Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company
Wurlitzer founder Rudolph Wurlitzer (1831-1914) was a German immigrant who (after stops in New Jersey and Philadelphia) landed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1854 at the age of 23. He worked for a bank, and down the street was a musical retail store. His father, Christian, was a successful music retailer in Germany, and Rudolph's experience told him the Ohio store's instruments were of poor quality, and priced too high. In 1856 he begins importing quality musical instruments from his family in Germany to sell at a profit in American retail stores. The business grows; Wurlitzer begins making instruments themselves for the U. S. military and for retail. The company branches out into "automatic" musical instruments, such as music boxes and player-pianos. Rudolph's three sons, Howard, Rudolph H., and Farny become involved along the way, and take on aspects of the growing family business.
The youngest son, Farny, is sent to North Tonawanda to run the former de Kleist Musical Instrument Mfg. Co. shortly after it is purchased by Wurlitzer in 1908. (de Kleist was building player pianos and band organs for Wurlitzer and others since 1893). Farny brings eccentric English inventor Robert Hope-Jones to the plant in 1910, initiating the worldwide success of the "Mighty Wurlitzer" theater organ, which provides sound for the silent films of the day, and entertainment in its own right. This business evaporates when sound comes to movies, and electrical sound amplification permits musical entertainment to be furnished to venues of all types much less expensively.
When the Wurlitzer company finds itself overextended in the wake of the Great Depression, Farny fights to keep the North Tonawanda facility open. In 1934 he strikes a deal with Homer Capehart to manufacture his automatic phonograph, which becomes the iconic Wurlitzer jukebox. Under his leadership the company also produces a successful line of electronic organs for home use, and the North Tonawanda plant becomes the flagship of the Wurlitzer factories, with 3,000 employees. After his death in 1972, jukebox and organ production are phased out, leaving 200 employees in 1974. By 1975, all manufacturing at the North Tonawanda plant is stopped, and by August 1976, all company activities are removed to other locations.
(1831–1914) Rudolph Wurlitzer emigrates from Germany to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1853. Coming from a long line of instrument makers, he soon…
Purportedly Howard Wurlitzer, Eugene de Kleist, and Farny Wurlitzer, photo (Tonawanda News, c1908).jpg
I use "purportedly" because the gentleman in the center does not look like Eugene de Kleist to me. Anyone have any guesses?
Removing business to North Tonawanda, Robert Hope-Jones, 269 Sommer, article (Tonawanda News, 1910-06-01)
Inadequate, Martinsville trolley waiting room too small for Wurlitzer, article (Tonawanda News, 1910-09-07).jpg
Robert Hope-Jones mentioned.
Promotion work of a great industry - Wurlitzer advertising department, illustrated article (Presto-Times, 1926-07-31).JPG
Trade journal article describing how the Cincinnati-based advertising department drives demand for Wurlitzer products.
Tour of the Wurlitzer factory located at North Tonawanda, N.Y., showing the manufacture of "coin-operated phonographs." Aerial view of the factory…
Wurlitzer press releases on Farny, R. C. Rolfing, Jukebox Family Tree, company origins and factories (NTPL, 1956).jpg
(1883–1972) The youngest son of founder Rudolph Wurlitzer, Farny is sent to North Tonawanda to run the former de Kleist Musical Instrument Mfg.…