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MMD > Archives > April 2017 > 2017.04.22 > 05Prev  Next

Who Built Wurlitzer Pianos?
By Art Reblitz

Early de Kleist factory journals name the sources of components and
materials used in Wurlitzer Tonophones, Pianinos and other pianos,
including piano actions, soundboard material, cast iron plates,
hardware and other parts.  These entries show that de Kleist actually
built pianos in North Tonawanda rather than buying them from another
piano maker.  The starting serial number used on the first Tonophone
marketed by Wurlitzer in 1899 is unknown, but the first one listed in
the 1903 de Kleist journal is #8626.

After Wurlitzer bought out de Kleist in 1908, I believe that Wurlitzer
continued building its own pianos in North Tonawanda, continuing the
same numbering series throughout years of piano production there.
For details of de Kleist's production, see 

The Melville Clark Piano Company in DeKalb, Illinois, had its own
numbering series, described at 

Melville Clark and Melville Clark Apollo pianos are completely
different from Wurlitzer pianos made in North Tonawanda.  Extant
instruments show that when Wurlitzer acquired Melville Clark, Clark
numbers continued to be used on Wurlitzer Apollo pianos made in
DeKalb for a few years.  At the same time, the long-standing Wurlitzer
numbering series continued to be used on all pianos being made in North

Then, sometime in the early- to mid-1920s, the Clark numbering was
discontinued.  From then on, all home pianos and player pianos made
in DeKalb, and all commercial instruments made in North Tonawanda, were
numbered in the original Wurlitzer series.  I don't know exactly when
piano production was discontinued in North Tonawanda or DeKalb.

Any information on home pianos bearing the Wurlitzer name made before
1903 is welcome.  It's possible that Wurlitzer was reselling pianos
made by other firms in years prior to the introduction of the
Tonophone, just as it was a major distributor of Regina music boxes
and other instruments.  However, in my years of tuning thousands of
pianos in Colorado, where Knight-Campbell was a strong Wurlitzer dealer
with several retails stores around the state at one time, I don't
remember seeing a single example of a pre-1900 Wurlitzer-brand home

Art Reblitz
Colorado Springs, Colorado 

(Message sent Sat 22 Apr 2017, 14:56:39 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Built, Pianos, Who, Wurlitzer

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