"The Harps of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company"

© 1986 Mark Palkovic
American Harp Journal - Summer 1986 Issue
Used with permission of the author to the Museum.

    Once proclaimed as “the costliest harps in the world” and still highly prized by harpists, Wurlitzer harps were last made around 1935. The sturdiness of their construction and their tonal as well as visual beauty have assured them a special place in the harp world. Few people, however, know how these harps came to be made, or that before them, Wurlitzer marketed an automatic harp that was coin-operated.

      The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was founded in 1856 by German immigrant Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer in Cincinnati. Rudolph's father, Christian Gottfried Wurlitzer, was a musical instrument craftsman in Schöneck, Saxony, and had a successful retail business there. Rudolph was born on 31 January 1831 and was educated in Schöneck, Plauen, and Leipzig. He also was trained in musical instrument craftsmanship by his father, his relatives, and friends.

       Rudolph chose not to remain in his father's business, and decided to emigrate to the United States. Because he did not favor Rudolph's plans to emigrate, his father did not provide him with money. So, the 22-year-old Rudolph arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1853, penniless and without much knowledge of the English language. He worked in a grocery store in New Jersey and began to learn English. After passing through Philadelphia, where he could not find work, he went to Cincinnati and sold goods door-to-door. He then found work as a porter in a drygoods establishment at a salary of $4.00 a week. Even with such low wages, Rudolph was able to save a quarter of his salary by sleeping in a packing box on the premises.

       In 1854 he had the good luck to find work with the private banking firm of Heidelbach and Seasongood in Cincinnati at a salary of $8.00 per week, plus the privilege of sleeping in a loft over the banking office. Not far from the bank was a retail music store. Rudolph's trained eye told him that the merchant's stock was inadequate, and he was amazed at the high prices. The retailer bought his stock from a jobber, who bought from an importer, who bought from a European factor, who bought from an agent, who bought from the European craftsman who actually made the instrument. Rudolph saw the opportunity to break this chain of middlemen. He saved $700 and sent it all to his family in Schöneck, with a letter requesting instruments. In return, he received beautifully-crafted clarinets, bass clarinets, oboes, bassoons, flutes, English horns, and flageolets, which he sold direct to retailers.

       So, in three small rooms on the top floor of the Masonic Building at 4th and Sycamore Streets in Cincinnati, the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was born in 1856. For three years, he carried on the business of his new company from these rooms as a part-time activity while he remained cashier of the Heidelbach and Seasongood Bank.

       The Wurlitzer business grew rapidly. In 1858, it moved to larger quarters at 123 Main Street. Retailing began in 1860 and display rooms were added to offices and stockrooms. Further expansion became necessary for the production of drums for the Army and the entire building was occupied. Wholesale operations had grown to national proportions, and by 1865, Wurlitzer was the largest outlet for band instruments in the U.S., and a Chicago store had been added to its expanding operations.

        In 1868, Rudolph Wurlitzer married Miss Leonie Farny. Their first male child, Howard, was born in 1871. Rudolph served as president of the corporation from 1890 until 1912 and as chairman from 1912 to 1914. Howard Wurlitzer joined the firm in 1889, and aggressively involved the firm in the popular automatic musical trade.

        A 216-page hand-written Wurlitzer catalog of 1879 listed reed organs with pin cylinders producing 6 or 8 tunes, pipe organs in mahogany cabinets and playing 27 tunes; and the automatic pianists, a mechanical piano with a range of 4-1/2 octaves. All were operated by turning a crank. Hundreds of other instruments and accessories were included.

        Beginning in the 1880s, America became interested in musical boxes. Cylinder-operated Swiss, German, and French musical boxes were imported by the thousands. Aware of the growing demand for these and disc-operated boxes, Rudolph Wurlitzer secured a sales distributorship from the Regina Music Box Company of Rahway, New Jersey, the largest manufacturer of musical boxes in America. Wurlitzer came to be the major sales outlet for Regina musical products. (Today the Regina Corporation is a leading manufacturer of floor care equipment.) By 1891, Wurlitzer had outgrown its Main Street location and the business was moved to 121 East 4th Street.

        In 1897, North Tonawanda, New York (near Buffalo), was the American manufacturing center for carnival rides and merry-go-rounds. Barrel organs from Eugene DeKleist's local factory provided the music of the amusement park. DeKleist offered Wurlitzer the distributorship of his product. Wurlitzer declined the invitation to sell his barrel organs, but instead developed a coin-operated automatic piano, the Wurlitzer Tonophone, manufactured under contract by DeKleist and marketed by Wurlitzer. The Tonophone won the Gold Medal Award at the Pan American Exposition in 1901.

        A DeKleist catalog of that year, printed in Cincinnati, reflected many other Wurlitzer-inspired developments, such as orchestrions, reed, flute, and trumpet organs, and the famous Military Band Organs — all were automatic instruments to entertain the public wherever it gathered for enjoyment.

        A disastrous fire in December 1904 completely destroyed Wurlitzer's Cincinnati headquarters in 1906, a magnificent 6-story building at 121 East 4th Street was completed to house the retail operations and executive offices. Among the innovations of the new building were individual phonograph record listening rooms.
   
        Wurlitzer wholesaling had become so extensive that the publication of large catalogs was necessary. These catalogs were considered “bibles” by music merchants, and American instrument manufacturers gained prestige through representation in their pages.
   
        By 1905, the automatic music craze had swept the country, and in 1908, Wurlitzer acquired DeKleist's North Tonawanda plant. At this facility, many kinds of instruments were manufactured, including pianos and player pianos. The Hope-Jones Organ Company was acquired in 1910 and consolidated with the facility at North Tonawanda. Here, the Wurlitzer Hope-Jones pipe organ, also known as the “Unit Orchestra” and world famous as “The Mighty Wurlitzer” was developed. The “Unit Orchestra” became a theater attraction in itself, in addition to its popularity as accompaniment to silent movies.

        Through its early years, the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company wholesaled and retailed many famous piano brands. But, in 1880, drawing upon a wealth of experience, the firm designed the first of hundreds of thousands of pianos to bear the name Wurlitzer. In 1908, pianos (and player pianos) were produced at the North Tonawanda plant. In 1919, Wurlitzer bought the Melville Clark Piano Company in DeKalb, Illinois. The new plant became the exclusive source of Wurlitzer-produced grand pianos and augmented the upright and player piano production of the North Tonawanda facility. Howard Wurlitzer established the DeKalb division as a leading instrument manufacturer and dealer, and he served as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company's president from 1912 until 1927 and as its chairman from 1927 to 1928.

        Rudolph's second son, Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer, went to Europe to study the violin and, after returning to Cincinnati in 1894, developed the Wurlitzer violin department. Rudolph Henry's only son, Rembert Wurlitzer (1904—1963) became an American authority on early instruments of the violin family. He moved the violin department to New York, and established it as an independent company under his own direction in 1949.

The Wurlitzer Automatic Harp

        Sometime in 1905 Howard Wurlitzer, by now the Vice President of the firm, wandered into a downtown Cincinnati cafe. There, confronting him was a most unusual machine: a self-playing harp. Upon hearing it, Howard was impressed with its soft melodious tones. It was just the thing to add to the Wurlitzer line.

        Howard found that the harp's manufacturer was J. W. Whitlock and Company of Rising Sun, Indiana, a small Ohio River city about 35 miles downstream from Cincinnati. Whitlock had made a few of these self-playing harps as an experiment and had put them on location in Cincinnati, the nearest large city. Wurlitzer quickly established an agreement with Whitlock to sell the harps on an exclusive basis. The two firms signed a contract for 1000 harps, and, on the strength of this contract, J. W. Whitlock and Company constructed a new wooden building and set up production line manufacturing facilities. The agreement placed a firm order for 1000 harps at $200 each, to be delivered in three years, at the rate of 35 per month.

        The new machine was immediately re-introduced as the Wurlitzer Automatic Harp. An initial catalog description read:  

        After nine years of constant labor, at great expense, we have succeeded in perfecting the Wurlitzer Harp, a most refined musical instrument for places where the piano cannot be used on account of its being too loud.
   
        This beautiful instrument is conceded by everyone who has seen and heard it to be the most wonderful as well as the sweetest musical instrument ever produced.
    
        The harp contains sixty fingers (almost human in their operation), and produces a volume of soft, sweet music equal to several Italian harps played by hand. The face of the instrument is covered by a large harp-shaped plate glass, showing the interior lit up by electric lights and the wonderful little fingers picking the strings. This feature gives the instrument an exceedingly attractive appearance.

        As a money-maker in fine hotels, cafes, restaurants, cigar and drug stores the harp has proven itself to be the King of them all; its soft, sweet music making it exceptionally popular in places where other instruments would be too loud.
        Price (including motor and 1 roll of music), $750.
        Extra rolls containing six selections, each, $6.    

        The inventor of the automatic harp was J. W. “Row” Whitlock (1871—1935), an entrepreneur and inventor who had successes not only with the automatic harp, but also with furniture making and record-setting speedboats. In the 1890s, when Row was 20, a childhood friend of his, Harry Connors, was active playing harp at the hotels in Cincinnati. Connors would also spend time visiting Row at his home in Rising Sun. Coin-operated amusement was brand new, and Row was ripe for a challenge that would set him on his feet. Connors and Whitlock reasoned that if one could make a self-playing harp, then Connors could leave them behind when he performed live at hotels and restaurants in Cincinnati.
   
        Whitlock spent six years developing the automatic harp, according to family sources. The patent, issued on 8 September 1900, read as follows:

        This invention relates to musical instruments which are automatic in their action, starting upon the introduction of a coin...and stopping automatically when the piece is finished.

        The particular class of musical instruments embraced within the purview of this invention is stringed, and the vital feature of the invention resides in the action mechanism for sounding the strings….comprising pickers and actuating mechanism for the pickers. The style of instrument for which the action is designed is of the harp type, the strings varying in diameter or gauge, one string for each note, and attached to a frame approximating the harp outline as nearly as practicable and chromatically tuned.
    
        The actuating mechanism is of the pneumatic type and comprises a tracker bar, perforated note or sheet music, feeding mechanism, vacuum and suction bellows, pneumatic action and motor-bellows.
    
        The chief object of the invention is the provision of a picker mechanism that will be quick in action, responsive to its actuation mechanism. . . and not liable to derangement.

        A Rising Sun newspaper article of July 1903 noted the following: “Mrs. J. W. Whitlock entertained 60 of her lady friends very pleasantly Thursday with progressive Flinch. Light refreshments were served, during which the guests were surprised  by an exhibition of Mr. Whitlock's new invention—the electric harp.”
    
        Whitlock built seven harps and took six of them to Cincinnati to be exhibited. The initial showing of the harps was not very successful, most likely because of the lack of marketing expertise of the inventor. Cincinnati turned out to be the ideal place to try out the harps however because it was there that the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company took notice of them. Wurlitzer offered the machines at $750 each, which was almost a 400% markup on the wholesale price and ten times the production cost.
     
        On 18 August 1907, the 1000th harp rolled off the assembly line of the Whitlock factory. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company had executed the first of its options for another 500 harps and production continued. The second batch was sold at $125 each to Wurlitzer, which still allowed $60 profit for Whitlock. The harp had clearly been a success for Wurlitzer.
    
        The automatic harp was viewed as not only a source of beautiful music, but also a source of revenue for the owner of the restaurant which housed it. A 1906 Wurlitzer catalog of automatic musical instruments devoted 14 of its 20 pages to the then-new automatic harp:   

        With the great stride forward in the production of automatic instruments, has come a popular demand for music in all public places where people congregate for social intercourse, or, to while away an idle moment, so that today it can be safely said, that no public place is complete without its music of some kind. Nothing is more attractive in a public place of recreation or amusement than music, and the general public is not slow in showing their approval by opening their pocket books to pay for it as is amply proven by the great success of our automatic musical instruments. Receipts from many of  our instruments show as high as 300 percent on the investment and never less than 50 percent. As an example, there are a number of our automatic harps in Cincinnati, that have taken in their cash price in nine months, and would undoubtedly have taken 50 percent more if they had been owned by the proprietors and received the same close attention given to their bar trade. Where on earth can such a rate of interest be made on a safe legitimate investment?    

        The catalog listed 135 business locations in Cincinnati that had an automatic harp which would begin playing at the drop of a nickel. The electric motor-driven mechanism used perforated paper rolls containing six selections each. When a roll reached the end, it automatically rewound within a few seconds, and was then ready to repeat the program. Maintenance of the automatic harp was quite simple, if the 1906 sales literature can be believed:    

        Anyone of ordinary intelligence can easily master the working parts of the harp and take care of it. The harp requires tuning more frequently than other automatic musical instruments, but the quickness and ease of tuning more than offsets the difference between the attention it requires in this respect and that of the ordinary piano. In tuning the harp there is only one string to be brought up to pitch, whereas in tuning a piano, there are three strings that must be brought into unison. For this reason it takes an expert to tune a piano, while anyone with an ordinary ear for music can tune the harp, after being shown how.

Wurlitzer Automatic Harp, Style A (courtesy of Louis Rosa)

        In 1909—1910 demand for the harps slackened and production rates declined. In November 1906 the new Style “B” had been introduced, to help increase the harp's appeal. Wurlitzer never exercised its option for another 500 harps to total the 2000 originally envisioned. In fact, Wurlitzer canceled its order altogether near the end of the 1500 harps committed.
  
        
The Style A automatic harp was placed in a rectangular oak case with a fancy fretwork surrounding plate glass cut in a harp-like shape. Style B automatic harps, introduced in 1906 were placed in cases “built on the lines of the original Italian harp,” complete with column and harmonic curve. Styles A and B were virtually the same from a mechanical standpoint, and both were lit from within by an electric light.
   
       The last automatic harp was produced in late 1910 or 1911. By 1916 they were being “remaindered” for $375 each, half their original selling price. Toward the end of the automatic harp's market life, The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company must have been trying to push the remainder anywhere it could. A book published in the 1930s entitled The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury alludes to the depths to which the automatic harp sank:

Wurlitzer Automatic Harp, Style B (courtesy of Louis Rosa)

       Each girl (from the parlor houses) had one day off a week, which she usually spent with her lover or drinking in the dives of the Barbary Coast. The parlor houses also derived a considerable income from the sale of beer in bottles — and for music. Practically every resort was equipped with some type of automatic musical instrument, usually electric, which played only when fed with nickels or quarters. A great deal of the revenue from the music and sale of liquor went to the police and politicians as graft, in addition to the regular payments which were usually based on the number of girls in a house.
   
        In the late spring of 1911, the police forbade all music in houses of prostitution and ordered the removal and destruction of every musical instrument in the red light district. A month later in July, the proprietors of the houses were told that they might provide music for the entertainment of their guests, but that it must be music of the Automatic Harp. There wasn't such an instrument to be found in the Barbary Coast (the San Francisco red light district), but the lack was soon remedied. A few days after the house owners had been notified a salesman for a Cincinnati piano house appeared in the district and offered Automatic Harps for sale at $750 each. He bore references from important politicians and experienced no difficulty in making sales.
   
        Apparently, a Wurlitzer employee knew someone in San Francisco. Otherwise, why would the local authorities require automatic harps in bordellos?
   
        In 1914 Row formed the J. W. Whitlock Furniture Company and began building a line of quality chairs, a line that continued for decades. The new company became one of the prominent producers of Indiana furniture.
  
        The music that was arranged for the automatic harp numbered about 1400 tunes. They varied from a few classical pieces to waltzes and marches, popular songs, and character pieces arranged from piano music. Most prevalent, however, was ragtime, since the development of this instrument coincided with the growth of ragtime. Music rolls for John Philip Sousa's “Stars and Stripes Forever” appeared in June 1906, and were followed in July by Scott Joplin's “The Entertainer.” Other popular music rolls included “Turkey in the Straw,” the “Toreador Song” from Carmen, and “At a Georgia Camp Meeting.”

Automatic intrument repair room circa 1906 (courtesy of Northern Illinois University Archives)

        Whitlock never intended his harp to play glissandos, since it was set with 60 chromatic pitches in the center of the piano range with no overall sostenuto dampers or expression. Each “magic finger” or picker had a damper which allowed music similar to the player piano arrangements popular at the time. In the original patent, the pickers were made of metal. A different picker made of wood was eventually used, to give the harp a softer sound.
    
        Approximately 1100 Style A harps were made, of which 14 are known to exist today. The change of case design to the Style B took place in 1906. About 400 Style B harps were made of which 7 are known to survive. The Official Price Guide to Music Collectibles lists the value of surviving style A automatic harps at anywhere between $7,500.00 and $12,500.00.
       
        In 1985, two collectors, David Boehm and George Baker of Anaheim, California, began a project to replicate ten Style A automatic harps. These were available for sale beginning in May 1985.

Picker for the Automatic Harp, side view (courtesy of Rick Crandall)


The “Real” Wurlitzer Harps

        Coincident with Wurlitzer's dropping of the Whitlock automatic harp was its 1909 release of the “real” Wurlitzer harp which later was proudly advertised as “the costliest harp in the world.” The timing of the two events appears to be totally accidental.
   
        Rudolph Wurlitzer was said to be “passionately fond of the harp and its music” and, for many years the company had been importing European harps made by Erard, Erat, Dodd, Grosjean, and others. These harps were sold through the general catalog. Repairs made on these imported harps at the Cincinnati store made it obvious that there was a need for a harp that could better withstand the American climate and the demands of contemporary music. The first harps made at Wurlitzer's Chicago factory appeared in 1909. These instruments were made under the direction of Emil O. Starke, who had worked with George B. Durkee at the Lyon & Healy harp factory for 20 years. (Wurlitzer's harp manufacturing operation was later moved to North Tonawanda, New York.)
    
        These early harps manufactured by Wurlitzer made only a few departures from the European models. Among the innovations mentioned in the 1909 Wurlitzer general catalog were mechanical parts all made by machine with all fittings removable and interchangeable, using standard screw threads. The action was “free from any questionable innovations, and the general plans of the immortal Erard” were followed. The harps used pivot-bearing and cone-bearing spindles, and the only springs used were in the pedals themselves. The pedal rod runways were bushed with piano felt, the column then said to be “solid.” These early Wurlitzer harps were offered in three styles: I, II, and III.
   
        Soon after he began working at Wurlitzer, Starke made several important modifications in the design of his harps, and he changed to alphabetic model-name designations. The new Wurlitzer harps were sturdier than the European harps, and carried the designation “Starke model” on the brass action plate. The body ribs were made of maple and the Wurlitzer harp had a patented anchor and shoulder brace which minimized the need for frequent regulation of the harp action. Mechanical precision was improved, and the action mechanism was enclosed between the brass plates of the neck. The pedal rods were enclosed in individual brass tubes within the column, making the pedal movement much easier and less noisy. In the Wurlitzer harp the pedal rods were changed to a parallel arrangement, making them less susceptible to breakage. The soundboard was strengthened by covering the usual single cross grain with a veneer of vertical grain. On the larger model harps, the soundboard was extended to exceed the width of the body of the instrument at its lower end, where the heavier strings needed greater amplification. The pedals were wrapped in leather, and rubber shoes could be purchased to cover the pedal tips.

Workers at the Wurlitzer Harp Factory photographed in March and April 1929 (courtesy of Louis Rosa)


        Both the Wurlitzer harps and the harps made by Lyon & Healy had much stronger wooden frames than harps made previously. The harmonic curve of the harps consisted of several ply thicknesses of maple, perpendicularly laminated. Both makers veneered their harp bodies in fancy maple. Brass action plates and pedals were used, the disc action was gold-plated string pins were nickel-plated, and so on. Although the harps were produced in factories, they were still the product of skilled craftsmen who gave each harp individual attention. Above all, the tone of each instrument was the primary concern of both the harp maker and the harpist.

A hand-rubbed finish is applied.

A worker installs the action.

Completed instruments are tuned.  Left to right:  Style DDX, Style CC, Style GG

        According to Wurlitzer sales literature of 1924, the Wurlitzer harp claimed “pre-eminent superiority of tone over any other harp.” The tone was said to be of greater volume, also rounder, thicker, and of a richer quality because of the use of ribs or braces of maple rather than of metal. Vigorous playing of fortissimo passages never resulted in the disagreeable “twang” common to other makes of harps. The Wurlitzer harp had longer string length than other harps of comparable size. And, because of the patented anchor and shoulder brace, “no regulation even in the slightest degree has ever been found necessary” by the professional harpists who endorsed the Wurlitzer harp.

        In fact, these improvements seem to have made the Wurlitzer harp too responsive, and in their 1924 catalog, the Wurlitzer Harp Tone Damper was announced:   

        The need of a practical and effective pedal damper that would relieve the hands of that function has always been felt by harpists. Harp makers have vied with each other to produce a damper which would be noiseless and sure in its action.
   
        Musical effects are obtained by our invention which will add very much to the success of concert and ensemble performers. The vibration of the strings may now be controlled instantly at will, by means of an extra pedal to be operated by either foot.
   
        This pedal connects by a rod placed in the column, the same as other pedals, and connects in the action with a very ingenious mechanical device which controls the movement of the damper.
   
        The damper if desired will so mute the instrument that it will scarcely be heard, which for practice purpose is often very desirable.

The early Style II "Parlor Grand" Wurlitzer (from the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County)

        The damper was endorsed by Henry J. Williams, solo harpist with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra: "...this latest invention puts the harp where it rightfully belongs, on an equal with the piano.” Apparently few instruments with the damper pedal feature were produced, as only a few examples exist.
    
        The Wurlitzer harp was awarded a medal of excellence at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Endorsements soon followed by conductors Walter Damrosch, Fritz Reiner, and Leopold Stokowski, as well as by European harpists Anton Zamara, Luigi Maurizio Tedeschi, Marcel Grandjany, and American harpist Harriet A. Shaw (of Boston), and many others. An especially elaborate harp was made in 1914 for the Italian-born harp virtuoso Alberto Salvi. [See the cover of this Journal, vol. 7/3 (summer 1980)—Ed.]

Wurlitzer Style C "Orchestral Harp" as pictured in the 1913 general catalog (from the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County)

       The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company made more than 1500 harps. Company records are incomplete because of a reorganization, but it is certain that between 1921 and 1935, the firm manufactured about 540 harps. During this time period, the following styles were made: A, B, C, I, DX, DD, CC, AX, CCX, AA, DDX-D, Special GG-G, and Special DD. Although information is incomplete, the firm apparently changed back to numerical model designations in the late 1920s, possibly to be more consistent with Lyon & Healy's numerical style designations. Wurlitzer's Style 20, which proved to be very popular, first appeared in 1928. Wurlitzer also made Styles 5, 10, 25, and 30. Styles 25 and 30 had 47 strings and an extended soundboard. Style 25 was 73 inches tall; Style 30 was 72 inches in height. The weight of the Starke model Wurlitzer harps ranged from 60 to 80 pounds.
     
        Models with a single letter style name referred to a straight soundboard instrument; double letters referred to one with an extended soundboard. The harps were finished in metal and smooth and/or stippled gold leaf. Sales literature particularly stressed that no plaster of Paris or other moldings were used in decoration. The middle section of the column was in natural finish, with only the fluting gilded. The soundboards were decorated with a decalcomania floral design and a gold stripe. Harps made before the early 1920s had a different design on the soundboard.

Publicity photo of Matilda Jackson playing her Style GG Wurlitzer harp (courtesy NIU Archives)

Postcard (circa 1915) showing Tedeschi with his endorsement, "The Wurlitzer is the best harp in the world" (courtesy NIU Archives)

        An X suffix on the style name referred to a Gothic design such as the DDX. The body of the harp was made of curly maple and the enlarged soundboard had a beechwood bridge.       

        1913 Wurlitzer General Catalog No. 75
          Style A “Orchestral harp” 68 in. 44 strings $ 500
          Style B “Orchestral harp” “larger than the Style A” 46 strings $ 650
          Style C “Orchestral harp” 71 in. 46 strings $ 850
          Style D “Orchestral harp, concert grand” 73 in. 47 strings $1000

        1916 Wurlitzer Harp Catalog
          Style A straight sbd 44 strings E to F $ 850
          Style AA extended sbd 45 strings D to F $1250
          Style BB extended sbd 46 strings D to G $1450
          Style CC extended sbd 46 strings D to G $1750
          Style DDX extended sbd 47 strings C to G $2100

        1924 Wurlitzer Harp Catalog

          Style I “Small orchestra special in Grecian design” $ 700
                    straight sbd 66 in. 43 strings F to F
          Style G  “Concert size” $ 850
                    straight sbd 70 in. 45 strings D to F
          Style GG  “Concert size in Grecian design” $1100
                   extended sbd 0 in. 45 strings D to F
          Style AA  “Concert size in Grecian design” $1350
                   extended sbd 70 in. 45 strings D to F
          Style BB  “Concert size in Grecian design” $1550
                   extended sbd 71 in. 46 strings D to 0
          Style CC “Concert size in Grecian design” $1750
                   extended sbd 71 in. 46 strings D to G
          Style CCX “Concert size in Gothic design” $2200
                   extended sbd 71 in. 46 strings D to G
          Style DD “Grand concert size in Colonial design” $1800
                  extended sbd 73-1/4” 47 strings C to G
          Style DDX “Grand concert size in Gothic design” $2500
                   extended sbd 72 in. 47 strings D to G
                   If equipped with damping pedal     extra

The Wurlitzer Harp in "The Home Beautiful"

Introductory page from the 1924 harp catalog showing Style CC Wurlitzer harp (harpist unidentified, courtesy NIU archives)

Left to right:  Wurlitzer Style AA from the 1924 harp catalog (courtesy NIU Archives); Wurlitzer Style BB from the 1924 harp catalog (courtesy NIU Archives); Wurlitzer Style CC from the 1924 harp catalog (courtesy NIU Archives)

 

Left to right:  Wurlitzer Style DD from the 1924 harp catalog (courtesy NIU Archives); Wurlitzer Style DDX from the 1924 harp catalog (courtesy NIU Archives)

SOURCES CONSULTED

Asbury, Herbert . The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld . Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1933.

Bowers, Q. David . Put Another Nickel In . New York: Bonanza Books, 1966.

Crandall, Rick . “J.W. Whitlock and His Automatic Harp,” Musical Box Sodey International Technical Bulletin, Spring/Summer 1985, pp. 21—61.

Emmanuel, André . La Harpe: son evolution, ses facteurs . Paris: Dessain et Toira, 1980.

Gould, Susan and Fredricks, Robert. The Official Price Guide to Music Collectibles . Orlando: House of Collectibles, 1980.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
, s.v. “Wurlitzer,” by Cynthia Adams Hoover.

The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments
, s.v. ‘Wurlitzer,” by Roslyn Rensch.

Rensch, Roslyn . The Harp: Its History, Technique and Repertoire . New York: Praeger, 1969.

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . Illustrated Catalogue and Net Price List No. 69, 1909 (?).

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . Wurlitzer Automatic Musical Instruments . Cincinnati: Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, 1908; reprinted, Seattle, Wash.: Frank Adams, 1973.

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . Wurlitzer Complete Catalog of Musical Instruments and Supplies, (catalog no. 75), 1913 (?).

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . The Wurlitzer Harp: The Costliest Harp in the World . Cincinnati: The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, 1916(?).

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . The Wurlitzer Harp: The World's Best Harp . New York: The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, 1924.

Rudolph Wurlitzer Company . Wurlitzer World of Music, 1856-1956: 100 Years of Musical Achievement. Chicago: Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, 1956.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

John Hastings

Rick Crandall

Lucile High Jennings, American Harp Society Repository

Vi Johnson, Consumer and Marketing Services, The Wurlitzer Company

Harvey N. Roehl, The Vestal Press

Louis Rosa, former employee of the Wurlitzer North Tonawanda, New York, factory

Angelo Rulli, Editor, Technical Bulletin, Musical Box Society International Leah Weisse, Curator, Regional History Center, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois of Music.


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