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Friday, 20 March 2009

The Story of Story and Clark Pianos


Having just bought a second-hand 1970 Story and Clark piano, I was interest in learning a bit more about the company that had made my piano. It turns out that Story and Clark has a long and interesting history in piano manufacturing, and is still being used as a piano brand name after the company changed ownership several times towards the end of the twentieth century.

Story and Clark was founded in 1884 by Hampton L. Story, his son Edward H. Story and Melville Clark, an expert reed-organ builder. Story senior had started out working in a music store for $50 a month and saved enough to buy out the principal in 1859. He joined with various piano makers to start manufacturing Story and Powers pianos in 1862, then Story and Camp pianos and organs in 1868, before finally establishing Story and Clark pianos in 1884. The Story and Clark business thrived and opened a factory in England in 1892 and another in Germany in 1893.

Clark left the firm in 1901 to form his own company, and Story and Clark pianos moved to a new factory in Grand Haven, Michigan. Despite surviving the Great Depression and increasing sales during the post war years, the factory was eventually closed in 1984 and has since been redeveloped into over 60 condominiums priced from $159,00 to $795,00. The Story and Clark piano business had been sold to the Lowrey Organ Company in 1962, and sales slowly declined during the 1970s. When the factory closed in 1984, Lowrey split the piano and electronic keyboard businesses and sold them to different investors. In 1992 S&C pianos became a division of the Classic Player Pianos Corporation in 1990. In 1993 it was taken over by QRS Music Technologies, the descendant of the company founded by Clark in 1900! Pianos with the brand Story and Clark are still being produced, but are no longer manufactured in the US.



Story and Clark pianos can be dated by the serial number ranges listed below, with the numbers indicating the last piano made each year:

1895 1900
1900 5335
1901 7100
1902 9100
1903 11400
1904 14000
1905 15600
1906 18400
1907 21400
1908 24100
1909 28900
1910 30700
1911 40000
1912 43600
1913 47000
1914 50200
1915 53200
1916 58000
1917 62300
1918 67000
1919 72300
1920 78800
1921 84000
1922 89400
1923 95000
1924 101200
1931 129100
1932 130000
1933 131100
1934 132400
1935 134000
1936 138000
1937 142000
1938 147000
1939 152800
1940 160000
1941 168000
1942 172000
1943 173000
1944 war
1945 war
1946 177000
1947 180000
1948 190000
1949 200000
1956 265000
1957 272000
1958 282000
1959 294000
1960 307000
1961 321000
1962 335000
1963 349000
1964 364000
1965 379000
1966 393000
1967 407000
1968 421000
1969 435000
1970 449000
1971 463000
1972 477000
1973 491000
1974 505000
1981 582627
1982 591528
1983 609023
1984 closed
1985 closed
1986 closed
1987 closed
1988 closed
1989 closed
1990 700001
1991 700420
1992 701280
1993 701970
1994 702324
1995 703128
1996 703629
1997 705400
1998 707000




References:

'The Piano: An Encyclopedia' By Robert Palmieri, Margaret W. Palmieri. Routledge; 2 edition (2003). Page 382

'Pianos and Their Makers' By Alfred Dolge. Dover Publications (1972). Page 376

http://www.qrsmusic.com/storyclark.html

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

have a Story and Clark piano / organ combination, S/N 240459. I don't know the age, but I bought it used in 1979. It is out of tune, but still works. I would like to sell it, but I don't know what it is worth, and I don't know who to contact about selling it (other than putting it on Craig's List!).

Anonymous said...

I got an Story Clark spinet piano organ combo. It was left in a house I bought 10 years ago along with other 50s 60s furniture the deceased persons family didn't want. A piano tuner said that the action is worn and falling apart and would cost big bucks to replace. The piano buzzes in the backside but the organ is ok sounding with some vibrations buzzing the speaker cone. A friend of mine said my organ piano is a 1 off and very rare probably a Hammond prototype made by Story Clark and worth big bucks and I should get it fixed. He said it would sell for 20K. Piano repair guy said its not worth puttin money into cause noone wants spinets what goes here is my friend wrong or the piano repair dude?

enoughwealth@yahoo.com said...

I'm not sure why people think me buying a second-hand Story and Clark piano and blogging about it makes me an expert on piano valuations :)

As far as I know, second-hand pianos tend to keep a reasonable resale value (at least better than most cars), as long as they are in good condition. However, pianos are much less popular that they were at the start of last century, so there is lots of supply and not so much demand -- not a good recipe for price appreciation.

If you think you have a 'rare' and collectible piano (or piano-organ combination, for example) I'd suggest looking up a dealer of antique pianos. The piano tuner probably has a better idea of piano values than some random friend, but if it was a rare collectors item he could be wrong. No harm in sending a photo of it (and serial number, if there is one) to an antique piano dealer and asking for an opinion from an 'expert'.