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Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand #2199589
12/18/13 09:43 AM
12/18/13 09:43 AM
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 484
Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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Hi to all. I'm new to this forum and have found lots of interesting discussions about just about anything related to pianos. I have been playing for over 40 years and have a lot of interest in the history and technicalities of the instrument itself. I have several books on the subject too, such as the Alfred Dolge "Pianos and their makers". I also tune and repair my piano myself.

My piano is a Chickering grand that appears to date from about 1885. I have been the owner of this wonderful piano for 22 years. I took a few quick photos below to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. I did a forum search on Chickering and came across a few photos of similar pianos. They seem to refer to this style as being a "yacht-tail" (what does this term actually mean?). It is 6'-5" long (a wonderful size for a home piano) and has an amazing bass and tenor tone, like that of a 7' piano. The tail end of the piano is very wide, making for a larger soundboard area than most pianos of similar length. The serial number disappeared when it was rebuilt at some time in the past.

It has several unusual characteristics that should help the more knowledgeable among us tell me more about it:

- It has 85 keys (A to A) instead of the now standard 88

- There is no capo bar. Agraffes are used throughout. This apparently might account for the less then brilliant treble tone. Hardening the hammers has helped to some degree.

- There are 14 notes in the tenor where the wrapped strings are still tripled. Almost all pianos I've seen immediately become double stringed where the wrapped strings start. This makes for the powerful tenor tone. The first double stringed note is the C two octaves below middle C.

- The lower half of the treble strings are individually strung, while the section to the right of the brace are looped back.

As you can tell in the photos, the legs are not original. The prop stick was missing and I made this one myself (rosewood is harder then maple!). I also re-veneered the music rack. It had been sanded through and looked horrible. The soundboard had been replaced (when the previous owner had it) and the strings are less then 30 years old.

I would like to know if there is a known model number to this piano, and a better approximation of its year of manufacture if anything from what you can see gives you a hint. I would also like to have a general idea of how this model stacks up against pianos of similar age. Are they generally well regarded and sought after?

Thanks for any information that you can provide!

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What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200023
12/19/13 08:27 AM
12/19/13 08:27 AM
Joined: Jul 2011
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SF Bay Area Ca.
Swarth Offline
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Chickering didn't so much use model numbers as they used case designs for the style and then scale designations such as 93, 105B, 109C, 116 etc.. The yacht tail comes from the tail of the piano resembling the stern of a boat and not continuously bent as in modern pianos. This indeed made for a wider soundboard allowing for longer bass strings. Yes they do have better bass than their same size counter parts. You might find the scale designation (probably in the 90's) and the serial number somewhere near the tuning pins, perhaps next to where the Chickering name is forged into the plate. 85 to 88 keys seems to have happened 1884/5 from the best that I can tell. That doesn't mean Chickering didn't produce any 85 key pianos after that, cause back then they built whatever they wanted when they wanted, which makes figuring these pianos out such a joy. 1885 serial numbers should be around 70xxx - 72xxx. My best guesstimate is it's an 1884 scale 93.
Are they generally well regarded? To some (me included), the yacht tail Chickerings can be considered the best pianos of the day. However today since it fails to have "Steinway" marked on it anywhere it's value to the general populace would be next to nothing. These pianos have a hard time recovering the cost of restoration on the open market, a real shame.


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200043
12/19/13 09:07 AM
12/19/13 09:07 AM
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Bob Newbie Offline
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What's odd is the music rack looks too modern for that time period, most were ornate open scroll type, there's minor ornamentation on the yacht tail. plus the 3 pedals..
being only 85 keys might turn off some buyers.. however there are Chickering lovers out there.

Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200083
12/19/13 10:57 AM
12/19/13 10:57 AM
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Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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Welcome to PW!

I agree with everything Swarth said.

I'm a fan of old Chickerings. I'm glad to see you're happy with your piano and have done so much to take care of it.



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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200387
12/19/13 08:36 PM
12/19/13 08:36 PM
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 944
shirley, MA
jim ialeggio Offline
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If you feel comfortable pulling out the action, how about a pic of the action. Its possible this may have a Brown action, which is different from the Erard style actions other modern pianos have.

The Brown action, when in good repair, and set up with the light hammers they were designed to use, is a dynamite action...responsive, easy on the hands, and some feel plays itself. It would be instructive to show an end view, if in fact your baby has this action.

Jim Ialeggio



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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200463
12/19/13 11:33 PM
12/19/13 11:33 PM
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 484
Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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Montreal, Canada
Hey, thanks for the responses so far. To answer some of the questions raised:

- The serial number got lost in a restoration done before I owned it. I have the Bob Pierce book and would have just looked it up if I could.

- Yes the music desk is somewhat plainer then others I have usually seen for Chickering pianos from this period. Victorian grands also often have large ornate round legs. Mine are obviously much simpler hand made replacements, but I have also seen one other instance of another piano almost identical to mine (in a fancy Montreal restaurant that has since closed) and the legs were of a simpler design with ionic column-like scrolls at the top, and rather thin legs. I wished I had taken a picture of the legs of that one while I could. I remember its music desk also being somewhat fancier. One difference is that the fallboard appeared to be a split, folding type instead of the solid on I have. It seems like what they say about Chickering is true: no two pianos alike!

- I would say it very likely has the Brown action. I have pulled it out a couple of times already and did notice that it was not quite the same as the usual Erard type action. Less wooden levers and there is an odd V shaped spring pulling on something. Just learning about this particular action on this forum has raised my curiousity and I'll probably pull it out again just to see and take a pic. It does work very well and I like the touch.

I have no plan to ever sell or get rid of this nice piano...I just want to know more about it!

Thanks again for the comments!


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200614
12/20/13 11:56 AM
12/20/13 11:56 AM
Joined: Dec 2013
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Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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I just took a picture of the treble end of the action. Does this tell you if this piano indeed has Brownian motion? ;-)

The hammers have obviously been replaced and might be larger then the original "light" ones that you are referring to. Nonetheless, I do find the action quite responsive and have not had any trouble with it.

[Linked Image]


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2200666
12/20/13 02:21 PM
12/20/13 02:21 PM
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Oakland
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That is a Brown action.


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201144
12/21/13 09:32 PM
12/21/13 09:32 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 5,261
Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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If no front leads have been added to the keys-then the hammers are probably correct.


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201181
12/21/13 10:14 PM
12/21/13 10:14 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 3,045
Northern VA, U.S.
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Northern VA, U.S.
Didn't Glenn Gould have an old Chickering at his home with an action that he preferred to all other piano actions?

I found this through Google, but I can't vouch for it:

http://glenngould.org/f_minor/msg06708.html

Last edited by ClsscLib; 12/21/13 10:37 PM.

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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201280
12/22/13 05:55 AM
12/22/13 05:55 AM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 2,182
The Netherlands
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WimPiano Offline
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The Netherlands
Glenn Goulds Chickering is in this video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt6-_z4r8Kg
Sound and image are out of sync though.
This outtake is better:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhU9Ld1NNZg

Last edited by wimpiano; 12/22/13 06:48 AM.
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201387
12/22/13 01:47 PM
12/22/13 01:47 PM
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Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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Thanks again for confirming the type of action that I have and other interesting information. This forum is a real treasure trove of knowledge!

I remember reading a few things about Glenn Gould and his beloved Chickering piano. There was a story about his needing to perform on a Steinway once and he had the action regulated to match the unevenness and quirks of his Chickering that he was so familiar with. The customer is always right! He also had a specific chair that he would always use because of his unusal low posture at the keyboard.


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201397
12/22/13 02:16 PM
12/22/13 02:16 PM
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Maryland/DC/No. VA
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Look on the front edge of the action frame. The SN is often shown there.

Also look on the bottom of the pedalworks. (use mirror)


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2201401
12/22/13 02:45 PM
12/22/13 02:45 PM
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Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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The only numbers I have ever found are "4533" on places like the back of the keyslip. From what I've seen in the past, these are case part identification numbers. That number as a serial number would be too short and make it much too old to be even close to being correct. There is also a stamped name that appears to be "J.A.Chartlon" near the number on the keyslip. Some kind of final inspector id?


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2366815
12/29/14 01:47 PM
12/29/14 01:47 PM
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Greg Bennett Offline
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Fully aware of the age of this thread, I thought I'd reply anyway. smile

I concur that this is a Scale 93. This should be easily confirmed (which I'm sure GuyL has already done) by looking underneath the music desk in the far left. The scale 93 was made between December 1881 (S/N 60930 is the first I see) until December 1886 (S/N 73250 is the last one I see). So Guy's serial number is somewhere in between (inclusive, of course).

The 93 was referred to by Chickering as their "small" grand, with the exception of the first month of its production during which time it was referred to as a "parlor" grand. It was replaced by the Scale 106, which had 7 1/3 octaves, the first piano of which was S/N 73235 (August 1887). A transition piano was made for a very short time, the Scale 93B, which also had 7 1/3 octaves and overlapped the Scale 93 for a little while. I see only about 5 of these made, beginning in December 1886.

As for Chickering's use of 7 octaves versus 7 1/3 octaves, in grands the full complement of keys was used at least as early (and consistently thereafter) as the mid-1862 (S/N 24358 for a semi-grand and 24365 for a full grand) and even earlier in their squares: serial number 22737 from 1860. But as to Swarth's comment, the 93 may in fact be the last grand Chickering made offering only 7 octaves.

Greg


Many, many Chickerings (1831 - 1882).
1817 Clementi Square.
~1855 Mason & Hamlin Melodeon.
1961 John Challis Harpsichord (aluminum soundboard and all).
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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2367018
12/29/14 10:54 PM
12/29/14 10:54 PM
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Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline OP
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Your comments and detailed information are very welcome, to this thread I started last year. Thanks! Yes, it is a model 93 as indicated on the far left of the casting. The history behind these Chickering models is always interesting, including any links you may have. Thanks again.


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2367130
12/30/14 09:31 AM
12/30/14 09:31 AM
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Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline
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Greg,
Where are you looking up your info? Do you have an unpublished history of Chickering production?


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2367167
12/30/14 11:43 AM
12/30/14 11:43 AM
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Stockholm, Sweden
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Some of those old Chickerings can have an exquisite sound and can be very responsive to gradations in touch. The brighter sounding ones can be a bit garish in fortissimo but maybe they sound fine in a decent sized hall. I've never heard one in that type of space.

Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: Craig Hair] #2367368
12/30/14 07:35 PM
12/30/14 07:35 PM
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I see Greg is in Washington DC. I thinks he must have spent a lot of time pouring over the old Chickering production records that are located at the American History Museum Library.

If these records have been organized to quickly come up with the info he came up with ,I too would be very interested to know if anyone can access them.

Larry Hofer
Hofer Piano Works
Corona CA


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Re: Would like to know a bit more about my Chickering grand [Re: guyl] #2367407
12/30/14 09:34 PM
12/30/14 09:34 PM
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I feel that Chickerings are seriously underestimated and undervalued instruments. They aren't the easiest to work on since one can't order off the shelf parts and slap them in. They take a patient finesse when working on them. But my, what a rich, effortless sound they can make when everything is done right! Its not all too common these days to have an instrument that is easy on the hands, ears, and eyes all at the same time. I wouldn't mind a large grand with an art case at all.


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