Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer established the Wurlitzer Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1856, selling band instruments to the military. The company rapidly expanded, and within a century manufactured pianos, harps, pipe organs (most famously the Mighty Wurlitzer), jukeboxes, and electronic organs and pianos. Wurlitzer moved its corporate headquarters from Cincinnati to Chicago, and launched additional divisions in North Tonawanda, New York, and DeKalb, Illinois.
When the company began to manufacture electric pianos in the early 1950s, its existing facilities could not accommodate the entire task. When Wurlitzer leaders searched for suitable manufacturing locations, Corinth, Mississippi, caught their eye. The company took advantage of the state’s Balance Agriculture with Industry (BAWI) program, which lured businesses by offering incentives to locate in Mississippi. Corinth had other advantages as well, among them abundant natural resources, inexpensive rail rates, and cheap electricity. On 10 May 1956 Wurlitzer celebrated a century of business with the grand opening of its Corinth plant. “Wurlitzer Day” in Corinth featured a parade, speeches by company officials and political leaders, plant tours and an open house, a barbecue, and musical entertainment.
The Corinth plant manufactured component parts for electronic pianos and assembled electronic pianos and organs. Corinth operations later expanded to include factories in Holly Springs and Rienzi, about ten miles south of Corinth, where printed circuit boards were produced.
As technology changed, however, Wurlitzer struggled to keep up, and the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company purchased the company in 1986. The following year production ended in Corinth and all operations were transferred to the Holly Springs factory, which had made piano actions, wooden parts for grandfather clock kits, and wooden cabinets for the pianos made in Corinth. The Holly Springs factory closed in 1989. The Gibson Guitar Corporation purchased Baldwin’s assets in 2001 and Wurlitzer’s German operations five years later. It continues to make jukeboxes in Germany under the Wurlitzer name.
- Ed Gaida, Mechanical Music Digest (March 1998)
- “Gibson Acquires Deutsche Wurlitzer,” Music Trades (2006)
- Gibson Guitar website, www.gibson.com
- Wurlitzer Company, Wurlitzer World of Music, 1856–1956 (1956)