Weite, Michael, German manufacturer of musical instruments; b. Unterkirnach, Black Forest, Sept. 29, 1807; d. Freiburg im Breisgau, Jan. 17, 1880. Having served an apprenticeship with Josef Blessing, a maker of musical clocks, he established himself at Voehrenbach (1832). He exhibited his first “orchestrion” at Karlsruhe in 1849, and later took his sons (Emil, Berthold, and Michael Jr.) into partnership. His instruments obtained first prizes at London (1862), Paris (1867), Munich (1885), Vienna (1892), Chicago (1893), St. Louis (1904), Leipzig (1909), and Turin (1911); in 1872 the factory was removed to Freiburg im Breisgau. His oldest son, Emil Weite (b. Voehrenbach, April 20, 1841; d. Norwich, Conn., Oct. 25, 1923), established a branch in N.Y. (1865); he improved the then newly invented paper roll (taking the place of the earlier wooden cylinders), and was the first to use it, in connection with a pneumatic action, in a large orchestrion built for Theiss’s Alhambra Court (N.Y.). A son of Berthold Weite, Edwin (b. Freiburg im Breisgau, 1875; d. there, Jan. 4, 1958), applied the paper roll to the piano, creating in 1904 the “Welte-Mignon Reproducing Piano,” which could control pedaling and gradations of touch, a definite improvement on the ordinary player-piano, which could produce only pitches. Josef Hoffmann, Paderewski, and Wanda Landowska made rolls for it. The application of the same principle to the organ resulted in the invention of the “Philharmonic Organ” (1912). The firm ceased to exist in 1954.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire