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The Crisis Vol 13. No. 3

Published by:
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American, founded 1909  Search this
Edited by:
W.E.B. Du Bois, American, 1868 - 1963  Search this
Medium:
ink on paper
Dimensions:
9 7/8 x 6 7/8 x 1/8 in. (25.1 x 17.5 x 0.3 cm)
Type:
magazines (periodicals)
Place printed:
New York City, New York, United States, North and Central America
Date:
January 1917
Topic:
African American  Search this
Advertising  Search this
Associations and institutions  Search this
Business  Search this
Caricature and cartoons  Search this
Civil Rights  Search this
Education  Search this
Literature  Search this
Mass media  Search this
Poetry  Search this
Politics  Search this
Race relations  Search this
Social life and customs  Search this
Social reform  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Bobbie Ross in memory of Elizabeth Dillard
Object number:
2012.84.10
Restrictions & Rights:
Public Domain
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Classification:
Documents and Published Materials-Published Works
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/fd50347ba0e-cdc9-41b7-8139-ddcd306304c5
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmaahc_2012.84.10
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The Crisis Vol. 9 No. 5

Published by:
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American, founded 1909  Search this
Edited by:
W.E.B. Du Bois, American, 1868 - 1963  Search this
Medium:
ink on paper
Dimensions:
9 3/4 x 6 3/4 x 1/8 in. (24.8 x 17.1 x 0.3 cm)
Type:
magazines (periodicals)
Place printed:
New York City, New York, United States, North and Central America
Date:
March 1915
Topic:
African American  Search this
Advertising  Search this
Associations and institutions  Search this
Business  Search this
Caricature and cartoons  Search this
Civil Rights  Search this
Education  Search this
Literature  Search this
Mass media  Search this
Poetry  Search this
Politics  Search this
Race relations  Search this
Social life and customs  Search this
Social reform  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Bobbie Ross in memory of Elizabeth Dillard
Object number:
2012.84.16
Restrictions & Rights:
Public Domain
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Classification:
Documents and Published Materials-Published Works
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/fd58bc64d58-cb0f-40ab-ba98-6f24d2815ef2
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmaahc_2012.84.16
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  • View <I>The Crisis Vol. 9 No. 5</I> digital asset number 1

Sohmer & Co. Records

Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Names:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Kuder, Joseph  Search this
Sohmer, Harry J.  Search this
Sohmer, Harry J., Jr.  Search this
Sohmer, Hugo  Search this
Sohmer, William  Search this
Extent:
43 Cubic feet (78 boxes and 11 oversize folders)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Photographs
Sales catalogs
Photographic prints
Advertisements
Scrapbooks
Clippings
Journals (accounts)
Ledgers (account books)
Place:
Ivoryton (Conn.)
New York (N.Y.) -- Musical instruments industry
Date:
1872-1989
Scope and Contents:
The records of Sohmer & Co., date from 1872 through 1989. They fall into fourteen series based primarily on function. Legal, financial, inventory & appraisal, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and sales are the major series. Photographs, awards, family papers, publications about Sohmer, general publications, "miscellaneous" and correspondence are the remaining series. The records are especially strong in the areas of advertising, finances, and marketing. The collection does not contain corporate records, articles of incorporation, executive records, minutes, annual reports, or personnel records such as payrolls or job descriptions.
Arrangement:
The collection is divided into 14 series.

Series 1: Stock and Legal Records, 1882-1985

Series 2: Financial Records, 1887-1962

Series 3: Inventory & Appraisal Records, 1891-1980

Series 4: Manufacturing Records, 1872-1967

Series 5: Marketing, 1901-1989

Series 6: Advertising Records, 1880-1983

Series 7: Sales Records, 1923-1982

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1920-1964

Series 9: Awards, 1876-1976

Serioes 10: Sohmer Family Papers, 1945-1970

Series 11: Publications about Sohmer, 1883-1986

Series 12: General Publications, 1912-1985

Series 13: Miscellaneous Records, 1894-1983

Series 14: Correspondence, 1892-1987
Historical:
When Sohmer & Co. was founded in 1872 by Hugo Sohmer and his partner Joseph Kuder, it became one of 171 piano manufacturers in New York City. Over the next 110 years, Sohmer & Co. was one of the few active and successful family-owned and operated piano-making ventures in the United States. Nationally known for tonal quality and fine craftmanship, the firm's product, in the music trade, came to be referred to as "The Piano-Maker's Piano."
Biographical:
Born to an eminent physician in Dunningen, Wurtemberg, Germany on November 11, 1846, Hugo Sohmer enjoyed a first class education. Riding the last major wave of German immigration, which had brought piano makers such as Albert Weber, George Steck, John and Charles Fischer, and Henry E. Steinway to America, Hugo arrived in New York City in 1862. He became an apprentice in the piano making house of Schuetze & Ludolf. To learn more about European piano making, Hugo returned to Germany in 1868 and travelled extensively throughout Europe. In 1870 he returned to New York and by 1872 the 26 year old Sohmer and his partner, Josef Kuder, began manufacturing pianos in the 149 East 14th Street factory previously utilized by J.H. Boernhoeft and most recently by Marschall & Mittauer.

Josef Kuder, originally from Bohemia, Austria Hungary, learned piano making in Vienna between 1847 and 1854. Kuder arrived in New York in 1854 and became a pianomaker with Steinway & Sons which had been founded in 1853. In 1861 he returned to Vienna; he worked there until returning to New York in 1864, where he worked for Marschall & Mittauer until joining Sohmer.

Concentrating on tonal quality and response, Sohmer & Co. began producing pianos which were recognized in 1876 by an award from the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In the waning years of the nineteenth century Sohmer & Co. received other awards including a diploma from the Exposition Provinciale in Montreal, Quebec in 1881, the gold medal at the Great New England Fair in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1889, and an award from the World's Columbian Commission in 1893 in Chicago.

By 1883 additional factory space, located on East 23rd Street and formerly used by Carhart & Needham, was occupied to accomodate increased production. In three years this space proved inadequate and forced the renting of an extension to the original factory. The main office and salesrooms were located at 31 West 57th Street in New York City. Meanwhile, in 1884 Sohmer invented the first five foot "baby" grand piano which was applauded for its musical brilliance and depth of tone. In the early 1900's Sohmer produced grand pianos in four sizes: Concert, Parlor, Baby & Cupid.

Limited space and increased production soon became issues again, and in 1887 the company moved its factory and special machinery to Astoria, Long Island. This factory, located at 31st Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, remained in continuous operation until 1982, when the Adirondack Chair Co. bought the building and Pratt Read acquired the company.

During the 1880s a number of letters patent were granted to Sohmer for such piano improvements as the agraffe bar for tone augmentation, and the aliquot string, which were auxiliary strings "arranged in conjunction with the regular strings for the purpose of giving forth reverberatory or sympathetic waves of sound, thus augmenting the general tone results of each unison." (Spillane, History, 256.)

In 1894 Hugo Sohmer took competitor Sebastian Sommer to court for stenciling the name "Sommer" on the fallboard of his pianos. Sohmer declared that "Sohmer" was a trademark used as an emblem to distinguish the piano from others, especially the Sommer piano which he considered inferior. The court in this equity case dismissed the case on the grounds that Sohmer had not proven damages accruing from the advertising and sale of the Sommer piano.

By 1907 Sohmer & Co. was producing 2,000 pianos per year. Additionally, with Farrand & Co. of Detroit, Sohmer was making the Sohmer Cecilian player piano. On June 8, 1913 Hugo Sohmer died in Scarsdale, N.Y.; 20 days later, Josef Kuder died as well. Hugo was survived by his wife, Elizabeth; a daughter, Adelaide S. Weber; and a son, Harry J. Sohmer, born in 1886. Company leadership was assumed by Harry J. Sohmer after Hugo's death.

During the 1920s Sohmer began a special department in its plant for the manufacture of period pianos. According to Harry Sohmer, the 1930s were difficult. He recalled that, once only one piano in 29 days was shipped. The number of American piano manufacturers dropped from 140 to 22 during this time. It was during this time that Harry's cousins, Frank and Paul Sohmer joined the company as consultants. However, through its pioneering efforts in the introduction of a console vertical piano known as a "Spinet," Sohmer revitalized the industry. (Taylor, "Piano Family.") This console vertical piano has been called "The Musicians' Console.

Primarily because of its concentration on the console vertical pianos Sohmer & Co. never cultivated famous performers in the way that Steinway and Baldwin did. While publicly acknowledging that it never entered into the competition for artistic endorsement (an acknowledgement which perhaps worked to its favor), Sohmer & Co. relied upon a most comprehensive and innovative advertising strategy stressing integrity, quality and craftsmanship in the pursuit of the ideal tone and touch.

In 1940 Harry incorporated the company as Sohmer & Co. and led it, with his sons Harry J. Sohmer, Jr., (born 1917) as production manager and Robert H. Sohmer (born 1920), as process engineer. By 1969 Harry Jr. was vice president in charge of production and Robert was production engineer/ treasurer. In 1971 Harry Sr. died and Harry Jr. became president.

In 1982 Pratt Read Corporation, a long established manufacturer of piano keyboards, acquired Sohmer & Co. for an undisclosed amount, and moved the operations to its Ivoryton, Connecticut factory, while retaining the Sohmer name. The Sohmer brothers retained their positions in the company. At the time of its purchase Sohmer & Co. employed 120 people, produced 2500 pianos yearly, and grossed $5 million in sales. Harry J. Sohmer, Jr., grandson of the founder, in expressing his feelings about the move and the Sohmer piano, compared his piano to old New York beers saying that "they were strictly New York products and in a way so were we." He concluded by saying, "We were always identified with this city. Sohmer was a New York piano." (Prial, "Sohmer Piano.")

By July 1983 under Pratt Read's management Sohmer was producing 6 pianos per day, only 50% of the expected capacity according to H.B. Comstock, president of Pratt Read. In 1986 the Ivoryton factory was sold to a group of investors organized as Sohmer Holding Co., who continued to make pianos there until a lack of skilled workers and financial losses forced its closing in December 1988. In an effort to fill the backlog of orders, Sohmer president Tom Bradshaw opened a new facility in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. A retail showroom was maintained in Ivoryton. In 1989, the Sohmer company was sold to the Falcone Custom Grand Piano Company of Haverhill, Massachusetts.

References

Cox, Erin. "Labor Woes a Main Factor in Sohmer Closing," The Pictorial Gazette West, 3 (December 8, 1988), 1, 22.

Dolge, Alfred. Piano and their Makers. 1911; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, 1973.

Loesser, Arthur. Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1954.

Musical Merchandise Review. "Sohmer Pianos Underway at Conn. Pratt Read," July 1983, 91.

The Music Trades. "Pratt, Read Acquires Sohmer & Co. Piano Maker,"August 1982, 18.

Piano and Organ Purchaser's Guide, 1907, 1930. Prial, Frank J. "Sohmer Piano, and 110 Years of Craft, will leave Astoria," New York Times, August 13, 1982, B1, B4.

Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries. 1956, New York: The Music Trades, 1956, 58 60.

Spillane, Daniel. History of the American Pianoforte: Its Technical Development, and the Trade. 1890; rpt. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Taylor, Carol. "Piano Family Stays in Tune," New York World Telegram & Sun, August 15, 1958.
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History:
Pratt Read Corp. Records (AC0320)

Chickering & Sons Records (AC0264)

Steinway Piano Co. Collection (AC0178)
Provenance:
Collection donated by Pratt Read Corporation, August 11, 1989.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
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.
Topic:
Musical instrument manufacturing  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
advertising -- History  Search this
Keyboard instruments  Search this
Piano  Search this
advertising  Search this
Genre/Form:
Photographs -- 20th century
Sales catalogs
Photographic prints
Advertisements
Photographs -- 1850-1900
Scrapbooks
Clippings
Journals (accounts)
Ledgers (account books)
Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0349
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0349
Online Media:

Pratt, Read Corporation Records

Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Extent:
84 Cubic feet (104 boxes, 28 oversize folders)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Motion pictures (visual works)
Financial records
Employee records
Advertisements
Minute books
Sales records
Design drawings
Manufacturing records
Legal documents
Annual reports
Publications
Photographs
Correspondence
Labels
Stock records
Place:
Ivoryton (Conn.)
Date:
1839-1990
Summary:
Records documenting Pratt, Read and Company; its early competitor and later partner, Comstock, Cheney and Company; and a number of predecessor, subsidiary and related companies. Other topics include the late 19th century African ivory trade and Pratt, Read's production of troop-carrying gliders during World War II.
Scope and Contents:
Pratt, Read & Company, located in the Essex area of Connecticut, was once the world's largest producer of ivory products. Beginning with the manufacture of combs, collar buttons, and toothpicks, the company moved on to the production of piano and organ key veneers, and soon dominated the field. Eventually, it began to produce complete piano and organ keyboards and actions, becoming the major supplier to the American piano industry. The records in this collection document Pratt, Read & Company; its early competitor and later partner, Comstock, Cheney & Company; and a number of predecessor, subsidiary, and related companies. Other topics of interest dealt with in this collection include the late nineteenth century African ivory trade and Pratt, Read's production of troop carrying gliders during World War II.
Arrangement:
The Collection is divided into six series.

Series 1: Predecessor and Miscellaneous Companies, 1839-1870s

Series 2: Comstock, Cheney and Company, 1863-1936

Series 3: Pratt, Read and Company, 1863-1988

Series 4: Gould Aeronautical Division, 1941-1977

Series 5: Subsidiary and Related Companies, 1859-1980

Series 6: Information on Related Companies, 1977-1992
Historical:
Pratt, Read & Company is one of the oldest companies in the state of Connecticut. The firm traces its origins to 1798, when an Essex goldsmith and clockmaker named Phineas Pratt invented a circular saw to cut the teeth on ivory combs. In 1809, George Read and his brother in law, Phineas Pratt II, dammed the Deep River in the nearby town of Deep River and constructed a waterwheel to power ivory cutting machinery. Read left the partnership in 1816, and Phineas Pratt II joined with Alfred Worthington to manufacture ivory combs under the name of Pratt Worthington & Company. When Worthington died in 1830, two of Phineas Pratt II's sons, Ulysses and Alexis, took over the business, operating as U & A Pratt. The name was changed in 1844 to Pratt Spencer & Company, when a new partner was added, and changed again in 1850, to Pratt Brothers & Company. In 1856 the company erected a much larger factory in Deep River.

In the meantime, Julius Pratt, another of Phineas Pratt I's sons, had joined with Thomas Howard to set up an ivory comb factory in the town of Meriden. This firm was known as Howard, Pratt & Company. After Howard's death in 1822, it became Julius Pratt & Company. In 1854, the firm began to produce wooden piano keyboards, which then were fitted with keys of ivory. One half interest in this firm was owned by George Read.

When Read left his original partnership with Phineas Pratt II in 1816, he joined with Essex comb maker Ezra Williams to set up a new ivory working factory in Deep River. This new firm was known as Ezra Williams & Company. In 1829, Read became the senior partner and the company's name was changed to George Read & Company. This company later secured a very important contract to supply ivory keys for the first American manufacturer of pianos, Chickering & Sons of Boston.

In 1863, the firms of George Read & Company, Julius Pratt & Company, and Pratt Brothers & Company, were merged to form Pratt, Read & Company. The new company further enlarged its factory in Deep River in 1866. In 1871, the old Julius Pratt & Company factory in Meriden was closed and its operations moved to Deep River. Though this factory was destroyed by fire in 1881, a larger factory was quickly rebuilt and the company was back in business early in 1882.

With the election of George L. Cheney as president in 1892, Pratt, Read & Company began a period of continued expansion. In December of that year the company joined with another Connecticut piano component manufacturer, Comstock, Cheney & Company, to organize a midwestern manufacturing branch, under the name of the Piano & Organ Supply Company. This firm was to serve the territory west of Toledo, Ohio, operating in competition with its parent companies. In 1929 Pratt, Read and Comstock, Cheney combined to buy out the Piano & Organ Supply Company and it was dissolved.

In 1910 Pratt, Read & Company decided to begin the manufacture of piano actions. An independent manufacturer of piano actions, New York based Wasle & Company, and its subsidiary, the Wasle Unique Player Action Company, were acquired that same year. In 1914, Pratt, Read built a second factory solely for the production of player piano actions in Deep River. Wasle & Company was dissolved in 1919 and its production was continued under the Pratt, Read name. The company soon acquired two additional keyboard and action manufacturers: the Sylvester Tower Company of Cambridge, Mass., was purchased, dissolved, and all its equipment was moved to Deep River in 1924; and Strauch Bros. Company of New York was purchased in 1926. The Deep River player action plant operated until 1928, when business declined and production of player piano actions was discontinued in favor of manufacturing small motorboats. This line of business also soon declined and the project was abandoned by 1932.

COMSTOCK, CHENEY & COMPANY. Meanwhile, other manufacturers of ivory products had been at work in the Essex area. Chief among these was the firm of Comstock, Cheney & Company of Ivoryton. The dominant figure in this company was Samuel M. Comstock. He had learned the ivory cutting trade while working in his older brother's Saybrook area ivory cutting shop, known as Joseph A. Comstock & Company. By 1838, Samuel had left his brother's shop and joined with Edwin Griswold to set up Comstock & Griswold Company further west up the Falls River in Centerbrook. In 1848, the company moved its operations to a new factory in the Ivoryton area, where combs, toothpicks, and other ivory products were made. At the same time, the firm's name was changed to S. M. Comstock & Company, reflecting Samuel's sole ownership.

In 1860, Samuel Comstock allied his firm with George A. Cheney to form Comstock, Cheney & Company. Cheney had invested in Comstock's firm and was one of the principals in the important New York based ivory importing firm of Arnold, Cheney & Company. The new firm began production of thin slices of ivory for mounting on wooden piano keys. It also had its own agents buying ivory in Africa, most of which went toward production of piano keys. The company was formally incorporated in 1872 and in 1873 it opened an even larger factory in Ivoryton.

1936 MERGER. On December 31, l936, Pratt, Read & Company of Deep River was consolidated and merged with Comstock, Cheney & Company of Ivoryton. The resulting corporation was titled Pratt, Read & Company, Inc. By l938, all manufacturing operations had been consolidated in Ivoryton and the Deep River factory closed. During World War II, both the Deep River factory and the Ivoryton factory were used to produce CG 4A "Waco" troop carrying gliders for the U.S. Army Air Forces, along with LNE 1 training gliders and the GLOMB experimental plane for the U.S. Navy. Production of piano keyboards and actions was sharply curtailed for the duration of the war, and was slow to resume afterward. In l946 the Deep River factory was sold.

From 1948 to l957, the Ivoryton factory was enlarged and modernized on a large scale. During the Korean War, the company contracted to make helicopter blades for the Kaman Corporation of Bloomfield, Conn., and this partnership lasted for fourteen years. In l958, Pratt, Read transferred all of its piano action manufacturing operations to a newly built plant in Central, S.C. This move was made primarily in order to modernize production facilities at a lower cost than would have been possible through continued renovation of the Ivoryton plant.

With the election of Peter H. Comstock (a great grandson of one of the founders of Comstock, Cheney & Company) as President in 1954, the firm began an ambitious plan of diversification. The Cornwall & Patterson Company of Bridgeport, Conn., manufacturer of piano hardware, was purchased in l957. In 1959, Pratt, Read joined with six British Commonwealth firms to acquire British Piano Actions, Ltd., of Wales. Keyboards, Inc., a Chicago based producer of keyboards for electronic organs, was acquired in 1960. The Tech Art Plastics Company of Morristown, N.J., a custom molder of plastics materials especially for the piano industry, was acquired in 1961. The F. Kelly Company of Derby, Conn., which specialized in the production of small metal parts, was acquired in l964, and operated as a division of Cornwall & Patterson. In l966, Pratt, Read purchased the Allen Rogers Corporation of Laconia, N.H., which produced wooden furniture and piano components.

MERGER WITH VOCALINE COMPANY. In February l968, Pratt, Read & Company, Inc., was merged into the Vocaline Company of America, Inc., of Old Saybrook, Conn. Peter H. Comstock became chairman and chief executive officer of Vocaline Corporation, while remaining president of Pratt, Read. Vocaline was then organized into two major divisions the Vocaline Division and the Pratt, Read Division. The Pratt, Read Division concentrated on the production of piano keys and actions. It operated three subdivisions: the Ivoryton Division (keyboards, wooden and plastic moldings, and unfinished furniture); the Action Division (piano actions); and the Lund Division, formerly Keyboards, Inc., (electronic organ components). Both of the latter divisions operated out of the Central, S.C., plant. The Lund Division was known as the Electronics Division by 1970.

The Vocaline Division produced and sold electric motors, timing devices, and other small electromechanical mechanisms through its Electronics Section and its Bristol Motor and Timer Section. Another subsidiary of the Vocaline Division Altron, Inc., based in Westerly, R.I. produced wire coils. Through its Research and Development Center in Waldboro, Maine, Vocaline conducted antisubmarine warfare research for the U.S. Navy. By 1970, the Vocaline Division had been streamlined into four divisions: the Allen Rogers Corporation (small shaped wood products); Altron, Inc. (wire coils); the Bristol Division, later known as the Bristol Saybrook Company (electric motors and timers); and the Cornwall & Patterson Company (piano hardware and small tools). In addition, research for the Navy had been expanded and combined with other oceanographic research under the control of a subsidiary company, VAST, Inc., with operations in both Maine and the Caribbean.

PRATT READ CORPORATION. In October 1970, the Vocaline Corporation changed its name to the Pratt Read Corporation. This was done partly to increase identity with its oldest traditions and partly to reflect a shift away from the early emphasis on the Vocaline side of the corporation. The new corporation continued to refine its interests under the direction of Peter H. Comstock, who became company president in February 1970. The Tech Arts Plastic Company was sold off in May 1972, although it remained a source of supply for custom molded parts. In 1974 Pratt Read purchased the Atlas Plywood Company of Morrisville, Vt., in order to use its mill and kilns in the preparation of lumber for the Ivoryton factory, whose own facilities were overburdened. This company was operated as a subsidiary of Pratt Read.

By 1976, the Pratt Read Corporation was organized into five operating divisions. The Allen Rogers Corporation produced toys, golf tees, spools, knobs, and other turned and shaped wood products. Altron, Inc., produced bobbins and coils of copper wire. The Bristol Saybrook Company produced small electric motors and timers. The Cornwall & Patterson Company produced piano hardware parts, screwdriver blades, and other small hand tools. Pratt, Read & Company produced wooden components for pianos and other musical instruments. The company's ownership of VAST, Inc., was sold off in March 1976. Later that year, the company acquired Sight Line Corporation, a Freehold, N.J., manufacturer of golf clubs. This subsidiary, operated as the Sounder Sports Division, was sold in May 1979.

In October of 1979, James H. Tucker replaced Peter H. Comstock as president of Pratt Read; Comstock remained chairman of the board and chief executive officer. His nephew, Harwood B. Comstock, became the next president in October 1982. In June 1982, the Ivoryton factory was severely damaged by flooding after two dams burst upstream during a torrential rainstorm. Although the administrative offices were destroyed and the plant filled with several feet of mud and debris, the facility was back in production within two weeks. In August 1982, Pratt Read acquired the Sohmer Piano Company, a 111 year old Long Island based manufacturer of pianos, and in December 1982 Sohmer's production facilities were moved into the Ivoryton factory. By July 1983 Sohmer was producing about six upright pianos a day in its new location.

By the early 1980s, the American piano industry had entered a period of decline and even Peter Comstock's diversification efforts could not keep it out of trouble. A major blow came in 1984 with the loss of a large contract to manufacture keyboards for Mattel Electronics's Intellivision home video system. This was exacerbated by a slump in the piano industry in mid year. The increased import of Japanese and Korean pianos further undercut the American industry, resulting in slowdowns and profit losses for Pratt Read. Attempting to compete on the same basis with this foreign competition, Pratt Read joined with the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company in May 1985 to establish the Pratt Win Corporation. This joint venture resulted in the closing of Pratt Read's Central, S.C., piano action manufacturing plant and the transfer of its operations to a new Baldwin plant in Juarez, Mexico. Pratt Read sold its interest in Pratt Win to Baldwin in October 1986.

Piano sales continued to decline, however, and Pratt Read continued to suffer losses. In March 1986, the company was acquired by Crescent & Company, a corporation controlled by Harwood B. Comstock, president of Pratt, Read & Company. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Crescent & Company, but retained the name Pratt Read Corporation. In April 1986, the company sold its Sohmer piano subsidiary together with the Ivoryton factory where it was housed; Sohmer & Company continued to produce upright pianos under independent ownership in Ivoryton until December 1988. In December 1986 the Bristol Saybrook Company was sold off. By 1990, the company had sold off all remaining assets except for a sawmill in Vermont and the Cornwall & Patterson Company in Bridgeport, Conn., where the remaining corporate staff relocated.

Sources

Deep River Historical Society, Inc. A History of Pratt Read & Co. 1973.

1899 Souvenir of Essex, Connecticut. Rpt., The Ivoryton Public Library, 1979.

Johnson, Curtiss S. "From Ivory Combs to Carnegie Hall and Today:The History of the Pratt Read Corporation." [Unpublished history in the collection.]

Moore, Ernst D. "History of Pratt, Read & Company." [Unpublished history in the Ernst D. Moore Collection, Archives Center Collection #321.]

Newspaper Clippings in the collection.

Pratt Read Corporation. Annual Reports.

Vocaline Corporation. Annual Report, 1970.
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History:
Records relating to Pratt, Read and to Comstock, Cheney can be found in a number of other collections, both within the Archives Center and in other repositories. The Wood & Brooks Company Records (Archives Center coll. #457) contain significant information on Pratt, Read's operations and an important record of production statistics gathered by George Wood while he was factory superintendent and taken with him when he set up a rival firm in Buffalo. While the Ernst Moore Collection (Archives Center coll. #321) primarily documents the purchase of ivory in Africa (much of which was ultimately used by Pratt, Read), it also includes a history of Pratt, Read written by Moore while he was employed by them. The Sohmer & Company Records (Archives Center coll. #349) document the piano manufacturing firm that Pratt Read acquired in 1982.
Separated Materials:
The Pratt Read Corporation also donated a number of objects to the National Museum of American History at the same time as their 1988 donation of archival records. Included were combs and letter openers and other examples of products made from ivory; piano components, such as gauge boards, key actions, and keys; and such diverse items as tools used in the factory, World War II employee I.D. badges, and a uniform from the company sponsored basketball team.
Provenance:
Donated by Pratt, Read Corporation in 1989. In addition to the papers donated by the company, several individuals donated Pratt, Read materials in their possession.
Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Rights:
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.
Topic:
Piano  Search this
Ivory industry  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
Ivory  Search this
Gliders (Aeronautics)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Motion pictures (visual works)
Financial records
Employee records
Advertisements -- 20th century
Minute books
Sales records
Design drawings
Manufacturing Records
Legal documents
Annual reports
Publications
Photographs -- 19th century
Correspondence -- 19th century
Correspondence -- 20th century
Labels
Stock records
Citation:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0320
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0320
Online Media:

Manufacturing Records

Names:
Management Service Company  Search this
Wecker, Karl  Search this
Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Drawings
Manufacturing records
Sketches
Diagrams
Piano registers
Lectures
Design drawings
Date:
1872 -1967
Scope and Contents:
The Manufacturing Records date between ca. 1910 and 1967. Included in this series are piano templates, design drawings, and sketches for the construction of a variety of piano styles, as well as several diagrams, such as the patented Capo D'Astro Bar. The 1957 manuscript on the "Construction of the Sohmer Piano" was originally written by Harry J. Sohmer to assist Dr. Karl Wecker in the preparation of a series of lectures. It details the history, methodology, and philosophy behind the construction of the Sohmer piano. Consultant reports, prepared by management engineers of the Management Service Company, make recommendations to increase the effectiveness or efficiency of the construction process. For example, in the machine department, a report recommends "you should use a flat joint instead of a Linderman joint on core stock, in order to improve the quality of the joint and to save lumber."
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Topic:
Piano templates  Search this
Piano design  Search this
Design sketches  Search this
Capo d ̀“Astro bar  Search this
Genre/Form:
Drawings
Manufacturing Records
Sketches
Diagrams
Piano registers
Lectures
Design drawings
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0349, Series 4
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref100

Style Cupid Spanish Renaissance Welte

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 53, Folder 1
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref101

Style Cupid Louis XVI(4'10)(5'7)

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 53, Folder 2
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref102

Style #9 B Louis XIV

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 53, Folder 3
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1929
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref103

Style Cupid Queen Anne

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 53, Folder 4
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1928
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref104

Style Cupid Louis XVI

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 53, Folder 5
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref105

Manuscript "Construction of Sohmer Piano"

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box 4, Folder 3
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref106

Consultant Reports by Management Service Company Nos. 1 19

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box 4, Folder 6
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1923-1924
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref107

Chippendale Style B

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Map-folder 1
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref108

Louis XVI No.12A

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Map-case 2
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref109

Louis XVI No.3 Style B

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Map-folder 3
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref110

Colonial No.1 A

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Map-folder 4
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref111

Colonial Piano

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Map-folder 5
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref112

Design Drawings and Sketches Louis XV Vertical Piano

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 51, Folder 5
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1967
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref113

Design Layout: Louis XV

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 51, Folder 5
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1933
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref114

Model 100 Action

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Collector:
Musical Instruments, Division of (NMAH, SI)  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box OS 51, Folder 6
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
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.
Collection Citation:
Sohmer & Co. Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Sohmer & Co. Records
Sohmer & Co. Records / Series 4: Manufacturing Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref115

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