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Beemer Offline OP
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Did early Steinway grands, e.g. a 1906 six-foot have no frame letter?


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Hi Beemer,

If there had been any work done on the piano, the technician may have refinished the plate without replacign the model designation. In 1906, a 6 foot piano could have been a model "O" or a model "A". Send us a photo of the inside of the piano and we will tell you what it is.


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Casting the model into the cast iron frame is actually a fairly recent change for Steinway. For most of Steinway's history, the model and serial are stamped, stenciled or painted on top of the guilded finish in the triangle between the tenor and bass tuning pins, and its not unusual to lose these details to history...either in repairs or sometimes just to a cleaning solvent.

Thankfully, either model is easily recognizable from photos of almost any part of the plate. A quick, casual way to tell between the A and O from that era is to look for copper wound strings in the tenor. If the copper wound strings are only on the bass bridge (overstrung), you're looking at an O. If any of the copper wound strings are over the break into the tenor, it's an A.


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Beemer Offline OP
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Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
Casting the model into the cast iron frame is actually a fairly recent change for Steinway. For most of Steinway's history, the model and serial are stamped, stenciled or painted on top of the guilded finish in the triangle between the tenor and bass tuning pins, and its not unusual to lose these details to history...either in repairs or sometimes just to a cleaning solvent.

Thankfully, either model is easily recognizable from photos of almost any part of the plate. A quick, casual way to tell between the A and O from that era is to look for copper wound strings in the tenor. If the copper wound strings are only on the bass bridge (overstrung), you're looking at an O. If any of the copper wound strings are over the break into the tenor, it's an A.
Sam,
Copper over on the tenor so its an A
thanks


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If it is from 1906, an "A" is 6'1", an "O" is 5'10". Some early model O's did have copper wound strings on the 2 lowest tenor notes.


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An A would have 20 notes on the bass bridge, and an O, 26. An A would have the acoustic bell, a casting that can be seen under the rim on the treble side near the treble bend, but an O would not.


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Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
If it is from 1906, an "A" is 6'1", an "O" is 5'10". Some early model O's did have copper wound strings on the 2 lowest tenor notes.
I've read about these but never seen one. I'm guessing that's pretty rare. The photos I have of a 1905 model O did not have any wrapped bass strings over the break, which would be the norm.


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According to the Guide, the Os with wound bichords above the break were straight bridge Os, which were discontinued after 1904. Apparently there were a few experiments on those early Os.


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One of the pianos I practiced on in college was a very beaten up 1911 Steinway, without any letter on the plate. Whether it was an M or an L or an O, I’ll never know. All I know is that it was painfully bright until you used the una corda pedal.

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Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
If it is from 1906, an "A" is 6'1", an "O" is 5'10". Some early model O's did have copper wound strings on the 2 lowest tenor notes.
It is 6'1"


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It sounds like it's an A then. Some earlier As look like Os because they have a round tail, but there are ways to tell them apart. the frames are quite different. If it's a square tail it's definitely an A, but if it's a round tail it's not necessarily an O.


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Lettering the length/size started in 1878, so there are several older pianos / grands out there without letters told.

Letters were introduced with the "quite actual" A and B models with the contiguous rim, even if there are some very seldom early B models without rim but build with the "constructed case".

Steinway sometimes is of the opinion that elder grands should be named also acc to the letters of newer years but this custom can be doubted. See below... danger of being mislead.

Very very very often ... lettering is misleadingly used for older grands by salesmen who strive for good prices for their semi concert grands of "nearly" C-227 size which have 85 keys and a slightly smaller lenght of ca. 220 cm. These can be fine pianos but with the disadvantage of 85 keys and the open pinblock which the then-so-named "C" grands had from 1878 to 1886. In 1886 then the C-227 came as a 88-key derivate of the 1884 D model.

I personally would reserve lettering for the pianos of the covered-pinblock concept starting in 1878. There are some seldom concert grands of the Centennial D type which were not yet named "D" when they were finalized-manufactured starting at xmas 1875, but are of same design like the 1878 D with the little exception of steadily slightly modified harps and a lack of the bass pressing bar at the soundboard which was omitted in 1878.

So it is a bit complicated.

1- Out there are a lot of grands built before 1878 w.o. letter.

2- Out there are grands which COULD get a letter because they are of same design like the 1878 named grands which got a letter. This ONLY applies for concert grands D size AND correct design of the "Centennial" model. (In 1875 to 1878 also was a second concert grand model of the older design, open pinblock, thinner strings and slightly shorter case.)

3- Out there are quite many grands of the "C" size (220cm) which got ... a letter C by Steinway but are of an elder design. This last "2x Henry" grand design (base layout by father Heinrich and son Henry Jr. ca. 1862) was replaced in 1886 - elder things are marked by 85 keys and (until 1880) open pinblock.

4- Out there are many many grands which MAY ... have falsely got (for example) an O letter because their length is near to the actual O of 180 cm. There one should know that the length of the A model was for years less than 188cm which may mislead for identifications. O grands started 1900 and have 26 bass keys, A grands started much earlier and have not so many bass keys. (Once I identified an "O" piano for sale by a bavarian dealer and piano master which was said to be built in 1896, identified by serial no. This could not be. O pianos started in 1900 ... It was an early "A" of lesser lenght ca. 182. ...)

5- Out there are several grands which "got" their letter by marketing strivings of an interested dealer, mostly in case of "C" grands of lesser than 88 keys and lesser than 227cm lenght - they all have open pinblock. (Again with an exception, the very last 6 years of that design got a covered pinblock and a contiguous rim in 1880... but still remained 85-key items.)

So pls take these words in general. They don't answer the question above in detal - but may ... give some light on "lettering customs" by Steinway and or dealers.


Pls excuse any bad english.

Centennial D Sept 1877

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