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Wurlitzer, family of German-American instrument dealers and makers:

(1) (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer , (b. Schoneck, Saxony, Jan. 31, 1831; d. Cincinnati, Jan. 14, 1914) emigrated to the U.S. in 1853. After settling in Cincinnati, he became active as an instrument dealer. With his brother Anton, he organized Rudolph Wurlitzer & Bro. in 1872. The business became the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. in 1890, with Rudolph serving as president (1890-1912) and as chairman (1912-14). The Wurlitzer firm brought out the Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orch., better known as “the Mighty Wurlitzer,” a theater organ, in 1910. Their jukeboxes were manufactured between 1933 and 1974, in 1935 they began making a console upright spinet piano, and from 1947 they manufactured electronic organs. Wurlitzer had 3 sons and 1 grandson who joined the business:

(2) Howard Eugene Wurlitzer; b. Cincinnati, Sept. 5, 1871; d. N.Y., Oct. 30, 1928. Through his efforts, the company became highly successful. He served as its president (1912-27) and chairman (1927-28).

(3) Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer; b. Cincinnati, Dec. 30, 1873; d. there, May 27, 1948. He studied in Cincinnati and then went to Berlin in 1891 to study violin with Emanuel Wirth, the history of musical instruments with Oskar Fleischer, and acoustics with Hermann von Helmholtz; he also studied with the violin authority August Riechers. Upon his return to Cincinnati in 1894, he joined the firm as a director, and then held the posts of secretary and treasurer (1899-1912), vice-president (1912-27), president (1927-32), and chairman (1932-42).

(4) Farny Reginald Wurlitzer; b. Cincinnati, Dec. 7, 1883; d. North Tonawanda, N.Y., May 6, 1972. He studied at the Cincinnati Technical School before pursuing his education in Germany as an apprentice to various instrument makers (1901-04). He then returned to Cincinnati to join the firm and became head of the automatic musical instrument dept. in 1907; in 1909 he became head of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Co. in North Tonawanda, which commenced making coin-operated phonographs in 1933; he was president (1932-41) and chairman (1941-66) of the firm.

(5) Rembert Wurlitzer , son of Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer; b. Cincinnati, March 27, 1904; d. N.Y., Oct. 21, 1963. He studied at Princeton Univ., then received training in violin-making from Amedee Dieudonne in Mirecourt and worked with Alfred Hill in London. After returning to Cincinnati, he was made a vice-president of the company. In 1937 he became head of the company’s violin dept. in N.Y., which he made an independent firm in 1949; the company won great distinction and remained active until 1974.


Bibl: J . Fairfield, W. World of Music: 100 Years of Musical Achievement (Chicago, 1956); J. Landon, Behold the Mighty W. (Westport, Conn., 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn /Dennis McIntire