In planning and preparing for the upcoming book “Virtuoso” and the accompanying exhibit of H.O. Studley’s magnificent tool cabinet and workbench (May 15-17, 2015), I invariably get the question, “Is it possible to have a piano built by Studley in the exhibit?”
My typical response was, “I have no way to know if any particular Poole Piano was built by Studley.” Studley’s job was to build the “actions” or complex mechanism of levers, pivots, rods and hammers that connect the keys to the strings of the piano (along with all their adjusting devices). Depending on the size of the piano factory, anywhere from two to 50 men, perhaps more, could have this job. That would make every piano essentially anonymous, bearing only the company logo.
Or so I thought until today. While spending a very productive afternoon with Tom Shaw and Randolph Byrd at Charlottesville Piano I learned something that will someday redound to the benefit of my research. According to these fellows it was something of a tradition for “action men” like Studley to sign the side of the first key of the keyboard!
So, if you ever encounter the keyboard from a Poole Piano, check the side of the first key. And if you see the name “Henry O. Studley” emblazoned thereon, please drop me a note.
By the way, Tom’s grandfather was a piano teacher and technician in Boston from 1907 on, so he was a contemporary of Studley, who worked for Poole until 1919.
— Don Williams