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#2137890 - 08/23/13 06:02 PM Chickering 5' 8" scale question
acadia Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/13
Posts: 4
Hi, first-timer here. My wife and I bought a 1925 Chickering 5'8" piano (serial # 138,7xx) to use in our second home. It was inspected by an RPT who highly recommended we buy it. (great tone, original condition, but maintained, with very light use) It came from an elderly woman who was never much of a player. She received it as a gift from her grandmother, who she described as a very fine pianist from Boston, who bought this as her prized possession back when Chickering was considered a high quality instrument. (Tech said this is the little old lady story he tells clients that never happens.) And we knew we wanted either a Chickering, Steinway, or Mason & Hamlin grand. Long story short, we have decided to make this a college graduation gift for my daughter. And we are trying to find out two things to tell her about her new gift. First, what Scale is it? (the piano has no scale markings) We think it is a Model 145, based on having looked at many, many Chickering pianos (all of which were labelled somewhere on the frame, so why isn't ours!!)and from thinking we have seen exactly one twin piano. (I am trying to upload photos) Second, while we were shopping, we looked at a 5'8" Scale 145(which appears identical to ours, but was labelled on the frame), owned as a summer piano for 20+ years by a concert pianist on Cape Cod, who called it "more expressive than my Steinway B." She says the Scale 145 is an amazing instrument, and it certainly sounded unbelievable--but she probably could have made a xylophone sound incredible. So, the tech really liked the condition and sound, we immediately loved the sound, but what can we tell our daughter about the quality of her new instrument as a Scale 145.


Edited by acadia (08/24/13 12:42 AM)

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#2138017 - 08/23/13 11:26 PM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: acadia]
Larry Hofer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 17
I have seen some Chickerings from the mid-late 1920s that have the scale number way in the back of the plate near where the bass strings attach to the plate. It's not very big but it is cast into the plate.
If it is in good shape the145 is a very nice piano.

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#2138041 - 08/24/13 12:35 AM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: Larry Hofer]
acadia Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/13
Posts: 4
Hi Larry. Thanks for the help.
We have really scoured the plate, even looking under the strings. (but I will look again in the spot you suggest) The scale number is nowhere to be found. Can't understand, because we have seen it on other Chickerings we looked at, and sometimes it was stamped right into the metal. I've seen the scale numbers in several different locations on the frame/plate of other Chickerings, but not this one. Maybe there is some other spot inside?? Or could some Chickerings not have numbers on them for some reason? (we've been trying to upload photos today, hoping someone knowledgeable can confirm it is a 145, or tell us otherwise, but have failed so far---newbies--will keep trying to upload the photos)(success!)
As for the sound quality, it seems like the Scale 145 has a much richer and bigger sound than the 121 and 123, which have narrow tails(I think they are called quarter grands, or at least one of the ones we heard was). The only two Chickerings we saw that had this rich of a sound were two 109cs, but they were much longer, around 6'4".
I was trying to describe the shape to someone of our piano to someone, and looked at lots of images of other pianos on google images. I saw that our Chickering(and the 145 we saw) were shaped like the Steinway M (maybe a tiny bit wider, but very close) Is it possible that the Steinway M was based on the Chickering Scale 145?? Or was the Steinway M just a smaller version of the Steinway O? Did scale designers borrow from one another??


Edited by acadia (08/24/13 12:46 AM)

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#2138051 - 08/24/13 01:47 AM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: acadia]
Larry Hofer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 17
I can see your posted pic now. If the piano is 5'8" I think it should be scale 133 or 145. Here is a way for you to know exactly what piano you have. The original records for Chickering are in the Library of the American History Museum at the Simithsonian in Washington DC. They are all on microfilm and they have the ability to copy a page and email it. If you find yourself in DC you can make an appointment, visit them and browse through all the old records. If not you might try calling and see if one of the librarians will look up the serial number for you and send you a copy of the page that includes your piano. It will tell you the date it was made, the scale number, the model, the finish, and who Chickering sold the piano to when it was new.
I was there last summer and spent some time with these records and it was very interesting. I was able to find two Chickerings that I had in my shop for rebuilding and get copies of the pages that showed all the info on these pianos. The librarian said that when I was back in California, if I called him with another Chickering serial number he would send me a copy of the page that included that number. I have not made a request to see if they would look it up for me as of yet, but you might try. Hope this helps.

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#2138208 - 08/24/13 10:54 AM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: Larry Hofer]
acadia Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/13
Posts: 4
Very helpful--I'll try that
The reason we thought 145 is because the 145 we saw has the same frame
We have seen pictures of a 133 at an auction site and the frame is just a little different
As for sound of the 5'8" scale 145, how are they viewed(by techs or pianists) or are they just too uncommon and unknown?
We would like to tell our daughter a little more, but may just have to say it is a really nice sounding piano
And is it possible the Steinwaymodel m is based on the chickering scale 145? (even if the notion would be anathema to modern day Steinway lovers (we own a Steinway a, by the way)
Grateful for any info or opinions folks have to offer
Thx

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#2138341 - 08/24/13 02:42 PM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: acadia]
Larry Hofer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 17
The 145 is highly regarded by piano techs who have seen them, some thinking it was one of the best 5'8' grands ever made, but you are right, most techs do not see them very often if ever. I have no idea how many Chickering made but I am sure that it was much less than the number of the model M that Steinway made.
If I remember right the M came out about 1912 and the 145 not intill the mid 1920s so what influence there was if any between these pianos would have been the M thought of in making the 145, but who knows today if there was any.
Chickering at that time competed against Steinway by advertising their tone as being very unique and different ( and they would say at the time of course better) than Steinway, so any comparisons that the 145 was somehow a copy of the M would go against that. Maybe someone smarter than I am in the scales design of these two pianos could make some comparisons. I know to my ears the examples of these two pianos do not sound like one was tring to copy the other. One not " better" than the other but different. I personaly like the Chickering 145 tone over the Steinway M...........but I think I am right is saying that from the time they started making the M intill today it has been the most popular model Steinway has made, and the most popular high end grand under 6' ,so they must have done something very right in the model M.

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#2143422 - 09/03/13 12:24 PM Re: Chickering 5' 8" scale question [Re: Larry Hofer]
acadia Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/13
Posts: 4
Hello again
Well, the History Museum at the Smithsonian has a wealth of information about Chickering pianos. They can provide you the scale, style, finish, date shipped, destination, etc, for each piano. And they also can direct you to other resources. They were wonderful to deal with. Thanks so much for the guidance Larry.
As it turns out, our piano was shipped to Boston on May 23, 1924 and it is a Scale 144. We didn't know such an animal existed. We have heard of assorted Chickering Scales, and since our piano looked so much like two Scale 145s we saw, we assumed there was a very strong likelihood it was a 145.
I have no idea the difference between a Scale 144 and Scale 145, since to a nontechnician, they appear identical, and they both sound fabulous. I guess what is notable to us is that they both have giant soundboards (for the length) and longer treble strings than other Chickerings we saw (we looked at a 5'8" Chickering advertised as a quarter grand and the treble strings were shorter and sounded weaker in the upper register, per my tech--think it was a 121 or 123) I also saw a Chickering 5' 8" Scale 133 that had the larger soundboard, and longer treble strings. (which sold at auction for $100 in playable condition)
I appreciated the info about the Steinway M. I had read that the M was a response to the smaller grands being produced by others. Since Mason & Hamlin, Knabe, and Chickering were the top tier instruments at the time, I assumed it was one of those that Steinway was responding to. Also, those brands all seemed to produce a 5'7' to 5'8" grand with similarly shaped soundboards in the late teens into the late 1920s, so it appeared they were learning from/ borrowing from one another. Mason & Hamlin Model A soundboard appears very similar to the Chickering Scale 144 or Scale 145 also (not exactly the same, and the frame is different)
Has anyone compared the scale designs of these pianos?
thx

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