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Warshaw Collection of Business Americana Subject Categories: Pianos

Creator:
Warshaw, Isadore, 1900-1969  Search this
Extent:
4.59 Cubic feet (consisting of 8 boxes, 2 half boxes, 5 folders, 7 oversize folders, 2 map case folders, 2 flat boxes (partial), plus digital images of some collection material. )
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Ephemera
Business ephemera
Date:
undated
1842-1965
Summary:
A New York bookseller, Warshaw assembled this collection over nearly fifty years. The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana: Pianos forms part of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Subseries 1.1: Subject Categories. The Subject Categories subseries is divided into 470 subject categories based on those created by Mr. Warshaw. These subject categories include topical subjects, types or forms of material, people, organizations, historical events, and other categories. An overview to the entire Warshaw collection is available here: Warshaw Collection of Business Americana
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists primarily of advertising cards, business cards, bookmarks, printed advertisements, scattered correspondence on letterhead stationery, pamphlets, bills/receipts, trade catalogs, fans, photographs, patents, song books, articles and books from manufacturers and distributors of pianos and piano parts. There is a substantial amount of materials for each company especially for the bigger and better known piano manufacturers. A number of these companies also sold organs. Among the materials there is a small number of programs, hymn books and music books.

A large amount of the materials are images. Most of the images are of pianos and organs found primarily in the trade catalogues and on printed advertisements. The images on the printed advertisements are similar to those in the trade catalogues and include the same information such as dimensions of the piano, style name, price, type of wood frame, and attractive features. The piano is shown as a focal point of family life. Pianos are considered as important furnishings for the home. Manufacturers advertised pianos as companions and the source of inspiration, pleasure and entertainment. Images depicting women and family life are also particularly strong in this collection.

There are a number of publications which discuss the history of piano manufacturing companies. These publications are included with the company related materials. Other publications include primers, early American hymn books, instructions on how to play piano and old favorite songs.

The material is organized alphabetically by name of company. There are seven folders of material grouped by type: business cards, patents, shipping documents, clubs, schools, general images and shipping documents.
Brand Name Index:
Brand Name :: Company Name :: Type of Product

Beckwith :: Sears Roebuck & Co. :: Piano

Bijou :: Calenberg & Vaupel :: Piano

Bradbury :: F. G. Smith & Co. :: Piano

Capen :: Brockport Piano Mfg. Co. :: Piano

Conover :: Cable Co. :: Piano

Crown :: Geo. P. Bent Mfg. Co. :: Piano

Kingsbury :: Cable Co. :: Piano

Orchestrella :: Aeolian Company :: Piano

Pianola :: Aeolian Company :: Piano

Separable :: Calenberg & Vaupel :: Piano

Weber Pianola :: Aeolian Company :: Piano

Wellington :: Calenberg & Vaupel :: Piano
Materials in the Archives Center:
Archives Center Collection of Business Americana (AC0404)
Forms Part Of:
Forms part of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana.

Series 1: Business Ephemera

Series 2: Other Collection Divisions

Series 3: Isadore Warshaw Personal Papers

Series 4: Photographic Reference Material
Related Materials:
Researchers interested in other collections in the Archives Center that relate to the manufacture of pianos and piano parts should consult the following collections:

Sohmer & Company Records, 1872-1989, Collection #349

Steinway Piano Company Collection, 1850-1906; 1953, Collection #178

Pratt-Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Collection #320

Chickering & Sons, 1823-1985, Collection #264

Wood & Brooks Company Records, ca. 1900-1960, Collection #457

Wurlitzer Company Records, 1864-1984, Collection #469

William Lenz Piano Tuning Collection, Collection #511
Provenance:
Pianos is a portion of the Business Ephemera Series of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Accession AC0060 purchased from Isadore Warshaw in 1967. Warshaw continued to accumulate similar material until his death, which was donated in 1971 by his widow, Augusta. For a period after acquisition, related materials from other sources (of mixed provenance) were added to the collection so there may be content produced or published after Warshaw's death in 1969. This practice has since ceased.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some items may be restricted due to fragile condition.
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:
pianos  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
Genre/Form:
Ephemera
Business ephemera
Citation:
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana Subject Categories: Pianos, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0060.S01.01.Pianos
See more items in:
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana Subject Categories: Pianos
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8858e9075-921b-47a0-9831-86916aceccc7
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0060-s01-01-pianos
Online Media:

Sohmer & Co. Records

Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Collector:
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Musical Instruments  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 (82 boxes and 11 map-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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep835d3556b-26b5-4ae0-90bc-8c018159dbb3
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0349
Online Media:

John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection

Donor:
Anderson, John R.  Search this
Names:
John Broadwood and Sons Limited  Search this
Mason & Hamlin  Search this
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Steinway & Sons  Search this
Weber Piano Company  Search this
Wm. Knabe & Co.  Search this
Extent:
6 Cubic feet (14 boxes, 1 map folder)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Advertisements
Advertising cards
Brochures
Ephemera
Ledgers (account books)
Manuals
Notes
Pamphlets
Photographs
Price lists
Trade catalogs
Trade cards
Date:
circa 1700-2011, undated
Content Description:
The addendum consists of trade literaure and ephemera on the subject of pianos.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into three series.

Series 1: Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera, 1850-1990, undated

Series 2: Photographs, undated

Series 3: Research Notes, 1700-2011, undated
Biographical / Historical:
A retired government employee, Anderson is a piano enthusiast and collector. He conducted extensive research on early piano makers.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Pratt, Read Corporation Records (NMAH.AC.0320)

Sohmer and Company Records (NMAH.AC.0349)

Steinway & Sons Records and Family Papers (NMAH.AC.0178)

Wurlitzler Company Records (NMAH.AC.0469)

South Carolina Historical Society

Siegling Music House Records, 1820-1972
Provenance:
The collection was donated by John R. Anderson in 2011.
Restrictions:
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.
Occupation:
Musical instrument makers  Search this
Topic:
Harpsichord  Search this
Harpsichord makers  Search this
Musical instruments  Search this
Organ (Musical instrument)  Search this
Piano -- History  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
Research  Search this
Postcards  Search this
Genre/Form:
Advertisements
Advertising cards
Brochures
Ephemera
Ledgers (account books)
Manuals
Notes
Pamphlets
Photographs -- 20th century
Price lists
Trade catalogs
Trade cards
Citation:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.1257
See more items in:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8d76e940a-676b-41e8-91c7-fdb8612e42c2
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-1257

Steinway & Sons Records and Family Papers

Creator:
Steinway, William  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Steinway family  Search this
Steinway & Sons  Search this
Krüsi, Bartholomew, Rev.  Search this
Names:
CBS  Search this
German Presbyterian Church (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Lehman, Lilly  Search this
Steinway, Fred T., 1860-1927  Search this
Steinway, Henry (Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg), 1797-1871  Search this
Steinway, John  Search this
Steinway, Theodore (C.F. Theodore Steinweg), 1825-1889  Search this
Former owner:
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Musical History  Search this
Extent:
6 Cubic feet (12 boxes, including photographs and microfilm)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Business records
Diaries
Catalogs
Correspondence
Microfilms
Photographs
Minute books
Business letters
Love letters
Letters
Letter books
Place:
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Date:
1857-1919
Summary:
Records of the Steinway & Sons piano company and a daily diary of William Steinway, a key figure in the rise of the company to international prominence in the nineteenth century. The records document overall operations of the company, individual piano serial numbers, and the business and personal life of William Steinway, a prominent figure in New York business, politics, and musical life.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of an original diary (and microfilm copies) kept by William Steinway and microfilm copies of nineteenth century business records of Steinway & Sons. There also are business and family photographs and some miscellaneous documents.
Arrangement:
Series 1, William Steinway Diary, 1861-1896

Series 2, Steinway Business Records, 1858-1910

Series 3, Steinway Family Materials, 1877-1882

Series 4, Rev. Bartholomew Krüsi Materials, 1857-1919
Biographical / Historical:
Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (Steinweg) (born 1797, Wolfshagen, Germany; died 1871, New York City) made his first piano in 1836. In 1850 he immigrated to America and settled in New York City with his wife, three daughters, and four of his five sons. He and his sons Charles, Henry, Jr., and William at first worked for various New York piano makers until 1853 when they formed the partnership of Steinway & Sons. One year later Steinway & Sons' square pianos won first prize at the Metropolitan Mechanics Institute Exhibition (held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.) and in 1855 won the Gold medal for the best piano (an over-strung iron-frame square piano) in the American Institute Fair at the Crystal Palace in New York City. In 1859, Henry, Jr. patented (patent no. 26,532, December 20, 1859) a design for a one-piece over-strung iron frame for the grand piano that won praise, a gold medal, and international recognition at the 1867 Paris Exposition.

The firm faced a crisis in 1865 when two of Heinrich's sons died: Henry (born 1831), who was responsible for the first seven patents, and Charles (born 1829). The family prevailed on the eldest son, C. F. Theodor (1825 1889), to sell his partnership as a piano manufacturer in Braunschweig, Germany, and to join his family in New York City. Not eager to sever all his ties in Germany, Theodor spent time in both countries until his death, contributing technical innovations that resulted in forty-one patents. One of these patents was for the duplex scale in 1872. Several of the following generation worked with the firm, including Fred T. Steinway (1860-1927), son of Charles, who served in London, Hamburg, and New York City.

C. F. Theodor Steinway's technical skills were matched by the entrepreneurial skills of his brother William (1835 1896). William was a creative businessman who played the piano, sang tenor, and supported the musical life of New York City. His promotional and marketing techniques, and his cultivation of eminent musicians and association with aristocratic patrons, helped to make Steinway & Sons so successful. William Steinway was prominent in New York City social and political life.

In 1880, Steinway & Sons opened a Hamburg branch. The firm was sold in 1972 to CBS. Subsequent owners include the Birmingham Brothers (Steinway Musical Properties, 1985-1995) and Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. (1995-).
Related Materials:
Materials at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Industry on Parade (NMAH.AC.0507)

Reel # 156, Before the Concert, 1953. Making pianos. Steinway and Sons, Long Island, New York.

N W Ayer Advertising Agency Records (NMAH.AC.0059)

Contains advertising proof sheets for Steinway & Sons from 1900 through 1963. The Piano series of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana contains five folders of material on Steinway. The Industry on Parade Film Collection has a short, 1953 film (reel #156) on Steinway's manufacture of pianos in its Long Island plant. The Sohmer & Company Records contain three folders of trade literature from Steinway. These include catalogs, pamphlets, and booklets on the Steinway family genealogy and on the Steinway piano used at the White House. Sohmer, also a New York City piano manufacturer, collected copies of competitors' sales catalogs and other publications.

Materials at Other Organizations

The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY is the largest repository of Steinway materials. It holds extensive business records as well as personal papers and photographs. The Steinway family loaned seventy folders of Steinway family correspondence to the National Museum of American History in October, 1984, and a program of transcription and translation was begun by the Steinway Diary Project. The original correspondence was transferred to the Archives Center in August 1985 and, at the request of Henry Z. Steinway, transferred to the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives in March, 1990. Additional Steinway materials are at the New York Historical Society, the University of Maryland Performing Arts Library, and other repositories. The control file for this collection has further information on the location of Steinway materials.
Separated Materials:
The Division of Culture and the Arts (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) holds several Steinway and Sons pianos.
Provenance:
Henry Z. Steinway donated the William Steinway diary on April 2, 1996.
Restrictions:
The collection is open for research use. Researchers must use positive microfilm copy of diary. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Rights:
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Topic:
Keyboard instruments -- Manufacturing  Search this
Travel  Search this
Politics -- New York (N.Y.)  Search this
Church Interiors  Search this
Piano  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
Genre/Form:
Business records
Diaries
Catalogs
Correspondence -- 1930-1950
Microfilms -- Negative
Photographs -- 1850-1900
Minute books
Business letters
Love letters
Letters
Letter books
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- 1900-1910
Citation:
Steinway and Sons Piano Company Collection, 1857-1919, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0178
See more items in:
Steinway & Sons Records and Family Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8ded45715-d45f-4f3e-8a9b-dd3ce334c6b1
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0178
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 (106 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 seven 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

Series 7; Addenda, 1837-2004
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, Division of Cultural and Community Life and Division of Work and Industry 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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8bf5733a2-e028-45da-afc6-bbc9c4def241
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0320
Online Media:

Financial Records

Collection Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Collection Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1864 - 1985
Scope and Contents:
FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1864-1985, include annual financial statements from 1864-1923 and 1971-1985; two journals, 1933-1942; and general ledgers, 1926-1964. The audit report of accounts, 1913-1941, provides financial data for both Pratt, Read and Comstock, Cheney. A two year financial planning program for the company covers the period 1978-1980. Also of interest is a May 1982 report on the possible acquisition of Sohmer & Company; Pratt Read acquired the Long Island based piano manufacturer later that year.
Collection Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
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:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0320, Subseries 3.3
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Pratt, Read Corporation Records / Series 3: Pratt, Read and Company, Pratt, Read and Company, Inc., and Pratt-Read Corporation
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep820dece91-cd4c-4412-b3c1-d5677ff82b16
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0320-ref254

Engineering Department Records

Collection Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Collection Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1964 - 1964
Scope and Contents:
ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT RECORDS, 1964, consist of customer files, interoffice correspondence, vendor files, and miscellaneous files. They are a complete one year sample, chosen at random, of the Engineering Department records from a period of Pratt, Read's high postwar productivity. The customer files are arranged alphabetically by name of company or individual to whom Pratt, Read supplied actions, keyboards, or components. Several major piano and organ companies are included, such as Aeolian American, Janssen, Kimball, Lowrey, and Sohmer & Company. The files consist of specifications, drawings, memos, and schedules for production. The interoffice correspondence is that sent or received by A. W. Nordquist, Chief of the Manufacturing Engineering Section. This correspondence deals with personnel questions, changes in specifications, customers' orders, and other routine matters. The vendor files are correspondence, catalogues, price quotations, and other information sent to A. W. Nordquist from various supply houses. Nordquist's miscellaneous files cover a variety of topics, including inventories of shipments made to the company's Central, S. C., plant; plans for plastic spray on key coverings; personnel notices; the safety program; plastic key production schedules; and other engineering issues. Also of interest is a file of drawings supplied to British Piano Actions, Ltd.
Collection Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
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:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0320, Subseries 3.11
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Pratt, Read Corporation Records / Series 3: Pratt, Read and Company, Pratt, Read and Company, Inc., and Pratt-Read Corporation
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep809e84ea6-4876-420b-9cc8-754c04c6a04c
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0320-ref262

Report on Potential Acquisition of Sohmer & Company, 1982

Collection Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Collection Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Container:
Box 18, Folder 4
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
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:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Pratt, Read Corporation Records / Series 3: Pratt, Read and Company, Pratt, Read and Company, Inc., and Pratt-Read Corporation / 3.1: Executive Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8bf015f6a-9230-457f-a37d-efb9fc3dbf0e
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0320-ref310

Correspondence re Acquisition of Sohmer & Company, 1982 (2 items)

Collection Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Collection Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Container:
Box 18, Folder 4
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
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:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Pratt, Read Corporation Records / Series 3: Pratt, Read and Company, Pratt, Read and Company, Inc., and Pratt-Read Corporation / 3.1: Executive Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8c638882f-f50c-4d11-85f4-f7feca822b7b
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0320-ref311

Sales Records

Collection Donor:
Nickse, Hugo  Search this
Johnson, Hanford  Search this
Steinway, Henry Ziegler  Search this
Collection Creator:
Comstock, Cheney and Co.  Search this
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Scope and Contents:
The SALES RECORDS, 1875-1936, in this collection include sales orders, sales account statements, labels from the company's boxes of ivory combs, and a few price lists and trade cards. Complete sales orders for the year 1876 are arranged in chronological order. They provide information on the types of ivory goods that Comstock, Cheney produced and the quantity and grades in which they were available. These orders complement the general correspondence since orders from the same piano and organ manufacturing firms are included. Additional customers of interest include Sohmer & Company, piano makers, and Brunswick Brothers, Decker & Company, and George E. Phelan, billiard ball manufacturers.

The sales account statements are interesting because they provide information on the way in which many of the company's smaller ivory goods were marketed. Comstock, Cheney sold its combs, tablets, toothpicks, and folders on a consignment basis through several companies in New York City. These monthly statements, 1875 1876, show the type and number of goods sold and their prices. The price lists include two for stationer's ivory goods, one for billiard balls, and one for repairs and repair materials for piano keys, actions, and hammers.
Collection Restrictions:
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
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:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records, 1839-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0320, Subseries 2.6
See more items in:
Pratt, Read Corporation Records
Pratt, Read Corporation Records / Series 2: Comstock, Cheney and Company
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8876e2116-24cd-4000-b6e3-73d37fe42a21
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0320-ref62

Sohmer & Company, trade literature

Collection Donor:
Anderson, John R.  Search this
Container:
Box 1, Folder 6
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1872
Collection Restrictions:
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:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection / Series 1: Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep888b7e29a-5018-4630-b514-c9c97f8348bb
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1257-ref768

Sohmer & Company, research notes

Collection Donor:
Anderson, John R.  Search this
Container:
Box 14, Folder 1
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1890-2006
Collection Restrictions:
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:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection
John R. Anderson Piano Trade Literature and Ephemera Collection / Series 3: Research Notes
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep81b46b7b1-4c1c-4fad-9eac-b7f115de78ec
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1257-ref873

Sohmer & Company

Collection Creator:
Wood & Brooks Company  Search this
Container:
Box 7, Folder 17
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1946-1962
Collection Restrictions:
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:
Wood and Brooks Company Records, 1925-1966, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Wood and Brooks Company Records
Wood and Brooks Company Records / Piano Action and Specification Materials / 5.2: Grand Action Patterns
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep82329a66a-e898-439b-a4f7-29c906bc8ac3
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0457-ref634

Sohmer & Company

Collection Creator:
Wood & Brooks Company  Search this
Container:
Box 7, Folder 37
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1959
Collection Restrictions:
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:
Wood and Brooks Company Records, 1925-1966, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Wood and Brooks Company Records
Wood and Brooks Company Records / Piano Action and Specification Materials / 5.3: Upright Action Patterns
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8561c2bc5-d6bf-45b1-9f3a-8ed9acafe70a
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0457-ref656

Fifth Avenue Association

Collection Creator:
Jacques Seligmann & Co  Search this
Container:
Box 36, Folder 11
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1923-1936
Collection Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Collection Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Collection Citation:
Jacques Seligmann & Co. records, 1904-1978, bulk 1913-1974. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Jacques Seligmann & Co. records
Jacques Seligmann & Co. records / Series 1: Correspondence / 1.3: General Correspondence
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw92dda3a63-c94b-4626-87f3-dd4890b046a7
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-jacqself-ref9706
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Wurlitzer Company Records

Creator:
Rudolph Wurlitzer Company  Search this
Names:
All-American Mohawk Company  Search this
Apollo Piano Company  Search this
Beach-Carlisle Violin Company  Search this
Caldwell Piano Company  Search this
Central Discount Company  Search this
Dayton Photo Products Company  Search this
DeKalb Piano Company  Search this
Dekleist Musical Instruments Company  Search this
Deutsch Wurlitzer  Search this
Eagle Radio Company  Search this
Everett Piano Company  Search this
Fox Theatres Corporation  Search this
Lyric Piano Company  Search this
Milner Music Company  Search this
Morsatti, Inc.  Search this
North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Company  Search this
Robert L. Loud Music Company  Search this
Rudolph Wurlitzer Company  Search this
Southern Ohio Radio Corporation  Search this
Western Industries Corporation  Search this
Wunderlich Piano Company  Search this
Wurlbild Corporation  Search this
Wurlitzer Acceptance Corporation  Search this
Wurlitzer Company  Search this
Wurlitzer Company of California  Search this
Wurlitzer Grand Piano Company  Search this
Youngstown Music Company  Search this
Rolfing, R.C.  Search this
Wurlitzer, Farny  Search this
Wurlitzer, Rembert  Search this
Wurlitzer, Rudolph  Search this
Extent:
56 Cubic feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Minute books
Account books
Financial records
Stock records
Reports
Advertisements
Sales records
Audits
Cashbooks
Ledgers (account books)
Annual reports
Photographs
Journals (accounts)
Price lists
Trade catalogs
Publications
Employee records
Marketing records
Commercial catalogs
Place:
DeKalb (Ill.)
North Tonawanda (N.Y.)
Corinth (Miss.)
Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date:
1860-1984
Summary:
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.
Arrangement:
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
Historical Note:
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.
Related Materials:
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)
Provenance:
Collection donated by Northern Illinois University, and Regional History Center, 1994, November 11.
Restrictions:
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:
Violin -- Manufacture  Search this
Radio -- Receivers and reception  Search this
Coin-operated machines  Search this
Accordion  Search this
Jukeboxes -- Manufacture  Search this
Harp -- Manufacture  Search this
Piano -- History  Search this
Player organ  Search this
Accordion -- Manufacture  Search this
Piano makers  Search this
Organ -- Manufacture  Search this
Organ -- History  Search this
Wurlitzer organ  Search this
Musical instrument makers  Search this
Mechanical organs  Search this
Mechanical musical instruments  Search this
Musical instruments  Search this
Genre/Form:
Minute books
Account books
Financial records
Stock records
Reports
Advertisements
Sales records
Audits
Cashbooks
Ledgers (account books)
Annual reports
Photographs -- 19th century
Journals (accounts)
Price lists
Trade catalogs
Publications
Employee records
Marketing records
Commercial catalogs
Citation:
Wurlitzer Company Records, 1860-1984, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0469
See more items in:
Wurlitzer Company Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8b6b1ed59-da9e-468e-ae2e-8bcd065f8cb2
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0469
Online Media:

Manufacturing Records

Names:
Management Service Company  Search this
Wecker, Karl  Search this
Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8cc002bdd-735f-4f1f-a426-bd4fb4100eee
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref100

Style Cupid Spanish Renaissance Welte

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box 80, 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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8b75ce4fb-eb2b-476f-8a6f-c545831d9423
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 Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box 80, 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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep848a21b1e-5142-4a89-95d9-0d0388a75e52
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref102

Style #9 B Louis XIV

Collection Author:
Falcone Custom Grand Pianos  Search this
Collection Donor:
Pratt, Read and Company  Search this
Collection Creator:
Sohmer & Company  Search this
Container:
Box 80, 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
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep80ddf463a-d898-4734-8fbf-9fc881dd1966
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0349-ref103

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