The first player pianos made their debut in America in the late 1890's. Between 1910 and 1925, over 85 percent of all pianos manufactured in America - upright and grand - were player pianos. Many people are surprised to learn that even the finest of pianos, including Chickerings and Steinways, were made with player mechanisms.
Reproducing pianos were also made during this time. These are player pianos that not only play the notes, but play back a complete performance, including louds, softs, and crescendos. With a reproducing piano, it is possible to enjoy the complete quality of a piano performance by such artists as Gershwin, Paderewski, and Rubenstein.
During the early 1900's, family and social gatherings often centered around the piano. Because such a wide variety of music was available on piano rolls, nearly any desired selection of music could be played.
The advent of the phonographs and the radio in the late 1920's soon brought about an end to the player piano's popularity. Now, however, they are again becoming popular. Many are still in existence and are often passed down in families as heirlooms. These pianos can be restored in both sound and appearance to their former condition.
Over fifty kinds of player systems in hundreds of different brands of pianos were made, some more common than others. Because some kinds are of better quality and design and lend themselves better to rebuilding, it is best to consult with a professional rebuilder before purchasing a player piano for restoration.