Germain Piano Company, the pianos/models, production numbers or suggestions for additional searches, we'd really appreciate it.

2) We've been restoring high end and historical pianos for many years - certainly know the costs and time investment required. Every aspect of our work is done in house, including the belly work. This being an American made piano with low production numbers and every bit worthy from a construction standpoint - given this piano has no branding, if it was yours, would you restore it - i.e., given current economics do you think it is worth a high level restoration on speculation - or should we just put it in the dumpster?


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

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#1964887 - 09/26/12 04:56 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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PianoWorksATL Offline
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Atlanta, GA
I've had a growing interest from artists to recycle aging grands. If restoration is not in its future, perhaps that is a 3rd alternative.


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
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#1964894 - 09/26/12 05:06 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Minnesota Marty  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
You might try contacting the Historical Society of Michigan. They might have info/history of the builder. Sometimes (longshot) a state society/museum has interest in acquiring instruments which have a direct connection.

Jerry Groot might have some info or possible suggestions for leads.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1964898 - 09/26/12 05:11 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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M.O.P. Offline
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M.O.P.  Offline
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Ocala, Florida
@Sam - we've also had the same inquiries re recycling.

@Marty - good ideas, thanks!


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

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#1964911 - 09/26/12 05:23 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Jerry Groot RPT  Offline
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Grand Rapids Michigan
I'm sorry, I can't be of much help either. Honestly, I've never heard of Germain let alone seen one, which makes me wonder how many were actually made? Saginaw is only about 2 hours away from me. On the other hand, Grinell Brothers was made in Detroit and produced a ton of pianos. Detroit is about the same distance away but, I've seen, tuned and worked on many hundreds of those over the years.


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.
#1964931 - 09/26/12 05:50 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: May 2001
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Eric Gloo Offline
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Eric Gloo  Offline
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Richfield Springs, New York
If it's worthy of restoration, which you indicate it is, I'd hate to see it discarded. Can you post some photos? Would love to see how it looks!


Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York
#1965147 - 09/27/12 07:45 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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Rich Galassini Offline
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
Nancy,

Just a thought, but there have been many pianos that are strong in certain elements of their design but have other weaknesses that prevent the finished product from being a great piano.

You mention the structure and the fact that they spent the $$ for a WN&G action. These are definitely good things.

How well designed is the scale itself? What solutions did they use to transition from register to register? How about bridge placement and design? Belly design? How easily will you be able to achieve a balanced action?

Maybe you have already thought through these issues in your initial thoughts on this piano, but I thought I would bring them up since you didn't mention them. I have played many pianos that were great structurally, but were poorly designed in other areas.

My 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Check out the Science Channel's "How Its Made" featuring our piano restoration:
http://www.cunninghampiano.com/how-its-made/
#1965182 - 09/27/12 09:55 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: May 2012
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Minnesota Marty  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Rich,

You have me curious. You mentioned the $$ for the WN&G action. At the turn of the century (nineteenth), were these actions more expensive than competitor's actions when used by a "small shop" builder? Was it a quality product, not unlike using Renner, in today's market?

Thanks,


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1965196 - 09/27/12 10:34 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Rich Galassini Offline
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Rich,

You have me curious. You mentioned the $$ for the WN&G action. At the turn of the century (nineteenth), were these actions more expensive than competitor's actions when used by a "small shop" builder? Was it a quality product, not unlike using Renner, in today's market?

Thanks,


The Wessel, Nickel, and Gross was a top quality product, Marty. They were located in New York City and were known for making high end piano actions. They were used in many of the most expensive pianos of the day. I believe they closed shop in 1941, or thereabouts.

I would definitely compare them to Renner and other top quality component builders today, Marty.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Check out the Science Channel's "How Its Made" featuring our piano restoration:
http://www.cunninghampiano.com/how-its-made/
#1965243 - 09/27/12 11:38 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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BDB Offline
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Oakland
Wessell Nickel & Gross was absorbed by Aeolian American, and was used by them until they closed in the 1980s. I guess that was another name bought up by the Mason & Hamlin folks.


Semipro Tech
#1965314 - 09/27/12 02:20 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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VGrantano Offline
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New Jersey
Germain Piano Co. In 1904
206 Washington Arcade
Detroit, MI
Originally 1895
Saganaw, MI
Also made Sherman and Bancroft Pianos.

That's all the Atlas has.

#1965328 - 09/27/12 03:06 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: May 2012
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Minnesota Marty  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Thanks, Rich.

This detective work is fun. I would like to nominate the Seamstress for the Band to the position of Curator of Delightfully Obscure Pianos.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1965377 - 09/27/12 04:38 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member
M.O.P.  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 999
Ocala, Florida
@Vince - Yep, got that. I'm also the Queen of Look Up in Pierce's Atlas.

@Marty - I accept your nomination, but does that mean I have to give up being General Manager of the Universe?

@Rich - Why, Lawdy, Lawdy, Rich. That piano is such a big 'ole thang, it has a screamin' 'beer belly'. Besides, Sugar, you know us Southern Belles don't know too much about that sort of technical stuff... wink


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

#1965387 - 09/27/12 05:08 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member
M.O.P.  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 999
Ocala, Florida
Trying to upload a couple of pics of the old girl. Have patience.

Attached Files Germain PW.jpgGermain PW1.jpg
Last edited by M.O.P.; 09/27/12 05:09 PM.

Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

#1965389 - 09/27/12 05:12 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Mar 2009
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M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member
M.O.P.  Offline
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Ocala, Florida
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

#1965390 - 09/27/12 05:12 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Mar 2009
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M.O.P. Offline
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M.O.P.  Offline
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Ocala, Florida
Dang it. Bear with me.


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

#1965392 - 09/27/12 05:20 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Aug 2011
Posts: 372
Jonathan Alford Offline
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Jonathan Alford  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Aug 2011
Posts: 372
Colorado
Keep trying - we are waiting with baited breath!

#1965407 - 09/27/12 05:46 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Minnesota Marty  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Meanwhile, back at Ranch Universe - Nancy, you can do all three and you wouldn't need to give up any position.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1968181 - 10/03/12 10:37 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1
Pat Higgins Offline
Junior Member
Pat Higgins  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1
Ireland
Good afternoon from Ireland.
I bought a Germain upright grand about 20 years ago.
It has had a hard life but is built like a tank.
I enjoy playing it as it has a fine tone and its
easy to keep in tune
The makers plate states
''E. Germain
Piano Co
New York and Saginaw ''
I appreciate it a a piece of art as well
it being an antique.

Your dear old Germain sounds like it needs
TLC and a new appreciative owner, so I
hope it gets restored.
Pat Higgins.
Galway, Ireland

#1968215 - 10/03/12 12:19 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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OperaTenor Offline
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OperaTenor  Offline
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Sandy Eggo, California
IMO, if there was a chance this would be a fine instrument, I say restore.

But then, just look at my business name...



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
#1968232 - 10/03/12 01:16 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Apr 2010
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gnuboi Offline
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gnuboi  Offline
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Posts: 2,705
USA
Maybe just a minimal job (cleaning, repairing finish, tuning, regulating, filing/voicing) to attract a buyer, who might eventually do a full restoration? We have many vintage pianos with minimal work like this at local dealers. They sound ok, not concert-ready but otherwise works.

Last edited by gnuboi; 10/03/12 01:17 PM.
#1968640 - 10/04/12 11:10 AM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Mar 2009
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M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member
M.O.P.  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 999
Ocala, Florida
@OperaTenor - Great biz name, we have to be realistic considering many factors, including economic conditions, but we're leaning to the good side.

@MinnMarty - Oh, sure, Marty. What's one more hat to wear? I've got strong shoulders. smile

@gnuboi - Having done restorations for so many years, we just cannot bring ourselves to do something half way. There are too many people in this industry who do just that and the end result is just not acceptable and no one is happy, at least not for long.

@Pat - Welcome to the forum & thank you for the information on your Germain. It's nice to know one has survived to cross the pond and is lucky enough to reside in beautiful County Galway! When you have a moment, would you look to see the serial number & pass it along? Our old girl does need much TLC, she wasn't treated very well. We are leaning towards getting her started.

I am still hopeing to eventually make some contact with a Germain descendant and be able to have more definitive answers and historical information on this company. If I do, Pat, I'll be happy to send any information I obtain on to you.

So, if anyone knows anything about the company, knows anyone who lives in Saginaw who might know something, please pass it on. I'll keep you all up to date.

Oh! I still haven't been able to upload the pictures. Anyone have any suggestions? I did go to the instructions, but it didn't work. Thanks!


Nancy Fanzlaw
Seamstress for the Band

www.FortePianoGallery.com
Forte' on Facebook

"The piano was God's gift to music." Lou Mason

#1968698 - 10/04/12 01:29 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Aug 2011
Posts: 242
bessel Offline
Full Member
bessel  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Aug 2011
Posts: 242
Ohio, USA
You mentioned the Castle Museum... did you call them? This article:

http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/saginaw/index.ssf/2011/02/historic_piano_collection_stri.html

(which you probably already found via google)
makes it sound like they have some production information (they mention 900/year in the article).

I grew up in a town neighboring Saginaw, btw... I had no idea there was a local piano-building history... Thanks for broadcasting that!


Started playing: February 2011. Still having fun.
#1968881 - 10/04/12 09:18 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: M.O.P.]  
Joined: Apr 2010
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gnuboi Offline
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gnuboi  Offline
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Posts: 2,705
USA
Maybe upload the photos elsewhere like photobucket or box and link them here in a post?

#1969997 - 10/07/12 07:49 PM Re: Dumpster or Restoration? [Re: gnuboi]  
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,638
David-G Offline
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David-G  Offline
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London
To post a picture, use the PW Photo Uploader.

When you submit the form, you will receive an email with a web address. Paste this into the prompt box which you get when you click the second icon from the left ("create a link to a webpage") on the full posting form (not the quick reply form).

Be aware that when you click "submit form", a rather strange page will come up. Don't take any notice of this - this part of the site is broken. (I don't know why Frank doesn't fix it!) However this does not matter; just click "back" to get back to the page with the form, and enter the details of the next picture.


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