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Letter: Wurlitzer bought out DeKleist Organ Works

Wurlitzer bought out DeKleist Organ Works

In the very informative Feb. 8 News article, “Born in Buffalo,” we were pleased to see Wurlitzer jukeboxes included, including the caveat that “Wurlitzer did not invent jukeboxes, it made lots of them in North Tonawanda.”

Although the Wurlitzer Co. in fact was founded as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. in 1853 in Ohio, it did not, as the author wrote, move to North Tonawanda, where it made the ornate and brightly lit machines. Rudolph Wurlitzer bought out the DeKleist Organ Works in 1908 in North Tonawanda and operated the plant, as he did several others around the country, as a separate manufacturing operation.

Our North Tonawanda Wurlitzer Co. plant was the largest musical instrument manufacturing plant in the world during its heyday. Wurlitzer sent his three sons to operate the North Tonawanda plant, with Farny R. Wurlitzer having been in charge for decades and having made enormous contributions to the community in which it operated. The building and former manufacturing complex remain, although in reuse as a business park.

We invite those who are interested in the history of this wonderful operation and the family that created it to visit the North Tonawanda History Museum’s Wurlitzer Exhibit Hall and to read about it in our two books. As the great-great-grandson of Rudolph Wurlitzer told us during one of his early visits to our History Museum, “the North Tonawanda History Museum is the only museum in the world gathering, preserving and presenting the history of his family and their musical instrument production.”

Donna Zellner Neal

Executive Director

North Tonawanda History Museum