American Piano Company

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Ampico reproducing piano in the Bayernhof Music Museum

American Piano Company (abbr. Ampico) was an American piano manufacturer located in East Rochester, New York, which was known from the beginning for the production of high quality player pianos. The company was established in 1908 under the aegis of Wm. Knabe & Co. of Baltimore as a merger between Chickering & Sons of Boston, Haines Brothers, Marshall & Wendell, and Foster, Armstrong & Company, all of Rochester, New York.

From 1913 Ampico was one of the leading producers of reproducing pianos, the others being Duo-Art (1913) and Welte-Mignon (1905). The player piano and reproducing mechanism was designed by Charles Fuller Stoddard (1876–1958).[1][2] A great number of distinguished classical and popular pianists, such as Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943), Leo Ornstein (1892–2002), Winifred MacBride, and Marguerite Volavy (1886–1951),[3] recorded for Ampico, and their rolls are a legacy of 19th and early 20th century aesthetic and musical practice. By 1929 Ampico was in essential economic difficulties and was finally taken over by the Aeolian Company, a manufacturer of player pianos and organs. The combined company, known as Aeolian-American Corp., went through several ownership changes before declaring bankruptcy in 1985.

Despite the Ampico's decline, the company did not officially close until 1941. The last model introduced was the Ampico Spinet Reproducing Piano, which had all the functionality of a reproducing piano, and although having a low cost of $495, still failed in sales.[4]

Rythmodik Music Corporation[edit]

In May 1918, The Music Roll Division of the American Piano Company became a separate company and henceforth was named Rythmodik Music Corporation, based in Belleville, New Jersey.[5]


Originally named Despatch after the transportation company that spawned several dozen car shops in the area, the town was also home to a musical manufacturing giant for the better part of the 20th century. Nestled in between the New York Central Railroad tracks and Commercial Street, the 250,000 square-foot edifice designed by Henry Ives was the first industrial building in the United States to be constructed from reinforced concrete.

Renowned for its fine craftsmanship, the American Piano Company was the largest distributor and manufacturer of pianos in the world by the mid-1920s. The instrument’s popularity reached its peak that decade thanks to a growth in prosperity and an increased interest in music stimulated by phonographs and radio. Piano producers across the country would not fare as well the following decade. While over 347,000 pianos were purchased in the United States in 1923, only 51,000 units were sold eight years later.[6]


General references

  • Larry Givens: Re-enacting the Artist: A Story of the Ampico Reproducing Piano, Vestal, N.Y.: Vestal Press, 1970.
  • Elaine Obenchain: The Complete Catalog of Ampico Reproducing Piano Rolls, New York: American Piano Co., 1977. ISBN 0-9601172-1-0
  • History of Ampico, by The Pianola Institute, London, Accessed April 1, 2009

Inline citations

  1. ^ Biography Index, A Cumulative Index to Biographical Material in Books and Magazines, Volume 4: September 1955–August 1958, New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1960
  2. ^ Obituaries on File, two volumes, compiled by Felice D. Levy (1917–1990), New York: Facts on File, 1979
  3. ^ Who Was Who in America, Volume 7, 1977–1981, Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1981
  4. ^ Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, Bd.: 50, Leipzig, 1929–30, p 240 and 274
  5. ^ "Music Trade Review, March 11, 1918" (PDF).
  6. ^ "The American Piano Company".