Pneumatic player pianos are a lot of fun and operate using a vacuum for power. Pedaling with the feet creates this suction, which operates bellows in the piano. Through hoses and valves the player mechanism manipulates the action of the piano where it in turn plays the keys. Each note has an individual valve and pneumatic unit. The valve controls the suction, which collapses the pneumatic (a small bellow) on cue from the music roll. The music roll is a paper roll that passes over a bar that tracks the perforations in the roll to allow air through the corresponding tubes and valves, which allow the note to be played. Between 1900 and 1930 there were 2.5 million of these machines built in the United States. These wonderful instruments of the past are becoming more difficult to find complete and working. They are less sought after in today’s modern world of electronic player pianos but anything that can be done to keep the ones that are still in existence from being discarded is a worthwhile effort.
A player piano advertisement depicting a child pushing the pedals. Showing that it was so easy to pump even an infant could do it.