Many record collectors have recently asked me about the house pianists of the three major record companies of the 1890's and early 1900's(Columbia, Edison and Victor). And from that, I could tell them who the pianists for each of the companies were, and how long they remained at the companies :
Columbia: Frederic Hylands, hired c.1897 and ended around 1905
Edison: Frank P. Banta, hired c.1896, pianist through 1903 (though, I did hear an Edison cylinder recently that had Hylands for sure on the piano for some reason...)
Victor: C. H. H. Booth, hired as Berliner's pianist in about 1895, prior to Victor's official formation in 1901 and remained Victor's pianist until 1905
Each of these wonderful pianists had their own specific style and feeling on the piano keys, contrasting from a more rough Brun Campbell style to a perfect classical style. Hylands played very powerfully, with strong octave bass notes, not the best accuracy, heaps of improvisations, but the most natural and progressive Ragtime that can be heard on brown wax cylinders. Banta had a very graceful, classical, and absolutely perfect rhythm all the time he can be heard, quite a contrast to the frantic and adventurous Hylands. C. H. H. Booth is a little harder to analyze, but he could play Ragtime progressively, but not until 1901 and after, unlike Hylands, who was playing his heavily syncopated melodies as early as 1897 (and possibly had known how to do this somewhat since 1893 or 1895). Booth could play the hell out of a march however, he made several piano solos for Berliner in the late 1890's, and all of them are marches, and I have heard one of them. Oh! How he can play that march!
These three devoted pianists all played wonderful Ragtime, but I would have to say that "Freddy" Hylands takes the cake( get the joke! Cakewalk!)on that matter, and just as my good collector Cliff Kennedy said, "Freddy Hylands is smiling down on you for re-discovering him and mentioning his name at all". I bet he would be very pleased to see that he is being recognized by a few Ragtime pianists who are lifting his catchy and "funky" licks that he played on his records.