Canadian Piano History -
Bell Piano Company
This information is provided for general interest. If you have specific questions about a piano please contact a qualified tuner/technician in your local area.
The Bell piano had a distinctive full sound. Many people would argue that the Bell upright piano was the best upright piano ever made in Canada. The pianos produced in the period from 1900 to 1920 were as good as the best uprights made anywhere in the world.
Bell pianos often had very elaborate cabinetry. They produced a large number of special order pianos for churches and theatres. These pianos can be quite striking when they are refinished. Unlike most other upright pianos, they are often worth the cost of refinishing because they are still fine musical instruments.
Bell pianos were strung with heavier gauge strings than most pianos of equivalent size. They had a very heavy frame to take the extra tension exerted by the heavier strings. Some of the old Bell pianos even had a second cast iron plate instead of wood back posts. These pianos were among the heaviest ever made. The extra effort that went into producing these pianos was well worth it. They have a huge sound.
The best of the Bell pianos had an innovation that they called " The Illimitable Repeating Action " . These pianos had an extra set of springs in the action that helped the mechanism to return to a playing position faster than in a normal upright. It functioned in much the same way as the repetition lever does in a grand piano. To my knowledge, the only other piano in the world that had this feature was Bechstein.
Although the Bell upright was a great piano, the grand pianos that were produced by this company were mediocre. Due to the rural nature of Canadian society in early part of the Twentieth Century the market for grand pianos was quite small. Bell, like most Canadian piano companies, did not produce enough grand pianos to become really proficient at it.
The original Bell piano company went out of business around 1924. Many companies floundered during that period due to market saturation. Once a customer had bought a piano that was made to last a lifetime they didnít need another anytime soon.
Lesage Pianos Ltd of Quebec acquired the rights to the Bell name. They produced pianos under the Bell brand in the 1960ís and 70ís. Although they were not particularly bad pianos, they were a disappointment to those who bought them because they remembered that great old Bell upright that their family once had.