The collection documents the history and development of the Wurlitzer Company and consists of company publications, business records, employee files, manufacturing records, sales and marketing records, product information, publicity, advertising, photographs, audiovisual materials, and organ installation drawings.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the history and the development of the Wurlitzer Company. Materials include company publications, business records, employee files, manufacturing records, sales and marketing records, product information, publicity, advertising, photographs, audiovisual materials, and organ installation drawings. The material in the collection spans from 1856-1986, although information prior to 1899 is sparse.
The Collection is arranged into fourteen series.
Series 1: Wurlitzer Company Histories, Company Events, and General Business Materials, circa 1880-1987; undated
Series 2: Publications, 1910-1989; undated
Series 3: Advertising and Promotional Materials, 1911-1978
Series 4: Product Information, 1860-1984; undated
Series 5: Photographs of Wurlitzer Manufacturing Plants, Employees, Stores, and Dealerships, 1869-1970; undated
Series 6: Photographs of Wurlitzer Products and Product Sales Promotions, 1900-1978; undated
Series 7, Photographs Used in Wurlitzer Advertising and Public Relations, 1904-1970; undated
Series 8: Wurlitzer Employee Records and Related Materials, 1909-1961; undated
Series 9: Production and Shipping Records, 1905-1987
Series 10: Shipping and Sales Records for Wurlitzer Dealerships, Wurlitzer Retail Stores, and Rembert Wurlitzer, Incorporated, 1917-1952
Series 11, Records of Stock Certificates, Meeting Minutes, and Related Financial and Legal Documents, 1907-1972
Series 12, Rudolph Wurlitzer Company Financial Records, 1893-1986
Series 13, Maps and Charts, 1931-1976
Series 14, Organ Installation Drawings, 1920-1931; undated
The Wurlitzer Company began in 1856 when Rudolph Wurlitzer, a Cincinnati bank clerk, sold seven hundred dollars worth of musical instruments he had bought from family and friends in Germany. The busi¬ness was incorporated in Ohio in 1890 under the name the Ru¬dolph Wurlitzer Company." For the first fifty years, Wurlitzer was primarily a retail instrument business operating out of its Cincinnati Store headquarters. Although fire destroyed the com¬pany's headquarters in 1904, a new building was completed in time to celebrate Wurlitzer's fiftieth anniversary in 1906.
In 1908, the Wurlitzer Company bought the DeKleist Musical In¬strument Manufacturing Company in North Tonawanda, New York. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company continued produc¬tion of automatic musical instruments including player pianos, military bands and pianorchestras. In 1910, the Wurlitzer Company bought the Hope-Jones Organ Company and began to manufacture unit-or¬chestra pipe organs at their North Tonawanda plant. These were pipe organs equipped with bells, gongs, horns and sirens. They became known as Mighty Wurlitzers and provided the musical back¬ground in silent movie houses all over the world and were also built for churches and private homes. In 1919, Wurlitzer bought the Melville-Clark Piano Company of DeKalb, Illinois. Wurlitzer pianos were then manufactured at the DeKalb facilities under a variety of names: the Apollo Piano Company, the DeKalb Piano Company and the Wurlitzer Grand Piano Company. Each name des¬ignated a different quality, price range and style.
With the decline of sales during the 1920s and 1930s, pro¬duction of automatic musical instruments ceased until the manu¬facture of the first jukebox in 1934. In 1930, the Julius Bauer Piano Company was purchased and continued to build pianos in that name until shortly before World War II. For a brief time, radios and refrigerators were made by the Wurlitzer controlled Air-Amer¬ican Mohawk Corporation. It was not a successful venture and ended in the mid-1930s. Many of the Wurlitzer retail stores were, at that time, in bad locations and needed repairs. The solutions to these problems came about with a reorganization of the company in 1935. With the reorganization, many retail stores were sold, piano manufacturing was consolidated in DeKalb and many subsidiaries were dissolved or absorbed completely into the Wurlitzer Company.
During World War II, Wurlitzer halted production of musical in¬struments. The company's defense production efforts were rec¬ognized in 1943 and 1944 when it is North Tonawanda and DeKalb plants received the Army-Navy "E" Award. In 1946, peacetime production resumed and the Wurlitzer Company introduced two new instruments: the electric organ in 1947 and the electric piano in 1954. In 1956, the Wurlitzer Company celebrated its centennial. That same year a new plant at Corinth, Mississippi, was completed. Later, plants were opened in Holly Springs, Mississippi (1961), Logan, Utah (1970) and Hullhorst, West Germany, (1960). The new facilities replaced those at North Tonawanda and DeKalb. The North Tonawanda plant ceased production of jukeboxes in 1974, becoming the company's engineering and research center. In 1973, the DeKalb plant ended production of pianos maintaining only mar¬keting and administrative offices. In 1977, the Wurlitzer Com¬pany's corporate headquarters moved to DeKalb, including the en¬gineering and research center from North Tonawanda.
Wurlitzer's three sons had assumed leadership of the company after his death in 1914. Each son acted as president then, chair of the board, successively. The company hired R.C. Rolfing in 1934 as vice-president and general manager. His re¬organization helped the company through the Depression years. Rolfing succeeded the last of the founder's sons in 1941 as pres¬ident of the company and in 1966 as chair of the board. Farny Wurlitzer, Rudolph's youngest son, died in 1972. A.D. Arsem succeeded Rolfing in 1974 as chair of the board. George B. Howell succeeded W. N. Herleman as president of the company.
Materials in the Archives Center
Steinway & Sons Records and Family Papers, 1857-1919 (AC0178)
Chickering & Sons Piano Company Collection, 1864-1985 (AC0264)
Sohmer & Company Records, 1872-1989 (AC0349)
William J. Lenz Piano Tuning Collection, circa 1903-1955 (AC0511)
Janssen Piano Company Records, 1901-1929 (AC0512)
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection, circa 1850-1990 (AC1257)
Warshaw Collection of Business America's Piano and Organ related materials (AC0060)
Collection donated by Northern Illinois University, and Regional History Center, 1994, November 11.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Processed by Craig Orr, archivist, (1999); Jennifer Shaifer (intern), October-December 2008; Ramona Williamson (volunteer), November 2008; Sarah Allan, November 2008; supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist.
Scope and Contents:
The Fried Collection consists of material created and collected by Frederick Fried and his wife Mary Hill Fried in the course of documenting and writing about American folk arts in America. It includes photographic materials, newspaper and magazine articles, research, lecture notes, published and unpublished writings, brochures, drawings, printed advertisements, blueprints, books, price lists, patents, correspondence, trade literature, sheet music, auction catalogs, oral history interviews and commercially recorded music.
Of particular interest for researchers may be the materials relating to carousels. It was one of the earliest interests of the couple and led to the publication of their first book. There is also a substantial amount of material relating to architecture particularly in New York. Other research interests include carvings, show figures, weathervanes, mechanical and coin operated machines, amusement parks, the circus, tattoos and lesser-known folk arts.
Fried organized the materials primarily by subject. There are some materials that were organized by genre particularly the photographic materials. There is some overlap in the arrangement of the materials therefore the researcher will have to look in more than one place.
Biographical / Historical:
Frederick P. Fried was born December 11, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where his father owned a clock business across the street from Charles Carmel, a carousel carver. Fried acquired a fine-arts education in the 1930s with an emphasis on sculpture. He served with the Air Force during the Second World War. After a successful military career, Fried worked as art director in several fashion agencies. He met Mary McKenzie Hill, an academically trained artist in one of the studios.
Mary McKenzie Hill was born in 1914 in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts. After graduation, she spent a year abroad studying before she returned to the United States to work as a fashion illustrator in Baltimore and New York. During World War Two Hill was a draftsman for a firm of architects.
Fried and Mary Hill married in 1949. The couple had two children Robert Hazen and Rachel. Around 1953 Fried began to collect architectural ornaments in New York. Fried served as the art director for Bonwit Teller in New York City from 1955-1962. He left the fashion world in 1962 to pursue his passion for collecting and writing full time. Fried published his first book, Pictorial History of Carousels in 1964. In 1967, Fred and Mary Fried purchased a forty-acre farm in Bristol, Vermont where the family spent their summers.
In 1968, Fried led a national campaign to preserve the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse (Seamen's Church Institute at South Street). He also became active in politics and served as the campaign manager for a New York State senator. His interest in Indian cigar store figures resulted in his publication Artists in Wood: American Carvers of Cigar Store Indians, Show Figures and Circus published in 1970. The focus of the book was Samuel Anderson Robb a New York wood carver. Fried co-founded the National Carousel Association in 1973. In 1978, Fried wrote America's Forgotten Folk Art with his wife Mary. This publication covered subjects such as carousels, banner painting, scarecrows, beach sand sculpture, tattoos, cast iron toys, amusement park architecture and trade signs.
Fried's collecting goal was to first preserve artifacts and to then make them available through his writings and exhibitions. His most treasured relics were the items he salvaged from the ruins of Coney Island. Fried referred to such artifacts as the uncelebrated arts. He became one of the founders of the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society a group of individuals who saved architectural ornaments from the wreckers' balls. In addition, he was one of the founders of the National Carousel Round Table which was created to preserve hand-carved merry-go-rounds. As a result of his collecting, research and writing Fried became recognized as the authority on carousels, coin-operated machines, and cigar store figures. He served as a consultant to many Museums; in particular as chief consultant on American Folk Art for the Smithsonian Institution.
Frederick and Mary Hill worked together in many ways to document, collect, preserve and increase the awareness about primarily the folk arts. Mary McKenzie Hill Fried passed away in 1988 at the age 74. Frederick P. Fried died July 1994 at the age of 86.
Collection a bequest of the Frederick Fried Estate.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright or trademark. Fees for commercial reproduction.