William B. Tremaine View Extant Instruments View Instruments


New York City, New York, by 1887; died 1907.
Classification: Corporate Officer

Update This Entry
November 01, 2015:

See main entry: The Aeolian Co.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on April 09, 2020.

October 25, 2015:

From the OHS PC Database Builders Listing editor, Mar 12, 2016 -

William Tremaine (1840-1907) was a salesman and entrepreneur who spent most of his career selling musical instruments.1 He began with the Burdett Organ Company of Chicago, Illinois. He travelled widely, selling instruments for Burdett, 2 before returning to New York and joining the family business, Billings and Tremaine, maker and seller of pianos.3 He later partnered with his brother, Charles M., as the Tremaine Brothers of New York City, selling pianos and sheet music.4

In 1878, Tremaine organized a company to manufacture and market an automatic player organ, the 'Orguinette', which had been invented by Mason Mathews two years earlier. In 1888, Tremaine acquired the patents and stock of the Automatic Music Paper Company of Boston. Using these combined assets, Tremaine established the Aeolian Organ & Music Company* in 1888. According to Nancy Groce, Tremaine continued to make contributions to automatic instrument manufacturing during the 1890s, although she does not give specifics.5 Tremaine remained as president of the original Aeolian firm until 1898. He retired and turned the business over to his son, Henry B.6 William Tremaine died in 1907, at age 67.7

*This was the predecessor to the Aeolian Company, a conglomerate of several piano makers, at least one reed organ maker, the Votey Organ Company which became the pipe organ building division, and companies making keyboard automation, that is, player or reproducing equipment for pianos and organs. This enlarged Aeolian firm was formed in 1903 under the leadership of William Tramaine's son, Henry. The organ building division of Aeolian would merge with the Skinner Organ Company to form Aeolian-Skinner in 1932. -Ed.


  1. Nancy Groce, "William Tremaine," Musical Instrument Makers of New York: A Directory of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Urban Craftsmen (Pendragon Press, January 1, 1991) p. 159.
  2. "Death of William Tremaine" Music Trade Review 55:19, November 9, 1907, p.27.
  3. Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume, "Aeolian Company" The Piano: An EncyclopediaEdited by Robert Palmieri, (Routledge, Jun 1, 2004), p. 20.
  4. Groce, ibid.
  5. Groce, ibid.
  6. Ord-Hume, ibid.
  7. Music Trade Review, ibid.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on February 11, 2019.

October 30, 2004:

From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). —

Born 1840; father of Harry B. Tremaine; established Tremaine Brothers in 1866, piano builders; established the Mechanical Orguinette Co. of New York City, New York, 1878, player reed organs; established Aeolian Co. of New York City, by 1887; active in 1897; died 1907.


  • Patent #356,421; January 18, 1887; pneumatic motor. (Jointly with Robert W. Pain)


  • Local directories of the period.
  • Robert F. Gellerman, Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas (Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press, 1985), 135.
  • A biographical dictionary of organbuilders compiled by F. R. Webber ca. 1955; located in the OHS American Organ Archives, Talbot Library, Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey.*

*The OHS Archives are being relocated to the new OHS headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania beginning summer of 2016. —Ed.
We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 03, 2019.

Database Specs:

  • 0 Organs
  • 0 Divisions
  • 0 Consoles