The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to as simply Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati in 1853 by German immigrant (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company initially imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany for resale in the United States. Wurlitzer enjoyed initial success, largely due to defense contracts to provide musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880, the company began manufacturing pianos and eventually relocated to North Tonawanda, New York. It quickly expanded to make band organs, orchestrions, player pianos and pipe or theatre organs popular in theatres during the days of silent movies.
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|Founder||Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer|
|Parent||Baldwin Piano Company|
Wurlitzer is most known for their production of entry level pianos. During the 1960s, they manufactured Spinet, Console, Studio and Grand Pianos. Over time, Wurlitzer acquired a number of other companies which made a variety of loosely related products, including kitchen appliances, carnival rides, player piano rolls and radios. Wurlitzer also operated a chain of retail stores where the company's products were sold.
As technology evolved, Wurlitzer began producing electric pianos, electronic organs and jukeboxes, and it eventually became known more for jukeboxes and vending machines, which are still made by Wurlitzer, rather than for actual musical instruments.
Wurlitzer's jukebox operations were sold and moved to Germany in 1973. The Wurlitzer piano and organ brands and U.S. manufacturing facilities were acquired by the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. (commonly called the Baldwin Piano Company) in 1988, and most piano manufacturing moved overseas. The Baldwin Co., including its Wurlitzer assets, was subsequently acquired by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in about 1996. Ten years later, Gibson acquired Deutsche Wurlitzer and the Wurlitzer Jukebox and Vending Electronics trademarks, briefly bringing Wurlitzer's best-known products back together under a single corporate banner in 2006. Baldwin ceased making Wurlitzer-brand pianos in 2009. Vending machines are still manufactured in Germany using the Wurlitzer name under Gibson ownership. The company ceased manufacturing jukeboxes in 2013, but still sells replacement parts.
The Rembert Wurlitzer Co., Wurlitzer's rare and historic stringed instrument department, was independently directed by Rudolph Wurlitzer's grandson, Rembert Wurlitzer (1904–1963), from 1948 until his death in 1963. Rembert's shop on 42nd Street in New York City was a leading international center for rare and historic string instruments.