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Encyclopedia of Disc Music Boxes 1881 - 1920
       A History,
          Catalog Raisonné,
                and Appreciation.
                          By Q. David Bowers
                                     An AMICA-International Publication

Q. David Bowers has collected, studied, and enjoyed automatic musical instruments, beginning in 1960. In the intervening years he has written several books on the subject, including A Guide Book of Automatic Musical Instruments (1966), Put Another Nickel In (1968), Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments (1971), and Treasures of Mechanical Music (co-authored with Arthur A. Reblitz, 1981). He has contributed many articles to the journals of the Musical Box Society International and AMICA (Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association), and is one of just four recipients of the Musical Box Society International’s Lifetime Service Award. The author, whose main business over the years has been as a dealer in rare coins, has traveled extensively through America and Europe seeking information relating to automatic musical instruments.


Elmer F. Brooks

From THE AMICA October 1969

 BROOKS, ELMER, JR., Commercial st.; E. Rochester, N.Y., 14445
(VICE PRESIDENT, AEOLIAN AMERICAN CORPORATION)

Any collector who has written to Aeolian American for information regarding the shipping dates, etc., of Ampico and Duo-Art pianos will be pleased to see Mr. Brooks added to our list of Honorary. Mr. Brooks is very personable, is interested in reproducers (he has an Ampico in the shop, and his mother still has her original Duo-Art), and has been accommodating to collectors above & beyond the call of contemporary commercial duty.

   
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The AMICA, October 1970:

Aeolian ·American Merger Background
Elmer Brooks

Subsequent to our earlier correspondence I wanted the opportunity to talk. to our former President, Bob Hill, to insofar as possible clear up the question of whether a fire at one of the Aeolian factories could have contributed in any way to the conditions leading up to the affiliation between the Aeolian Company and the American Piano Company.

I was born in Meriden, Connecticut in 1918, where my Dad, Elmer Brooks, Sr., was Superintendent of the Aeolian Company factory located on Tremont Street in that city. With the deterioration of business in the late 20’s it was apparently decided to close the Aeolian plant in Meriden, at which time the Elmer Brooks’ family relocated to Garwood, New Jersey where Dad was Superintendent, or I guess you would now call it General Manager ,of the Aeolian Company plant there which was termed the Votey Organ Company. I know that the Meriden plant never burned,and we were all in New Jersey in September, 1932 on the effective date that the Aeolian Company merged with the American Piano Company. There was no fire there, nor can I recall ever having heard a reference to any fire the Aeolian Company ever experienced in any of its at that (illegible word) time.  I don’t even recall that there was Aeolian factory in New York City in 1932.

The first President of the newly formed Aeolian Corp­oration was William Alfring, the former President of Aeolian,and the Vice President was Gardner Kavanaugh, the former President of the American Piano Company.

I only wish we had something on the background and introduction of the Duo-Art, but I don’t.

A number of years ago I tried to do a little checking into the background of the Aeolian Company and while I unfortunately did not keep a Bibliography, I ‘m reasonably certain that what is listed below is accurate.

“The beginnings of the Aeo1ian Company in the United States were initiated by William B. Tremaine, whose interests lay along the line of mechanically motivated musical instruments. After having perfected and marketed many thousands of the mechanical Orguinettes, and later the Celestina, an improved model, Tremaine bought out the English Aeolian Company in 1887. He soon rea1ized that the “perforated note sheet “ originally patented in ‘England in 1846 would be useful and essential in the development of mechanically operated musical instruments and co­incidental with the establishment of Aeolian he bought out the interests of the Automatic Paper Company of Boston. The "Trumpetto", a mouth-blown reed horn using a music roll to select the notes, was the forerunner of the "Organette", a hand cranked (illegible word) model organ -which, in turn, gave way to the Toot-blown mechanically operated organ. The adaptation of the mechanically operated, roll controlled, -piano playing device was perfected by E. S. Voty and was called the “Pianoa."  This was a separate player mechanism in the piano itself, the refining of the ability of the mechanism took place and the ultimate perfecting of the Duo-Art Reproducer resulted. The Duo-Art was incorporated in pianos made by George Steck, Weber, Stroud, Wheelock and many others. It is interesting to note that Steinway & Sons sent many

thousands of their pianos to Aeolian for the instal­lation of  the Duo-Art. Steinway, however, continued to control the marketing of their own pianos. With plants in many parts of the states outside of New York City in such places as Boston, Meriden, Connecticut and Garwood, New Jersey, there were also plants in Germany,France and England as well. Company owned retail stores existed in such far-off places as London, Paris, Madrid, Sidney, Br~sbane and Adelaide,

Australia. F. H. B. Tremaine succeeded his father as head of the corporation in 1907 and in

1932 with control having passed to William Alfring, then President of Aeolian, this firm merged with the American Piano Corporation. Be sure that I'll keep asking questions and when and if I do get some answers I’ll be only too happy to send them along to you.

(signed)  E. F. Brooks Jr., President, Aeolian American Corporation

 


 

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