Brewer-Pryor Piano Company

A Brief Synopsis by Glenn Grabinsky

This brief treatise concerns the ill-fated Brewer-Pryor Piano Company. During the year 1905 the Automatic Musical Company of Binghamton, New York, seemed to be enjoying rocket like growth, as per the following article in the October 13, 1905, edition of The Binghamton Press:

Automatic Music Co., Moves Into Larger Quarters in the Clarke Building.

The Automatic Music Company of this city, manufacturers of a pneumatic automatic piano playing attachment, has just placed an order with the Brewer-Pryor Piano Company, also of this city, for 1,000 pianos to be delivered within the present year. Another order for 500 additional instruments to be supplied within the year has also been placed with another manufacturer.

Started only two years ago in a small room at 96 State street by L. A. Harris, the business of this company has grown so rapidly that it is fast becoming one of the most important factors of this city’s industrial growth.

The small quarters on State street soon became too small and a larger storeroom at 53 Chenango street was obtained. A short time later two other floors in the same building were added to the plant and still, unable to keep pace with the growth of the business the building at 26 Henry street, formerly occupied by the Elk Drug Company, was also acquired.

The company is now just settling into still larger quarters having leased the old John Ray Clarke building of five stories, which has just been vacated by the Barlow-Reed Cigar Company.

The company is at present furnishing employment for 70 people in its factory and four traveling salesmen. The finished product of the company is a complete automatic self-playing piano, but the manufacturing interest is confined to the automatic attachment, the pianos being purchased from other makers. The business operations of the company now extend throughout the United States and Canada and England and is fast extending.

Considering the above newspaper article it is no wonder that the Automatic Musical Company was becoming a real thorn in the side of the Peerless boys in not too far away in St. Johnsville, New York, who were in the process of filing a patent infringement suit against AMC. The same, but a much abbreviated article also appeared in the Music Trade Review.

So here we have a giant order of 1000 pianos to be placed with Brewer-Pryor Piano Company, and another 500 with brand “x” (one would have to assume it was either Schaff or Haddorff, since there are ample surviving specimens to prove that Automatic Musical Company bought pianos from both of these companies. So, were AMC machines made using Brewer-Pryor pianos? No surviving AMC specimens with Brewer-Prior pianos have been noted, but the number of surviving AMC instruments is small.

Brewer-Pryor Piano Company is a sad story. They were formed in the spring of 1900 in Saginaw, Michigan. It was an outgrowth of the Erd Piano & Harp Company. In the later part of 1904 the city of Binghamton offered them a sweetheart deal to relocate the factory there (land, money, tax breaks, etc.) to bring more jobs to Binghamton. By early 1905 they were already in action in their new Binghamton home, producing 300 pianos by April, 1905. One would think it should have been an ideal arrangement for the Automatic Musical Company (no shipping costs, etc.), and indeed the October 1905 article indicates they were to get the lion’s share of the piano orders. So what happened?

By the early spring of 1908 the Brewer-Prior Piano Company was going into receivership. Was this the result of the Financial Panic of 1907? Then in the fall of 1908 the factory was started up again at the same address as the Binghamton Piano Company. It only lasted until sometime in 1910.

It is interesting to note that according to contemporary articles and ads Brewer-Pryor not only made its own pianos, but also the complete player mechanisms that went into them. These interior mechanism may have been devices made by the Beman Organ company of Binghamton, since Brewer-Pryor had taken them over as well (but leaving Beman in charge, including the company name for identity). So here we have another piano player mechanism being made in Binghamton during the same golden period of Automatic Musical Company. Binghamton Piano also made a coin operated automatic keyboard piano called simply the “Electric.” An advertisement for a second hand specimen was found in an issue of Billboard.

Glenn Grabinsky
October 2012


Research and bio comments by Glenn Grabinsky.