The Trayser Piano Company was established in 1849 by George L. Trayser in Indianapolis, Indiana. The firm specialized in square grand pianos and reed organs in the early years, earning a good reputation for building very well made instruments. After the turn-of-the-century, The Trayser Piano Company was part of The Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana. Starr built upright pianos and player pianos under the “Trayser” brand name as an affordable alternative to the costlier “Starr” brand instruments. Trayser pianos are generally very well made, good quality instruments, far better quality than one would expect in an affordable instrument!
Special thanks to Mr. David C. Johnson for the following historical information:
EARLY LIFE (1808 – 1865): George L. Trayser was born in 1808 in Hesse-Darmstadt, Prussia which later became Darmstadt, Germany. Trayser apprenticed in piano making in German piano factories near Darmstadt. He married in Germany, and two sons were born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Frederick L. Trayser was born in 1840 and Paul Trayser was born in born 1842. George L. Trayser owned a piano company in Switzerland prior to coming to the United States.
The family immigrated to the United States in 1849 and initially settled in Newport, Kentucky. George L. Trayser started a small factory in Covington, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati, OH) known as “Trayser & Co.”. Morse & Guernsey of Louisville, KY were consignment agents for Trayser & Co. by 1851.
Trayser traded in and repaired pianos, and was granted his first patent for an upright piano in Cincinnati in 1853. His younger brother Phillip Trayser, who lived in Baltimore, signed a guarantee for $1,000 in October 1853. John A. Skiff was a sales agent for the “Skiff & Trayser Piano Company” in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1854. Unfortunately, George L. Trayser struggled financially and was insolvent 1854-1856. In 1857, the Covington KY factory was destroyed by fire. George L. Trayser then moved his factory to Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1858, Trayser was a witness in an extensive church dispute in Lousville, Kentucky. It was apparent that customers took advantage of Trayser, especially in written contracts, because Trayser did not yet read English. He was competent to hear and speak English in the trial.
George L. Trayser moved to Indianapolis in 1859. He paid a manufacturing license tax to the state of Indiana in May 1864 in Indianapolis. Trayser partnered with Col. William J. H. Robinson to form “Trayser, Robinson & Co.” in 1865.
BUILDING PIANOS (1865-1876): Trayser moved his family to Maysville, Kentucky in 1865 and founded “The Trayser Piano Forte Company”. Milo J. Chase was the President and General Manager, and G. Brambach, Jr. was Secretary. George Trayser supervised the design and construction of the pianos.
Trayser moved his family to Richmond, Indiana in 1865 except for his son Frederick, who lived most of his life in Maysville, Kentucky. Trayser also sold his pianos in Ripley, Ohio until 1871. George L. Trayser became a naturalized US citizen in 1866 and was granted another patent for upright piano in Indianapolis in 1867. In 1869, George L. Trayser established “The Ohio Valley Piano-Forte Company” in Ripley, Ohio. The Ohio Valley Piano-Forte Company built pianos under the name of “Valley Gem” for D. H. Baldwin. (Note: In 1893, D. H. Baldwin purchased the Ohio Valley Piano Company and renamed it “Valley Gem Piano Company”. The Valley Gem factory produced the “Valley Gem” and “Howard” piano brands for Baldwin).
George L. Trayser moved his firm to Richmond, Indiana in 1872, incorporating the firm as “The Trayser Piano Company”. In 1873, Frederick Trayser was granted a patent for piano action in Maysville, KY. He was listed in the Maysville city directory in 1876. In 1875 George Trayser was granted another piano patent in Richmond, Indiana. In 1876, the family resided at 43 N Pearl, Richmond, while “The Trayser Piano Company” was at 145 N 5th.
Trayser pianos were considered such good quality that in a blind vote contest in Cincinnati on June 10th, 1876, there were 73 votes for Trayser and 43 for Steinway. In a blind vote contest at Lyceum Hall in Richmond on September 8, 1876, the vote was 120 for Trayser and 70 for Steinway!
GROWING THE COMPANIES (1876-1881): In October 1876 The Trayser Piano Company had rooms in Lyceum Hall for offices and warerooms, sharing those rooms with Hoosier Organ Co. and Professor Rhu, music teacher. In October 1876 construction began on a new piano factory. It was 80′ x 125′ and 3.5 stories built in the location of the old woolen mills.
In September 1877, The Valley Gem Piano Company of Ripley, Ohio merged with The Trayser Piano Company (including Milo J. Chase and 16 workmen). The Trayser Piano Company made the Trayser upright, the Valley Gem Square Grand and the Chase Square Grand. November 1877 marked the opening of the Trayser-Chase ware rooms at Main and Pearl in Richmond.
George Trayser retired in 1878 and sold his interest in the company to Milo J. Chase. The firm was renamed “The Chase Piano Company”. The firm built a brand new, four-story factory along the Whitewater River, building 10 – 15 pianos each week. The Chase Piano Company employed 150 people by 1883.
In 1878 the family resided at 85 S 6th, while in 1879 the family resided at 45 N Washington. In 1879, George L. Trayser’s son, Paul Trayser established The Richmond Piano Company in Richmond, IN.
SUCCESSORS (1878-1950): In 1878, The Trayser Piano Company was subsumed into the Chase Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana. In 1884 The Chase Piano Company became “James M. Starr & Company”. In 1893, all the above companies merged into “The Starr Piano Company” (with the exception of “The Ohio Valley Piano Company” which was sold to D. H. Baldwin). The Starr Piano Company continued making pianos in Richmond, Indiana under the names Starr, Trayser and Richmond, Remington, as well as several others, until the 1950s.
DEATH AND LEGACY: George L. Trayser died in 1881 in Richmond, Indiana, at the age of 73.
Can you find your instrument listed in these antique catalogs?