Review By: Ian K. Seppala
Palkovic, Mark. Wurlitzer of Cincinnati The Name That Means Music to Millions. The History Press 2015.
Mark Palkovic's Wurlitzer of Cincinnati is a wonderful foray into the Wurlitzer family and company. The author makes an excellent use of a wide array of sources. The combination of articles, books, archives, and videos gives a well-rounded perspective of the family and the company. His approachable writing style makes this book a must read for historians and musical aficionados alike.
Palkovic uses the first seven chapters to describe the Wurlitzer family in great detail. The detail provided on the childhood of Rudolph Wurlitzer (the founder of the company, not his son) was particularly insightful. He also provides information about Rudolph's wife Leonie and her family which is typically neglected. The main source for the family and early history is a document by Lloyd Graham that was commissioned on the centennial of the company by the company. These first seven chapters brilliantly interweave the introduction of important family members with the founding and early years of the company.
The second half focuses on the company and its many products. Palkovic provides a great overview of the wide array of products that they offered. Known for its Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ and jukeboxes, Palkovic also shines a light on its lesser known products. I did not know of the Wurlitzer's line of electric guitars, produced in the 1960's. The product line at one point also included objects outside of the music industry including refrigerators. His use of marketing photographs in this section provides the reader with greater insight.
In my position as the Education Director at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum this book will be a valuable resource. It confirms reports from oral histories collected by the museum with documented sources. It also brings to light sources that I did not know existed. I am excited to be able to use this and other resources to provide a greater context around our wonderful musical collection.
Palkovic uses a variety of sources to support his book. This includes the archives at The Regional History Center of Northern Illinois University and the Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Other types include articles, websites, videos, photographs, marketing booklets and books. Some of the books including Ron Bopp's The American Carousel Organ: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, and Tonawanda and North Tonawanda by Arcadia Publishing are well-known sources also used by the museum. With the strength of the sources used, there is only one blight, and it is a personal one. He does not use any of the resources of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum archive. I do not know why this is the case, but the book is impressive and well researched nonetheless.
Based on the scope, Mark Palkovic has created a wonderful read, rich in historical integrity. He provides an excellent insight into the Wurlitzer family. The photographs of company products enhance the later chapters. The book is the perfect blend of accessibility and historical information. I recommend this book to historians, Wurlitzer fans, or anyone interested in the history of the American music industry.