1924 Chicago Cable Co. Piano Felix Wong

Years ago, while planning my current life, I wrote down some of the characteristics that constituted my dream home. 10 minutes away from a lively downtown with lots of character? Check. A view of a lake and the mountains? Check. A nice neighborhood in the country with walking trails? Check. A baby grand piano? Yes.

It turned out the last item would take me the longest to achieve out of all of them, mainly due to sporadic searching, a limited budget for the purpose, and a general dearth of used baby grands in the area. The wait was well worth it, though. A 1924 Chicago Cable Co. piano now graces the living room.

The piano belonged to a young couple, Heather and Ryan, out in Fort Collins. The piano had been in Heather’s family for 30 years, purchased from her music teacher in Fulton, Missouri. Prior to that the piano was at Westminster College for at least 2 years. That accounts for the last 32 years. Amazingly, this particular piano has been in existence for 50 more years before that. This makes my 1969 MGB—previously the oldest object I’ve ever had—seem young. Dick Cheney, too. Wait, that is impossible…

Anyhow, from what I could gleam off of the internet, the Cable Piano Company of Chicago (as they were sometimes called) was founded by Herman D. Cable in 1881, and claimed to be “the world’s greatest manufacturer of pianos, inner player pianos, and organs.” It was also known for progressive business practices:

Cable Piano Company became known not only for its products, but also for its working conditions. During the factory’s heyday in the early 1900s, there were as many as 500 employees, many of whom were women. Employees could enjoy the company-sponsored brass band and male chorus, or play on the company baseball team. With its own electric plant and fire protection, the factory was also self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression took its toll, and the company was essentially out of business by the mid-to-late 1930s.

This particular piano is still in surprisingly good shape, stained in a grainy, dark brown finish common to a lot of antiques. Some of the keys are chipped and discoloured, but all of them work. Despite not being tuned in 4 years, the piano sounds wonderful, at least as good as the upright pianos I was accustomed to when growing up, effusing a rich, not-too-bright tone that easily fills up the entire house with music. Er, make that “noise” considering my current state of piano playing, not having practiced since high school!

It won’t ever be confused with a Steinway, but then again, this particular piano cost me just 1% (no kidding) of what one of the more modest, brand new Steinways retail for. Not to mention I will never be confused with Mozart, which may actually be a good thing considering that he turns 250 this year.

All in all, it is exciting to be back on the piano; now if only I could remember how to read sheetmusic again. Ah, practice, practice, practice…

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24 comments on “1924 Chicago Cable Co. Piano

  1. Comment by Candy

    While going through some of my Mom’s things I found a music book, published in 1927 from The Cable Company, makers of the famous Cable Line of pianos and inner players. This book is a little yellow from age, but just like new in condition. I was pleased to read your article and see at least one of the beautiful pianos this company manufactured.

  2. Comment by n

    Came across your site searching for MGB stuff. I’m thinking about buying one. Anyways, I wanted to post because I read about your background. Interestingly, I’m 28 and plan on semi-retiring from a tech job next year. It’s kind of scary, but I’m glad to see that someone else has done it.

  3. Comment by Mary

    We have just bought an older cable piano with a 29,000 number plated inside.
    Does anyone know how to distingush the age by this number?It is a spinet dark wood and some scrolling on the front face of the piano.

    • Comment by mike

      1885-3000 1913-172000 1929-287000 1953-326000 1968-392000
      1890-11000 1914-180000 1930-293000 1954-333000 1969-396000
      1895-23000 1915-188000 1931-300000 1955-336500 1970-402000
      1900-30000 1916-196500 1932-301000 1956-338000 1971-407300
      1902-40000 1917-203000 1933-302000 1957-339200 1972-411400
      1903-45000 1918-210000 1934-303000 1958-342400 1973-415900
      1904-50000 1919-217000 1935-304000 1959-345800 1974-420700
      1905-65000 1920-224000 1936-305000 1960-350600 1975-425700
      1906-80000 1921-232000 1937-306000 1961-355000 1976-429300
      1907-95000 1922-236000 1947-308000 1962-360000 1977-434000
      1908-110000 1923-242000 1948-311000 1963-365000 1978-437000
      1909-122000 1925-258000 1949-315000 1964-372000 1979-443000
      1910-140000 1926-265000 1950-318000 1965-379000 1980-448000
      1911-155000 1927-271000 1951-321000 1966-384000 1981-451000
      1912-164000 1928-277000 1952-323000 1967-388000 1982-455200
      These are the serial numbers and corresponding dates for Cable pianos.
      Mike Morrissey

      • Comment by Felix Wong

        Thank you for the information, Mike!
        I guess mine (245432) might have been a 1923 instead of a 1924, then, but I’m glad my guess was close!

  4. Comment by Donald

    I have An Euphona Innerplayer Paino made by The Cable Company s/n 268732. I would like to know how old it is. I would also like to sell it.

  5. Comment by Tim Brown

    When I was 10, my aunt and uncle gave me their upright piano that was manufactured by The Cable Company of Chicago. I’ve yet to establish the exact date of manufacture, but I’ve estimated that it was made sometime around 1896.
    When it was given to me, it was a victim of the crime of “antiquing” that was so popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. It was a sickly green color that was a complete eyesore. So, after having it for nearly 15 years, and finally having a house of my own, I decided it was time to remove the evidence of the crime.
    It took me a year and a half, but I discovered that a beautiful pecan wood lay underneath not only the layers of green, white, black, and pinkish paint, but also underneath the original black laquer. It now sits in my living room, and still sounds great. I’m in the process of returning to it to work on the action, which, suprisingly is still in good shape despite its age.

  6. Comment by slim gordon

    I’am sure I also have a 1924 I would like to know where I could find more depth about this piano.

  7. Comment by Julie Anderson

    I have a studio upright. Manufact. by The Cable Co. of Chicago. Inside it has that info. plus the pat. date of 03-30-1926, which I know mine was actually produced in 1931. Also has the # 291690. Do you have any idea….ballpark….on what it is worth. Good condition. Needs tuning & has 3 dead keys. Bench seat also. Thanks!

  8. Comment by Tiffany Moore

    My mother has an upright piano manufactured by the Cable Company of Chicago. I could not find a date but on the inside it says “World’s Columbian Exposition in commemeration of the four hundreth anniversay of the landing of Columbus”. I know that the fair ran from May to Nov of 1893. She is interested in knowing it’s worth. If you have any information that would help me. It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  9. Comment by Felix

    Sorry everyone — I get a lot of requests for information or valuations on pianos made by the Chicago Cable Company, but I really don’t have anything more than what I have described on this web page. If you find more info, please pass it on to me! Thanks!

  10. Comment by Shirley Wang

    Maybe this is helpful: http://www.bluebookofpianos.com/serial1.htm#CABLE

    You can look up the year the piano was made by referencing the serial number. In addition, it has a link which teaches you how to locate the serial number if you have trouble finding it.

    Someone just gifted me a Cable Baby Grand, and I am a pianist/opera singer. Googling and searching online for anything relating to Cable Pianos have been a fun filled journey! Hope all of us with our Cable treasures enjoy our gems!

  11. Comment by dan jordan

    i have found a sterling silver pendant with my metaldetector. its says (the cable company pianos) its harped shaped. can you tell me anything about it. year,what it was made for. ty dan jordan

  12. Comment by Lizabeth Lasseter

    I just bought a baby upright Chicago Cable Co, piano in a flea market, in Valley, Al. for $500. Serial no. 241001. I would like to know when and where it was made, It was completely redone inside and out, (not the cabinet) it looks original, keys replaced with fake ivory, a bench seat and a humidifier.

  13. Comment by Felix

    Lizabeth, I tried replying to your question, but your e-mail address was invalid.

    Anyhow, I believe your piano was made around 1923 based on the serial number. Happy piano playing!

  14. Comment by Mark Renner

    We have just been given a Cable Baby Grand Piano serial number 299920. We think it was made in 1930 but are unsure. He checked the bluebook of pianos and the serial number hits between 1930 and 1931. Is there any other way to figure this out? It has a mahogany finish and standard legs. The piano is only out of tune but all keys are in great condition and playes nicely. There are some minor scratches on the top of the piano but other than that in great condition. Is there a way to find out the estimated value of the piano?

  15. Comment by Tim

    Herman Cable was the oldest of the three Cable brothers. It appears that initally, younger brothers Hobart and Fayette worked for Herman. But, they also started their own companies, parting ways entirely with the Chicago Cable company after Herman’s death. Hobart Cable founded the Hobart M. Cable company (in Indiana I believe), which seems to have endured the longest. Shortly after starting his own company, Fayette brought in A.P. Nelson as a partner. Nelson was considered one of the most knowledgeable men in the piano industry and would start at least one company himself. The Cable-Nelson company produced the lowest priced of all the Cable brands, but were still considered very decent quality for the money. After parting ways with Fayette, Nelson went on to start a small Chicago manufacturer called Nelson-Holzer. I have one of these myself.

    Chicago Cable had two factories, one in downtown Chicago, one in the far west suburb of St. Charles, IL (which was chosen for its outstanding access to the railroads). I don’t know much about the downtown plant, although careful Googling will get you its address and scan of a contemporary postcard with a drawing of a part of that plant’s exterior. I grew up about a mile from that one. At that time, the plant was still in use by the Howell furniture company, who purchased it when the Cable company fell on hard times. But, by 1980, Howell itself was out of business (I remember at least one strike there in the late 70s). In about 1986, the empty building was developed into a factory outlet mall (called “The Piano Factory”), but this also didn’t do well and was closed within about a decade. Most of this development was torn down a few years ago to make way for some overpriced condos. But, a small portion of the Piano Factory development still remains. It’s a small strip mall on the very end of the property. I’m not sure if it’s orignal, though, or built during the outlet mall conversion. The brickwork looks old, but it could have been made that way to go with the rest of the development. More information about this plant can be found on St. Charles history related websites.

    In their heyday, Cable was one of the largest manufacturers of pianos in the country (easily in the top 5 of about 160 contemporary American manufacturers). They were known for making high quality, but not overly expensive pianos. The depression was not the only reason for their demise. The height of piano manufacturing in this country was 1906, when pianos still dominated the home entertainment industry. One could not be considered truly middle class until one owned a piano and one’s daughters had been trained to play it. The following years, however, brought fierce competition first from the phonograph and then from the radio. Piano sales plumetted. The depression was the straw the broke the back of many manufacturers.

  16. Comment by Felix

    Tim, this is absolutely fantastic information. Thank you. I’m amazed that remnants of one of the original Cable Piano factories are still around. Also great to know that Cable was one of the top five American piano manufacturers at one time.

    I just played my Cable baby grand last night… still sounds great after all these decades!

  17. Comment by Jeff

    I have that same Model and year piano. It is a wonderful piano. Rich tone and a lot of sound for it’s size. I came by mine free, a family was going to junk it, and I was more than happy to move it for them, right into my family room. The finish is excellent, I have removed the action for cleaning and have found she has been very well maintained. It tuned A440. I did have to replace a few Ivories and new casters. But other than that she is remarkable. looking at yours and now mine, they speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy your Cable as I do mine.

  18. Comment by janet

    I have an upright made by the Cable company with a hinged top bench. It is in fairly good condition, serial # 61964. The wood is rich and dark. It is extremely heavy, takes four men to move it! I have had it since abput 1964, when i took lessons for about a year. can you give me any info about it?

  19. Comment by LadyBeth

    There is a listing for a free 1924 Cable Co. baby with bench on the Metro Detroit Craigslist….. I would love to have it but no way of hauling it.

  20. Comment by Maddie Andrade

    I just found a music book that was published in 1918 by the cable company. It’s so old I’m scared to do anything with it!

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