For a time, player pianos were all the rage, with wealthy people buying them for home use and others feeding player pianos nickels at arcades.
A Do-It-Yourself Piano
John McTammany, Jr. patents the player piano
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, John McTammany, Jr. secured a patent for his “mechanical musical instrument,” a piano that was capable of reading the musical notes on thick rolls of paper and playing songs all by itself. Typically, the “autopiano,” as it was also known, had to have a way for air to move through it and for small pegs called hammers to strike the keys at the appropriate times.
While McTammany believed he had invented the “player” part of the piano, he didn’t take credit for the whole thing. In fact, many people over the 19th and 20th centuries had contributed bits of knowledge toward the progression in the instrument.