Joseph Dickinson was born in Canada in 1955 and moved to Michigan in 1870. He learned about various types of organs while working for the Clough and Warren Organ Company in Detroit in 1872. One of the organs he designed was awarded a prize at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876 and Dickinson was quickly hired to build organs for major customers, including the Royal Family of Portugal.
Dickinson also invented a roller mechanism for the player piano which made the piano more reliable and able to play the sheet music in forward or reverse mode.
After marrying Eva Gould in 1884, Dickinson formed the Dickinson-Gould Organ Company along with his father-in-law. The company manufactured reed organs and Dickinson received numerous patents for them, the last coming in 1912.