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.
From Cincy to the Home of the Carrousel: A Brief History of the Beginnings of The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company to the Acquisition of the North Tonawanda Division.
By: Ian K. Seppala
The Wurlitzer Company was the premier amusement musical company in the 20th century. Everyone has heard beautiful sounds coming from a Wurlitzer player piano, automatic player piano, band organ, Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ, jukebox, or electric piano. The company eventually had manufacturing plants in Illinois, Mississippi, Utah, and New York. The history of the plant in North Tonawanda, New York is collected and on display at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. This article is meant to explain the history of the Wurlitzer company Pre-North Tonawanda and how an immigrant from Schoeneck (now in Germany) created one of the great American musical powerhouse companies of the 20th century.
Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer was born in Schoeneck in 1831. Even though his first name was Franz, he would go by Rudolph for the rest of his life. He emigrated to the United States and settled in Cincinnati Ohio. There was a large Germanic population there, where he probably had a connection. He originally took any regular jobs available, including working as a bank teller.
Rudolph Wurlitzer began his foray into the music industry in 1856 as an importer. With the help of his family back in his homeland, he would import band instruments to the United States for sale. These handcrafted instruments could be sold for a good profit in the States.
Rudolph Wurlitzer had three sons: Howard, Rudolph, and Farny. Each son joined him at the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company and took turns being the president. They also all took turns as the chairman of the board consecutively. Family involvement in the company's hierarchy ended in 1966.
The Rudolph Company expanded their offerings by contracting with American musical instrument companies. One of these companies was DeKleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company. The company was based in North Tonawanda, New York and operated by Eugene DeKleist. DeKleist was a popular figure in the region and was even elected mayor in the early 1900's.
According to oral history collected by the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, DeKleist began to neglect his company to focus on political endeavors. In 1908 eldest son Howard Wurlitzer came to North Tonawanda to speak to DeKleist. Oral histories dictate that they gave DeKleist an ultimatum, either fulfill the contracts made with the Wurlitzer Company, or sell his own. In January 1909 the Rudolph Wurlitzer (Mfg.)Company was established after their purchase of the DeKleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company.
The Wurlitzer Company (N.T. Division) would produce some of the companies most famous products, such as band organs and jukeboxes. At its height, the N.T. division employed over 2,000 people. The collection of buildings that makes up the Wurlitzer company N.T. Division Campus still stands today. Its history can be found at the nearby Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
Sources for this article today are from The Archives at The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. Listed below are other recommended readings or sources on the Wurlitzer Company:
Wurlitzer Company Records at the Regional History Center, Northern Illinois University.
The American Carousel Organ: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. By: Ron Bopp
Wurlitzer of Cincinnati: The Name That Means Music To Millions. By: Mark Palkovic
 The Wurlitzer Company went through many name changes including: The Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., The Rudolph Wurlitzer MFG. Co. and then finally The Wurlitzer Company. For continuity, the company will be referred to its final name (The Wurlitzer Company) . The exception is where name change is noted.
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By: Ian K. Seppala
The carousel is one of the most recognizable amusement rides. Carrousel's feature in carnivals, amusement parks, and public places throughout the world. Caroussel's come in various sizes and shapes. A variety of materials are also used to make carousells.
Notice anything in the statement paragraph above? The spelling of the word carousel is as diverse as the attraction. All of the above spellings were at one point used by the American Amusement Industry to promote the carousel. Currently in the United States, Merry-Go-Round is the most popular term. This post provides a brief history of the term carousel, and why is has so many variations. It primarily focuses on the American Amusement industry based on author's expertise. All sources are in English and will be provided using endnotes.
As the Education Director of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum I experience the variety of spellings for carousel on a daily basis. When providing our website address over the phone, I must interject with "We spell it with two r's" or they will not get the correct page. Visitors on tours continuously ask about the variation as well. Even though there is a shortened answer, I wanted to provide a longer, but still brief, professional explanation on the matter.
Current English language dictionaries prefer the spelling carousel. However it appears the term merry-go-round is the currently more popular term for the amusement ride. According to dictionary.com, the first definition of a carousel is to see merry-go-round. The second definition is "A continuously revolving belt, track or other device. . ." Famous dictionary company, Merriam-Webster defines carousel as "1. a tournament or exhibition in which horsemen execute revolutions" or "2. a. merry-go-round". It also provides a single variant spelling: carrousel. Merriam-Webster succinctly defines a merry-go-round as "an amusement park ride with seats often in the form of animals (such as horses) revolving about a fixed center". This is the amusement ride we are discussing today.
The ride has gone through a variety of spellings and name changes through history. According to author Tobin Fraley, "The origin of the word itself can be traced to the Arabian games of horsemanship called carosellos, an Italian word meaning little wars" An important innovation in the history of carousels is the introduction of steam power by Englishman Fredrick Savage. In 1870, he calls his new creation roundabouts. Other English companies called their machines Dobbies or Gallopers.
When the carousel came to America it went through a few changes. American carousels rotate in the opposite direction of their British cousins, and new names are adopted. Listed below are some of the North Tonawanda Companies' Competitors and the names of their machines.
In 1867 Gustav Dentzel "renamed his cabinet shop the 'G.A. Dentzel, Steam and Horsepower Caroussell Builder'".
Charles Dare's Company is known as the New York Carousel Manufacturing Company.
In 1907 Stein and Goldstein Artistic Caroussel Manufacturers is formed.
In 1909 M.C. Illions formed M.C. Illions and Sons Carousell works.
Even among the North Tonawanda companies there is differences in naming. The Armitage-Herschell Company began by calling their machines Steam Riding Galleries. Even though these machines mechanically functioned uniquely to today's carousels, they are a precursor and therefore relevant to the argument. Once the above cranking mechanisms were adopted, the companies began to use the carousel moniker.
The Allan Herschell Company records from the Swinson Collection within the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum Archive show an interesting if not disjointed history with the name of their principal attraction. A 1928 catalog states "No park or amusement resort is complete without a modern Jumping Horse Carrousel" However, a Manual & Guide from October 4th, 1948 describes the same machines as Merry-Go Rounds. The available price lists, from 1948-1969 refer to the machines as carrousels. These price lists would be sent to trade-shows, salesmen, and returning or inquiring customers. A final catalog (circa 1947) refers to the machines as Merry-Go-Rounds.
In conclusion, the words Merry-Go Round and Carousel (in all its spellings) were used to refer to the same amusement ride throughout its history. Each company had its own preferred spelling or term. In some cases, like the Allan Herschell Company, they seemed to use both terms at points in their history. While the reasons behind the preferences are generally lost, it does provide a helpful fact for historians. What a machine is called can provide helpful clues in determining a carousel's manufacturer. So be proud of your preferred term should, be it one r, or two.
 Fraley, Tobin, Carol Bialkowski. The Myth, the Magic, and the Memories. Pg. 7.
 Fraley, Pg. 8.
 Anderson, Sherrell S., Carousel Horses: A Photographic Celebration. Pg 16.
 Fraley, Pg. 11.
 Fraley, Pg. 13.
 Fraley, Pg. 23.
 Fraley, Pg. 21.
 1928 Allan Herschell Co. inc Catalog. Box 2/2.5, AC1 Allan Herschell Company Records, Swinson Collection 1925-1984, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
 Manual & Guide October 4th, 1948. Box 2/2.4, AC1 Allan Herschell Company Records, Swinson Collection 1925-1984, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
 Various Price Lists, Box 2/2.12 Box AC1 Allan Herschell Company Records, Swinson Collection 1925-1984, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
 Circa 1947 Allan Herschell Co. inc Catalog Box 2/2.5, AC1 Allan Herschell Company Records, Swinson Collection 1925-1984, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.
The 2020 season will feature a revamped museum gift shop. From the new color scheme to the changed floor plan, the gift shop has items for all your carousel needs. The shop in 2020 will have newly designed items, including shirts and mugs, along with your classic favorites! Be sure to visit the new-look gift shop this season in person or online.
The Education Department is proudly announcing the introduction of STEM Stops into the museum’s exhibits this year! STEM Stops are family friendly, interactive panels that place our historical objects into their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math contexts. Stops include learning how the carousel moves!
Other projects completed include an updated Exhibit on Spillman Engineering Engines, and the display of a 1940’s Dodgem car graciously donated by Pat McCarty and family.
I want to personally thank our donors, members, visitors, and volunteers for welcoming me into my first full year in the Executive Director position with open arms. Your support means the world to me, and I am humbled to lead such an incredible organization. We had an action-packed 2019, and with your support we were able to accomplish many projects: our friends at Valu Home Center helped to give our Paint Room exhibit a fresh new look; we hosted 5 free admission days over the summer due to generous sponsorship donations from Pioneer Printers, Niagara Regional FCU, Thomas Turtle, Ross Service, Aquasol, and our city of North Tonawanda officials; over 35 tour groups visited the museum this year including, the American Theater Organ Society who brought over 200 theater organ enthusiasts to our site; and we launched Hops for Herschell, a new fundraising event at Flying Bison Brewery. What a fun, productive year.
I truly believe none of our accomplishments would have been possible without our volunteers. Their generosity overwhelms me, and I am very grateful to have such a supportive group of people behind me. One of my highlights of 2019 was getting to have one-on-one conversations with many of our volunteers, and learning what inspired them to be a volunteer at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. My door is always open to volunteers and their ideas. Please stop in and say, “hi!"
We have a lot of exciting projects scheduled for 2020. You’ll notice we have a new logo featured in this issue of The Carrousel Courier. This will be the museum’s new look moving forward, and you’ll see it on some of our gift shop merchandise this year. Speaking of the gift shop, our big winter project has been remodeling the space. Make sure to stop in and check out some of the new products when we open.
President of the Board of Trustees Address By: Rae Proefrock 2019 was a year of continued growth for the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. It was the first full year under the direction of Executive Director Megan Hahin. All of the museum’s staff brought new ideas and enthusiasm to their positions, for which we on the Board of Trustees are appreciative.
The board also appreciates our many volunteers and members who support the museum in numerous ways. Whether you give your time or support through funding, it keeps the museum operating and allows us to share our exclusive history with nearly 20,000 visitors each year.
In 2020 we look forward to more growth in our educational programs for children and adults. We also eagerly provide new offerings to our members and visitors. The board has great hope that all funding will be in place to construct a new exhibit hall, which will house and interpret our growing music collection. Our collection includes various band organs and Wurlitzer and B.A.B. perforators that produce music rolls for band organs and automatic player pianos.
If you have ever considered volunteering, your help would be a blessing to the museum, so please apply to become one of our museum family. You can also help by being an advocate for the museum with family and friends. Word of mouth is the best advertisement.
Hoping to see you at the museum this season which opens April 1st. Once again there is a full schedule of family and adult events, so check our [events page]. Even better, follow us on Facebook at /HerschellMuseum for up to date notices.
This month’s volunteer is Brant Estrada! Brant is a sophomore in an area high school. He began volunteering here because of his passion for band organs and player pianos.
Brant visited the museum multiple times with his mom and grandmother. After his birthday in the fall of 2019, Brant began volunteering at the museum.
Brant’s role at the museum is Education Assistant in the Music Department. He maintains the museum’s 1922 Wurlitzer Player piano and regularly performs demonstrations for guests. He also restores player piano rolls in the museum collection. He has repaired over 50 rolls so far to be used by visitors.
Brant’s favorite things about the museum are the Artizan-D Band Organ and the Buffalo Heritage Carousel’s Wurlitzer 153 Band Organ (currently on loan to HCFM and displayed in the museum). Brant hopes to one day own a Wurlitzer Band Organ.
Great job Brant and keep up the good work!