J.L. Orme & Sons

J.L. Orme & Sons. Ottawa music, and later furniture, firm, founded in 1861, and one of the oldest surviving names in the Canadian music trade. James Lawrence Orme (d 1893) arrived from Scotland in 1856 and for a few years was partner in a toymaking enterprise in Belleville, Upper Canada (Ontario).

J.L. Orme & Sons

J.L. Orme & Sons. Ottawa music, and later furniture, firm, founded in 1861, and one of the oldest surviving names in the Canadian music trade. James Lawrence Orme (d 1893) arrived from Scotland in 1856 and for a few years was partner in a toymaking enterprise in Belleville, Upper Canada (Ontario). In 1861 he became the first paid organist of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Ottawa, and to fill a void opened a music store on Sparks St. The firm was incorporated in 1866 as J.L. Orme & Son. Among the goods sold were imported wind instruments, US pianos (Emerson, Dunham & Sons, etc) and Estey reed organs. For some years branch stores were operated in Kingston and Brockville, Ont. In the 1870s and the following decades Orme published music by such Ottawa residents as A.A. Clappé, F.W. Mills, and Amédée Tremblay. He issued his own Dufferin Galop (ca 1872) and Rose and Thistle quadrilles (1878, dedicated to the Marquess of Lorne), and his son George Lewis Orme (d 1916) wrote the Loyal Opposition Galop (1874). The most substantial Orme publications were Clappé's masque Canada's Welcome (1879) and Gustave Smith's piano method Le Claviste (1890).

Matthew Orme (d 1937?), a nephew of the founder, arrived from Scotland in 1868 to join the business, and operated it jointly with George L. Orme after J.L. Orme's death in 1893. The company's name was changed to Orme & Son in 1906.

About 1906 an Orme employee, William Hall McKechnie, took over the sheet music and small goods department and operated it on the Orme premises as the McKechnie Music Co until about 1918, when the business reverted to Orme, although the name McKechnie was used until the late 1940s. McKechnie published some 40 dances, ballads, and patriotic songs. Among the last-named were English-language versions of 'O Canada' by George Gillespie (1909), George Holland (1909), and L.E.O. Payment (1912). Ottawa musicians whose works were published by McKechnie included Donald Heins, Myrtle de Long, Eugene B. Marier, Herbert Sanders, and Ernest Whyte.

An Orme Concert Hall, opened on Wellington St in 1900, proved a business failure, but the Martin-Orme Piano Co, a factory opened in 1902, was active until ca 1924. It made between 300 and 500 upright and player pianos each year and won high respect among local musicians. Owain Martin (d 1923), formerly a Heintzman superintendent, provided the technical knowledge, the Ormes the business skills.

In 1909 a part of the business was sold to C.W. Lindsay of Montreal, who operated the Ottawa branch for nearly 30 years. Orme & Son continued however, and the chief executives after World War I included Matthew's son Frank L. Orme and sons-in-law Arthur Crawley and Clement S. Harrington. After World War I radios and Victrola gramophones became major sale items; in 1930 refrigerators; and later in that decade furniture. By the 1940s pianos and records made up only 10-15 per cent of sales revenue. About 1950 part of the business became Orme-Bannon (a furniture company on Albert St) and a new J.L. Orme & Sons was established. It was located on downtown Bank St ca 1960-77, and then moved to Highway 31. Managed by James L. Orme (son of Frank L.) until his death in 1979, the store at that time continued to sell furniture and, in keeping with the family tradition, pianos, mostly built by Lesage. In 1990 its name was Orme Interiors Ltd.