Wurlitzer pianos were first produced in the 1880s but the organs were the top product until the 1940s.
In American band stand culture, a Wurlitzer was a jukebox or a coin-operated electric or mechanical piano. In big and majestic music halls of the early 20th century, a Mighty Wurlitzer was a 4-tier pipe organ that served as a one-man orchestra.
Wurlitzer started to manufacture spinets in the 1930s and took the American piano market by storm. Wurlitzer spinet piano came in well-made, sturdy, nice-sounding board and were very affordable. Thus, the name Wurlitzer for musical instruments became an American household name.
Franz Rudolf Wurlitzer founded the company in 1856 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company started out as a retail store for imported musical instruments. The company first produced violins and other stringed instruments, woodwind and brass in 1861. Later the company branched out into the production of harps, jukeboxes, pianos and organs.
Wurlitzer grand pianos manufactured in the 20th century were considered by serious musicians as merely “practice” grands. These pianos are not in league with a Steinway or Chickering or a Mason and Hamlin back in the day. The driving idea behind a Wurlitzer is for it to grace every living room in good old North America. Though professional musicians and advance piano students prefer to perform on higher quality pianos, they were most likely to practice on a Wurlitzer.
The company closed shop sometime in 1990s. Baldwin bought the company sometime in 1995 and proceeded to use the brand name Wurlitzer in their lower-quality pianos. When Gibson Guitar Company bought Baldwin Piano and Organ Company, the production of the Wurlitzer line of pianos was finally halted in 2008.
Wurlitzer made some innovations in pianos too. The company developed the pentagonal soundboard; the tone-crafted hammers and the augmented soundboard for a richer resonant tone.
Each Wurlitzer piano has the calibrated element feature which is actually an expansion of the lower end of the treble bridge so that it could sound-off as many notes possible near the soundboard's center.
Wurlitzer claims that the tone produced by their pianos is outstanding. The clarity and bell-like quality of the middle and treble registers are completely compatible with the sonorous and booming bass. The piano voice “sings”.
The Wurlitzer came out with a scratch, heat, cold and moisture-resistant case finishing called “wurl-on”. It is also resistant to abrasion making the finishing an attractive feature because of its durability. Note that pianos under the Wurlitzer brand have no intricate designs in their casings.
It is quite a task to put out a list of all upright pianos made by Wurlitzer. The brand has an identification number since 1901 up to 1992 though the company started to produce pianos way back in the 1880s.
Here is a complete list of antique Wurlitzer piano models made in the 1930s (which were brand new then!)
How to Tune Wurlitzer Studio Piano Video Instruction
The Wurlitzer Butterfly Grand has 73 notes and is a traditional grand except for the “butterfly” wings instead of the usual grand piano style. This line of baby grand is truly a collector's item as it was manufactured during the Art Deco era in the United States.
A 1939 3'6” used Wurlitzer piano value is $15,000, the price is for a fully restored and refurbished collection item.
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