Equipped with the rare Aeolian Attachment, this piano is essentially a piano with an organ built inside the case!
The firm of Robert Nunns and John Clark was one of the most celebrated American piano makers of the 19th Century. Nunns & Clark built a full line of elaborate, high-quality square grand pianos in New York for decades and they are considered some of the finer square grand pianos every built by today’s collectors.
During the height of the Victorian era, the presence of the piano in the home was a sign of culture and refinement. If one’s parlor was afforded both a piano and an organ, then one’s social status was elevated to be the envy of the neighborhood!
Because the presence of a piano and an organ both could take up a great deal of space in a typical Victorian parlor, it stood to reason that combining both instruments into one would solve the issue. A handful of pioneering manufacturers, including Nunns & Clark, introduced a limited number of square pianos that were equipped with pump organs hidden away inside the case, essentially offering two instruments in one! Also known as the “Aeolian Attachment”, manufacturers of these instruments were convinced they would be an instant success.
This beautiful instrument is one of those rare combination instruments with Aeolian Attachment, essentially being a square grand piano with a set of organ reeds located below the keyboard. Instead of the typical two pedals found on most square grand pianos (soft pedal and sustain or “loud” pedal), this instrument has a total of 4 pedals; one additional pedal operates the pumping mechanism for the organ while the other additional pedal operates the “swell”, or volume control, of the organ. When all systems are engaged, the organ plays along with the piano as each piano key is pressed. When the organ is not being pumped, the instrument operates as an ordinary piano. Most fascinating of all, there is a mechanism that can be engaged to bypass the piano hammers if desired, allowing the organ only to be operated without the piano!
Manufacturers had grandiose plans for these pianos with the Aeolian Attachment, convinced that the market would be all too eager to buy these instruments in order to economize on space in the parlor. The fatal mistake that these manufacturers did not take into consideration was that the presence of a piano and an organ in the parlor gave instant credibility of unmatched social status while the appearance of a piano in the room, even if combined with an organ inside it, was generally perceived as just a piano. Sadly, very few of these instruments were actually manufactured and very few survive today. This is a rare opportunity to own a fascinating and historically significant piece of America’s Victorian culture.