Wurlitzer, Rudolph, Co.

Rudolph Wurlitzer founded the company in 1856 in Cincinnati, OH, as a musical instrument retailer, selling all types of instruments. The Wurlitzer Co. was the country’s leading distributor of Regina music boxes (1890s), exclusive distributor of J.D. Philipps orchestrions (1903-1914), the country’s largest distributor and then a major manufacturer of coin pianos, orchestrions, and photoplayers (late 1890s-late 1920s), band organs (late 1890s-1930s), and theatre organs (late ‘teens-1929). The manufacturing division in North Tonawanda, NY, was called the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Co. In the 1920s, Wurlitzer’s coin piano and orchestrion sales were overtaken by the J.P. Seeburg Piano Co. In the 1940s, Wurlitzer took the lead with its colorful new jukeboxes, to be overtaken by Seeburg again in the 1950s. After WWII, Wurlitzer was also a leading producer of hand-played pianos (mainly for the home market), electronic pianos, modern spinet player pianos and organs. Piano and electronic keyboard production was sold to the Baldwin Piano and Organ Co. in 1988. At the time of this printing, a Wurlitzer factory in Germany continues to build adaptations of the famous 1946 jukebox, the Model 1015. The current version plays audio CDs.