The Wurlitzer Family Grave Sites

in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Consider this page to be a work in progress. What began as a simple little page has grown in scope beyond anything originally planned. In order to improve the accuracy and content of this page we welcome any corrections and additional information. Please direct any comments to for timely consideration.

Introduction (by Terry Hathaway)

One afternoon in early August of 2012 I received a telephone call from Don Rand, an old friend and an enthusiastic collector of automatic musical instruments, as well as someone having re-cut many varieties of music rolls. In the course of our conversation the topic of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company came up. Over his long and many years of collecting Don has owned a couple of the original Wurlitzer music roll perforators, as well as various Wurlitzer band organs and coin pianos. Eventually he mentioned that he had pictures of the Wurlitzer family graves, and if I wanted copies he would be glad to send them to me, along with a lot of other pictures and music roll ephemera that he thought I might find useful. So one day a few weeks later a package arrived in the mail, and now I had a bunch of pictures and Link music roll program cards that I felt somewhat obligated to use. For the Wurlitzer grave photographs I decided to make up a very simple page; nothing elaborate. However, rather than this project devolving into some sort of macabre fascination it was the story that the gravestone markings and their relative location told that sparked my interest. It seemed clearly evident that some sort of discord may have existed within the Wurlitzer family. My interest now sparked, one thing led to another and I soon found myself researching the Wurlitzer family much more deeply than I had planned or imagined I would ever consider doing. I began to get a feel for these people, and found myself wishing that I was able to meet many of them, so that I could feel, understand, and better appreciate their point of view and the problems that confronted them. They were becoming real people to me, as opposed to some abstract historical figures we read about but that are nonetheless lost to the dustbin of a long ago yesteryear. It did not take long to confirm that the Wurlitzer siblings and their families all tended to be people of accomplishment, worthy of respect in their own right, albeit some more or less scattered and distant from the Wurlitzer music empire.

The grave-site evidence suggesting some type of discord reawakened some old memories I had from the days of Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., dating from the late 1960s. My friend and business partner, Dave Bowers, mentioned to me more than once that Farny Wurlitzer had instructed his secretary, Alice Matthies, to destroy all of his personal files when he died. Over the years there were other clues uncovered that suggested that there had been some dissension and perhaps ill feelings within the Wurlitzer household, and so, besides the natural confidentiality of personal finances, charitable giving, favoritism towards some relatives, etc., it was easy to speculate that there were probably some unhappy Wurlitzer family secrets safely tucked away in Farny's file drawers, and that he did not want those painful memories to be publicly revealed. Exactly what the family secrets might have been will remain just that—secret. However, one thing that was more or less commonly rumored was that Howard Wurlitzer, the oldest of Rudolph Wurlitzer's three sons, could be a difficult person and was not well liked by employees within the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, and possibly by some of the Wurlitzer family, too. That some sort of estrangement between Howard Wurlitzer versus the rest of the Rudolph Wurlitzer family did actually exist seems to be borne out (but not necessarily so) by the grave site evidence and story that unfolds below.

The Story Begins

xxIn the words of collector Tracy Newman, "Several years ago Don Rand asked me how far Cincinnati, Ohio, was from my home. I told him about 80 miles to downtown. He then asked me if I had heard of a cemetery called Spring Grove, to which I replied that I had heard of it, but had never been to it. I mentioned that I had an aunt who lived at the north edge of Cincinnati. I found that the cemetery had a grave index on their website and it told where in the cemetery to find a specific grave. I called Don Rand and told him what I had found and that my aunt knew exactly how to get to the cemetery.

"It was late in August and a bright clear day when I and my parents went to visit my aunt. We all went to find the Wurlitzer graves. The first group where Rudolph and Farny Wurlitzer are buried was on a hillside. There is a stone bench with the Wurlitzer name on it and all the graves are around the bench. I thought that as famous as the Wurlitzer name is that there would be some large monument. Then after some consideration I thought that the bench monument was quite appropriate. I thought piano or organ bench!

"Howard Wurlitzer and immediate family are in a completely different section of the cemetery. My parents, aunt, and I looked all over that section and could not find them. Then my aunt called out, `We found it!' My father had found the graves under a piece of what looked like a section of wood fencing that would be used along a country road in the winter to prevent snow drifting across it. There was a kind of ivy all grown through the fencing and that was quite established in its growth. We pulled it back and I took photographs of the graves. Afterwards we carefully put the cover back in place. There were a couple of grave stones in Farny Wurlitzer's area of people named Stites. They had birth dates in the 1920s but no death dates. My aunt gave me an outdated Cincinnati phone book from the year prior to keep. I looked in it and found one of the Stites names that could be a match, which I sent to Don Rand, but I don't know if he ever tried to contact the person.

"Three years ago my aunt took me to a music hall in downtown Cincinnati to hear a large Wurlitzer theater organ that was once in the Albee Theatre in Cincinnati. It had been restored to its former glory and was just outstanding to hear it. The leader of the ceremony told us that they were doing a private concert for the remaining members of the Wurlitzer family who still lived in the area. They did not tell us who they were, so I wonder if it could have been any of the Stites people. I really enjoyed the `hunt' Don sent me on."

Tracy Newman

The Wurlitzer Family Gravesites

Stone bench engraved with the Wurlitzer name and overlooking the Wurlitzer family gravesites.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Wurlitzer stone bench overlooking the Wurlitzer family grave-sites. To its right is a standing headstone inscribed, "Our Percy," an 8-month old infant son of Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer.

Located in the beautiful old Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio, are the Rudolph Wurlitzer family grave sites, most of which are picturesquely situated on a gentle knoll and overlooked by a stately stone bench that is prominently inscribed with the Wurlitzer name. Near the Wurlitzer bench is the only upright headstone attributed to the Wurlitzer family. It bears the inscription, "Our Percy, " who was an 8-month old infant at the time of his death. All the other Wurlitzer family graves are marked with a simple, flat, standard rectangular gravestone marker. There is nothing in particular that distinguishes one stone from another, other than the personal inscription.

It is generally recognized that Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer (married on (September 19, 1868) gave birth to three sons, Howard Eugene, Rudolph Henry, and Farny Reginald Wurlitzer. The three brothers were well known due to their association with the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. But Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer actually gave birth to six children:

Further substantiating that there were two daughters, in a 1931 death notice for Leonie Wurlitzer there is a references to two daughters, Mrs. Carl Eilers [Leonie Jeanette Wurlitzer Eilers] and Mrs. George Farny [i.e., Sylvia Wurlitzer Weinberg/Farny]. Confusingly, in the 1928 death notice for Howard Wurlitzer there is a reference to only one sister. In The Music Trade Review of November 3, 1928, is this headline: Howard E. Wurlitzer Dies Suddenly in New York. The sub heading reads: Former Head of Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. Succumbs to Attack of Influenza While on Visit to Metropolis--Was Fifty-seven Year Old. The article continues: "Howard E. Wurlitzer, of Cincinnati, former president of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. and chairman of the board of that company until his retirement this Spring, died at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, New York, on Monday of this week of influenza, after an illness of several days. Mr. Wurlitzer came to New York to attend the celebration of the eighty-fifth birthday of his mother, Mrs. Leonie F. Wurlitzer. The deceased, who was fifty-seven years old, is survived by his mother, his widow, a daughter, a son, Raimund Wurlitzer, Mrs. Mary Thoman [Editor's note: Valeska Wurlitzer, Howard's daughter, was married August 28, 1924, to Mr. Henry A. Thoman], a sister [Editor's note: only one sister is acknowledged, but Howard had two sisters, Leonie and Sylvia], and two brothers, Farny and Rudolph Wurlitzer, both connected actively with the music business. The body was taken to Mr. Wurlitzer's home in Cincinnati, where funeral services were held on Friday of this week."

The out-of-town daughters (or their families) of Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer are not buried in the Cincinnati Wurlitzer family burial plot. However, the Wurlitzer family lot #24 also includes graves for Elise Richard (1863-1955) (the second oldest sister of Marie Richard Wurlitzer, Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer's wife) and several Stites family members. Janet (Wurlitzer) Stites was the daughter of Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer, who was the second son of Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer, (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer being the founder of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company—although Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer was his full legal name, his chosen appellation was simply Rudolph Wurlitzer, Franz being dropped altogether. Buried alongside Janet Wurlitzer Stites is her husband, Luke Sells Stites, and her son, Peter Wurlitzer Stites, who died Oct. 16, 2013. Peter Stites wife, Edna Ingles Stites, is alive and well as of August 2014, and graciously contacted this author to correct earlier speculation as to who was resting alongside the Luke Stites gravestone. Thus it seems clear that the Wurlitzer family was not adverse to including as least some respected in-laws in the family burial site. But what was surprising to discover is that Rudolph Wurlitzer's first son, along with his immediate family, are buried elsewhere in another part of the cemetery and in addition they are hidden away under a low wooden trellis and canopy of vines. There, secluded under some beautiful old trees and purposely made inconspicuous, is the grave of Howard E. Wurlitzer, flanked to its left by his wife's grave, Helene, and to the right by the grave of his unmarried daughter, Luise. These three separate Wurlitzer graves appear to have been intentionally concealed so as to make them difficult to find, but for some as yet mysterious reason.

Rudolph and Leonie Farny Wurlitzer

The Cincinnati, Ohio, Rudolph Wurlitzer Company headquarters office and showrooms building (with inset of Chicago branch).It is probably safe to say that anyone who is familiar with and/or collects any kind of self-playing automatic musical instrument knows the name Wurlitzer, whether they have any real knowledge of the man, (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer, or not. It is said that when Rudolph was but 22 years old he boarded the sailing ship Adolphine, in Bremen, Germany, arriving in New York on June 17, 1853, without any knowledge of the English language and with barely a penny to his name. For someone to leave behind their well established family home and head out into an unknown and unfamiliar continent required some real motivation and zeal; travel in those days was generally neither easy or comfortable and oftentimes unsafe. Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer had worked diligently to please his parents by completing his expected education, and apparently was so disappointed when his father, Christian Gottfried Wurlitzer announced his intention of leaving his business to his youngest son, Constantin, instead of his eldest son, Franz Rudolph, that he left home for America and whatever opportunity it might provide. His first paying job was in Hoboken, New Jersey, working for a grocer. Within a few months time he moved on, making his way to the large German settlement in Cincinnati, Ohio, where, due to his innate entrepreneurial skills, by 1856 he had founded the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, which during its first fifty years grew into a leading wholesaler, distributor, and retailer of "all things musical." The company inventory included band instruments, drums, bugles, woodwinds, violins, sound effect devices, supplies, and various kinds of music boxes. In 1872 Rudolph Wurlitzer’s brother, Franz Anton Wurlitzer, joined the growing enterprise as a partner, whereupon the company was then called Rudolph Wurlitzer and Brother. Then in 1890 the company was incorporated as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, with an initial capitalization of $200,000. Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer became President of the newly incorporated Rudolph Wurlitzer Company on March 29, 1890, and then Chairman of the Board on July 23, 1912, at which time his eldest son, Howard, became President of the Company.

An early Rudolph Wurlitzer Company logo.The Cincinnati, Ohio, headquarters office and showrooms were central to the expanding Wurlitzer network of branch facilities, until January of 1909, when manufacturing suddenly became a prominent daily part of the Company activities, gradually shifting some of the attention away from Cincinnati toward North Tonawanda, New York. The de Kleist Musical Instrument Works manufacturing operation in North Tonawanda was officially taken over by Wurlitzer in January of 1909. Then, with the old de Kleist facility acting as a nucleus, a new and extensive manufacturing plant was built around it, so that by 1912 Wurlitzer was ready to greatly expand its automatic musical instrument lineup. This sprawling factory complex was again expanded in the early 1920s, a change that included the construction of the now famous Wurlitzer tower and beautiful formal gardens that graced the main entry doors to the factory. It was during the manufacturing era, first as the sole distributor for the de Kleist Musical Instrument Works and then thereafter through the Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company, that Wurlitzer enjoyed its heyday in the coin operated piano, orchestrion, photoplayer, and theater organ era. During this time the Wurlitzer company became industry leaders in both the manufacturing and sales of automatic musical instruments, and later yet the famous and also very collectible Wurlitzer Automatic Phonograph, alternately known as a juke box.

Rudolph Wurlitzer family, circa 1908.The founder of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer, passed away January 14, 1914. Some seventeen years later this article appeared in the Presto-Times, January 1931 edition: "Mrs. Leonie Wurlitzer, 88 years old, widow of Rudolph Wurlitzer, founder of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., died at her home in Cincinnati on New Year's Day of a heart attack. Until recently she was in the best of health and had taken part in various Christmas festivities at her home. She was born in Ribeauville, France, October 22, 1842, and came to America in 1853 with her father, Charles Farny, an architect [Editor's addition: and her mother, Jeannette, her three brothers, and her mother's sister. After recovering from the death of Charles' and Jeannette's twenty-two months old son, who died two days after their October 25, 1853, disembarkation, the Farny family hastened by train and oxcart to the wilderness of Pennsylvania near Warren, where Charles would be a partner in his brother-in-law's lumbering and sawmill business. This association lasted about six years, when the family relocated to Cincinnati on a raft in 1859.] Leonie was married to Rudolph Wurlitzer in 1868, and for many years lived opposite the Woodward High School in the old Woodward homestead in that city, now owned by the Junior League and operated as a nursery. For the last thirty years she had lived in the Auburndale Apartments. She is survived by two sons, Rudolph H., president of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Co., and Farny Wurlitzer, of Buffalo; two daughters, Mrs. Carl Eilers and Mrs. George Farny, both of New York, and a sister, Mrs. Marguerite Strobel."

Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer; 1831 - 1914

Place of Nativity: Schöneck, Saxony, Germany.

Late Residence:  Auburndale Apts. Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death:  Auburndale Apts. Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Date of Birth: February 1, 1831.

Date of Decease: January 14, 1914.

Date of Interment: January 17, 1914 - 2:30 PM.

Disease: Arterio Sclerosis.

Parent’s Name: Christian and Martha Wurlitzer.

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: Steel Vault.- 7’2” x 33¼”

Gravestone for (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer, founder of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer
Jan. 30, 1831 - Jan 14, 1914

Notice that the gravestone birth date does not
coincide with the cemetery record shown at left.

Leonie Farny Wurlitzer; 1842 - 1931 (ashes)

Place of Nativity: Ribeauville, France.

Late Residence: Auburndale Apts. Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death: Residence.

Date of Birth: October 22, 1842.

Date of Decease: January 1, 1931.

Date of Interment: January 5, 1931 - 11 AM.

Disease: Acute indigestion

Parent’s Name: Charles Farny and Jeanette Weygant

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete box 12” sq.

Ordered by Rudolph Wurlitzer.

Widowed Wife of Rudolph Wurlitzer, Sr.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Wife.

Gravestone for Leonie Farny Wurlitzer, wife of Rudolph Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Leonie Farny Wurlitzer
(wife of Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer)
Oct. 22, 1842 - Jan 1, 1931

Son - Howard Eugene Wurlitzer and Family

Portrait of Howard EugeneWurlitzer circa 1920s.

(Courtesy of Rawleigh)

Howard E. Wurlitzer,
circa 1920s.

Howard Wurlitzer seems to be the person responsible for getting the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company into the coin operated piano and orchestrion business, and it was during the time of his leadership that the Wurlitzer Company excelled and prospered during the height of popularity for all kinds of automatic musical instruments, ranging from the relatively simple Tonophone barrel piano to the large piano orchestrions, and finally the mighty Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orchestras (theater organs). Howard was first employed full time by the partnership of Rudolph Wurlitzer and Brother (the brother was Franz Anton Wurlitzer) in 1889. He was not permitted to finish high school, and instead had to enter into the music business with his father when he was thought old enough to accept the responsibilities required of anyone learning the music trade from the ground up. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the newly incorporated Rudolph Wurlitzer Company on March 29, 1890, and became Vice President of the Company on April 25, 1898. On July 23, 1912 he was elected President of the Company, and held that esteemed position until he became Chairman of the Board on July 11, 1927. Notwithstanding Howard's lack of a completed formal education, he excelled in managing and growing the House of Wurlitzer, and was a strong guiding presence that helped propel the company's rise to its preeminent position during his 38-year long tenure. But his long-lasting leadership success and influence was to come to an unexpected and rather abrupt end.

From The Music Trade Review of May 12, 1928, is the headline: Arrange to Purchase H. E. Wurlitzer Interests. Rudolph H. and Farny R. Wurlitzer to Take Over Interests of Howard E. Wurlitzer and Family in the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co.

"CINCINNATI, O., May 7.—From the headquarters of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. this week comes the announcement that Rudolph H. Wurlitzer and Farny R. Wurlitzer have arranged to purchase the interests of Howard E. Wurlitzer and his immediate family in the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. Howard E. Wurlitzer is retiring from active participation in the business of the company. There will be no change in the management of the business."

At about this same time in 1928 the stockholder interests of  Howard Wurlitzer's sister, Leonie Jeanette Wurlitzer (and possibly other family stockholders), were bought out by the Wurlitzer company, reportedly as a result of dissension amongst family members. That this buyout seems to correspond time-wise with the abrupt departure of Howard E. Wurlitzer (officially noted as his retirement) is probably no coincidence, and has led some to believe that some entrenched rivalries divided the Wurlitzer family. But it is also possible that Howard, due to a lingering, chronic illness that was apparently initiated in 1914 by an appendices operation and ensuing infection, something not materially alleviated even after voyages to specialists in Germany, had merely decided to let go of his longtime business duties, so as to enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle, whereupon what occurred may have been no more than a sought after and mutually agreeable succession in leadership.

Then in the November 3, 1928, issue of Presto was this headline: "HOWARD WURLITZER DIES IN NEW YORK. Former Chairman of the Board of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company Passes Away at 1 a. m. Tuesday at the Ritz Hotel After One Week's Illness."

"Howard E. Wurlitzer, aged 57 years, former chairman of the Board of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, manufacturers of pianos, harps, organs and coin-operated instruments, died at 1 a. m. Tuesday of this week at the Ritz Hotel, New York, of influenza. Mr. Wurlitzer,. whose home was in Cincinnati, had gone east to visit his mother on her recent birthday, and he was ill only a week. He had had some hemorrhages. The funeral was held at Cincinnati on Friday, and all the Wurlitzer offices in the various cities were closed on that day.

"Mr. Wurlitzer is survived, by Mrs. Helen Billing Wurlitzer, a daughter, Valeska, and a son, Raimund. The retirement of Howard Wurlitzer from the Wurlitzer Company and sale of his interest in the company to his brothers, Rudolph H. Wurlitzer, Jr., president, and Farny H. Wurlitzer, was published in Presto-Times on May 19 this year as an announcement from the home office of the company. It was also announced that Howard's son, Raimund, had retired. For a year preceding his retirement Howard Wurlitzer had been chairman of the board of directors. He succeeded his father, Rudolph Wurlitzer, as president of the company in 1912, but retired early in 1927 because of ill health. The body of Mr. Wurlitzer arrived in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Mr. Wurlitzer left Cincinnati on October 26 to go to Morristown, N.J., to attend the celebration of the birthday of his mother, Mrs. Leonie F, Wurlitzer, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Sylvia, Morristown. After the celebration Mr. Wurlitzer became ill and died two days later."

Howard Wurlitzer and Helene Valeska Billing were married on November 5, 1895, and had three children, Raimund Billing (1896 - 1986), Luise Henriette (1898 - 1924), and Valeska Helene (1900 - 1940). Searching through The Music Trade Review issues suggested that Howard was vigorously involved in various trade organizations, public affairs, and various business and community related activities, as well as being rather outspoken in political matters that affected Ohio and the music industry. He was also widely traveled, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, as an interesting side note, the Howard Wurlitzer family apparently enjoyed some very influential business connections, as this December 25, 1920, article in Presto makes known: "Raimund Wurlitzer Married. A wedding of unusual interest to the music trade will take place Thursday, Dec. 30, when Raimund Wurlitzer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Wurlitzer, of Cincinnati, will be married to Miss Pauline Teckla Pabst, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Pabst, of Milwaukee, at the Pabst country estate, Woodbine, on Oconomowoc Lake, Wis. The ceremony will be read by Judge Burr W. Jones of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. The bride will be attended by Miss Valeska Wurlitzer, sister of the bridegroom, as maid of honor, and by Miss Mary Woodward, of Watertown, Wis., and Miss Emily Brumder, of Milwaukee, as bridesmaids. Mr. Wurlitzer's best man will be Frederick August Pabst, brother of the bride, and the ushers will be Frederick Eilers, of New York, and Vincent O'Shea, of Madison, Wis. Mr. Wurlitzer and his bride will be at home after May 1 on Mitchell Avenue in Cincinnati."

The sudden death of Howard Wurlitzer coupled with the fact that the cemetery lot for Howard and his family was owned by his wife, Helene V. B. (Valeska Billing) Wurlitzer has led some to speculate that Howard's wife had to quickly acquire a plot to inter her recently deceased husband, who, it was assumed, must have been estranged from the rest of the Wurlitzer family. That idea can be swiftly put to rest because the Helene Wurlitzer cemetery plot—Lot 106 of Section 103, which is near her parent's graves in the Billing family cemetery plot, Lot 116 in Section 103—had been purchased early enough for the burial of Howard and Helene's unmarried daughter, Luise, who passed away in 1924. It is said that when Luise was a young girl she was hit in the head by a rock thrown by some boy, and that she never recovered mentally from the trauma—no doubt a factor in her remaining unmarried and dying early at only 26 years of age. Then once the decision was made to have Luise lay in rest in the Billing plot it is logical that her parents followed, laying in perpetuity alongside their fallen daughter. Consequently, the fact that Howard and Helene Wurlitzer are buried separately some distance from the Wurlitzer family plot does not necessarily indicate hostility toward other Wurlitzer family members. But what remains puzzling is why were the graves of Howard, his wife Helene, and their young and unwed daughter, Luise, secluded and essentially hidden away under a wooden trellis overgrown with a vine described as resembling ivy. This and the fact that Howard and his immediate family graves were far removed from the rest of the Wurlitzer family continues to raises questions as to why. It has been said that Howard Wurlitzer was an energetic and aggressive businessman, and in addition rumored that he was disliked by some people within the company, which is fodder for speculation that he might have been at odds with some of the Wurlitzer family, too, but what the rift might have been, or if there was indeed some kind of ongoing estrangement, remains unknown. There were, of course, probably some differences in outlook and rivalries, as with any group, such as, according to information provided by the Wurlitzer family, Howard was more stable in business dealings, Rudolph Henry more likely to take chances, while neither was very happy having the other's son in the business.

According to the book The Lady of the Casa, The Biography of Helene V. B. Wurlitzer, © 1959 by the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Inc., and written by John Skolle (The Rydal Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico) it was Howard Wurlitzer's "indefatigable guidance" after the disastrous 1904 fire, which destroyed the Wurlitzer building in downtown Cincinnati, whereby "temporary offices and showrooms were set in operation within the phenomenally short time of three weeks." Then by 1906 a new building had been completed, which "enabled the company for the first time to house under one roof all of its executive offices, the management of import, wholesale, and retail operations, as well as luxurious display rooms, a player piano library, and sound-proof demonstration rooms. From other remarks made within the book there is no doubt that Howard was devoted to the success of the Wurlitzer Company, and he may have been its main driving force. So who was Howard Wurlitzer? The following excerpts from the book are revealing:

Helene [Howard's wife] was described as "always reserved, almost introverted." Howard is said to also have had the same restraint and quietness of disposition. "Blessed with exceptionally handsome and sensitive features, Howard had an amazing memory, and, although he did not play an instrument, a thorough understanding of music. In his association and dealings with others he was generous, scrupulously fair-minded, straightforward, and somewhat outspoken. Despite his generally quiet nature, he could be emphatic when necessity arose."

Apparently one thing that "rankled" Howard all his life was the fact that, as the oldest son, tradition held that he should have borne his father's name—Rudolph." No one knows why Rudolph Sr., deviated from this old family tradition when he named his first son Howard. Apart from this one expressed irritation, there is nothing in The Lady of the Casa autobiography that suggests any kind of major rift or ongoing ill-will existing within the Wurlitzer family. Moreover, there is an alternative possibility as to why the graves of the Howard Wurlitzer family are apart from the main Wurlitzer family plot. Helene V. B. Wurlitzer spent most of her formative years in the vast frontier of the American Southwest, more or less centered in and around Socorro, New Mexico. Her energetic, entrepreneurial father, Gustav Albert Billing, was instrumental in various mining and smelter operations, some as far away as Leadville, Colorado. After Howard Wurlitzer's unexpected passing Helene's attention was ever more drawn back to the Southwest she loved, and to which she would eventually return, happily living out the remainder of her life in Taos, New Mexico, where she founded the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Given Helene's propensity for solitude and the serenity and vastness of the old Southwest her choice to have grave sites for her family apart from the rest of the Wurlitzer family may be no more than a desire to be laid to rest in what she perceived as a more serene and secluded part of the cemetery—alongside her beloved husband, Howard Wurlitzer, who she suddenly and tragically lost in 1928.

Howard Eugene Wurlitzer; 1871 - 1928 (ashes)

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: 6 Beech Crest Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death: New York City.

Date of Birth: September 5, 1871.

Date of Decease: October 31, 1928.

Date of Interment: November 10, 1928 – 11:30 AM.

Disease: Portal Phlebitis.

Parent’s Name: Rudolph and Leonie Farny Wurlitzer.

Lot Owner: Helene V. B. Wurlitzer; Sec 103, Lot 106.

Type and Size of Grave: in marker foundation.

Ordered by Raimund Wurlitzer (son of Howard Wurlitzer).

Married Husband of Helene Billing.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Husband.

Uncovered gravestone for Howard Eugene Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Howard Eugene Wurlitzer
Sept 5, 1871 - Oct 31, 1928

In this picture the obscuring wooden trellis and
overgrown vines have been moved to one side
so as to expose the otherwise hidden gravestone.

Helene V. B. (Valeska Billing) Wurlitzer; 1875 - 1963 (ashes)

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: Taos, New Mexico.

Place of Death: Taos, New Mexico.

Date of Birth: December 16, 1875.

Date of Decease: December 23, 1963.

Date of Interment: Wednesday, May 6, 1964  A.M.

Parent’s Name: Gustave Billing – Henrietta Schneider.

Lot Owner: Helene V. B. Wurlitzer; Sec 103, Lot 106.

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete Urn 12" x 12"

Permit Obtained by Son, Raimund B. Wurlitzer *

Informant Address: 1050 Vista Road, Burlingame, Calif.

Widowed Wife of Howard E. Wurlitzer.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Owner.

Gravestone for Helena V. B. Wurlitzer, wife of Howard E. Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Helene V. B. Wurlitzer
(wife of Howard Eugene Wurlitzer)
Dec 16, 1875 - Dec 23, 1963

Luise Henriette Wurlitzer; 1898 - 1924

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: #6. Beech Crest Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death: Residence.

Date of Birth: October 20, 1898.

Date of Decease: February 14, 1924.

Date of Interment: April 16, 1924 @ 11 AM.

Disease: Myocarditis.

Parent’s Name: Howard E. and Helene V. B. Wurlitzer.

Lot Owner: Helene V. B. Wurlitzer; Sec 103, Lot 106.

Type and Size of Grave: in foundation.


Relationship to Lot Owner: Daughter.

Gravestone for Luise H. Wurlitzer, daughter of Howard and Helena Wurlitzer..

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Luise H. Wurlitzer
(Daughter of Howard and Helene Wurlitzer)
Oct. 20, 1898 - Feb. 14, 1924

Son - Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer and Family

Portrait of Rudolpoh Henry Wurlitzer in 1935.

(Presto-Times, 1935)

Rudolph H. Wurlitzer,
circa 1935.

Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer is generally not well known amongst automatic musical instrument enthusiasts and collectors today. This is probably due to several factors, the first being that he became president of the company in 1927, after his older brother, Howard E. Wurlitzer, became Chairman of the Board. Thus Rudolph Henry's tenure as a major force behind the Company began at the tail-end of the automatic music era. And secondly because his interest and musical specialty was in finely crafted violins, not automatic music, but with a keen interest in the old violin master makers. He was widely recognized in the U.S. and abroad as a fine connoisseur of old and rare violins. It was the Wurlitzer company’s impressive economic success in the sale of band and regular musical instruments, plus early automatic musical instruments, such as Regina music boxes, that in 1891 made it possible for him to live in Berlin for the study of the violin, music history, acoustics, and violin making, fortuitously through the tutorship of the leading experts of that era. He was the force majeure behind the Wurlitzer Violin Department, and for building a superb collection of rare violins, amongst which were some of the most sought after masterpieces. Additionally Rudolph Henry initiated and then supervised the relationship with Victor Talking Machine Company (phonographs), and he also supervised the regular—non-coin operated—piano sales.

Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer was elected to the Board of Directors for the newly incorporated Rudolph Wurlitzer Company on March 29, 1890. He became Secretary and Treasurer on June 14, 1899, Vice President on July 23, 1912, President on June 11, 1927, and finally Chairman of the Board on July 30, 1932. He retired from the Wurlitzer board of directors on May 14, 1942, and passed away on May 27, 1948. Amongst the many things written about Rudolph H. Wurlitzer, a few days after his passing a Mrs. Arthur R. Morse wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Cincinnati Times Star, June 7, 1948, titled "Rudolph Wurlitzer," In her letter she mentioned that Mr. Wurlitzer was a gregarious man, and that his whole approach to living was that of easing the paths of those about him; and that if an artist (or musician) asked his opinion about their chances of success he would honestly tell them if he thought they should not make a career of it.

Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer and Marie Richard were married on January 31, 1900, with the couple giving birth to five children, Marianne Leonie (1900 - 1969), Janet (1902 - 1992), Rembert Rudolph (1904 - 1963), Natalie (1906 - 2000), and Annette (1912 - 1970). In 1930 Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer’s son, Rembert Rudolph Wurlitzer, joined the Wurlitzer Company. Rembert had also studied extensively in Europe, but left the family firm in 1949, a year after his father, Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer, died, whereupon he carried on his father's interest and tradition in violins but under his own name.

Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer; 1873 - 1948 (ashes)

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: 2147 Madison Road, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death: Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Date of Birth: December 30, 1873.

Date of Decease: May 27, 1948.

Date of Interment: July 1, 1948 – 1:30 PM.

Disease: Carcinoma of lung.

Parent’s Name: Rudolph and Leonie Farny Wurlitzer.

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete box 12" x 12"

Ordered by Mrs. Marianne Wurlitzer Hutton

Married Husband of Marie Richard Wurlitzer.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Son.

Gravestone for Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer
Dec 30, 1873 - May 27, 1948

Marie Richard Wurlitzer; 1873 - 1957

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: 2147 Madison Road.

Place of Death: Residence.

Date of Birth: August 15, 1873.

Date of Decease: September 16, 1957.

Date of Interment: Wednesday, September 18, 1957 2:45 PM.

Disease: Cer. Thrombosis.

Parent’s Name: Clement Richard – Marieanne Ferneding.

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete Vault. 7-9x36.

Widowed Wife of Rudolph H. Wurlitzer.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Daughter in law.

Gravestone for Marie Richard Wurlitzer, wife of Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer.(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Marie Richard Wurlitzer
(wife of Rudolph Henry Wurlitzer)
Aug 15, 1873 - Sept 16, 1957

Janet Wurlitzer Stites; 1902 - 1992

Place of Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio

Place of Death: Cincinnati, Ohio

Date of Birth: July 29, 1902

Date of Death: May 8, 1992

Date of Interment: May 11, 1992

Name of Father: Rudolph H. Wurlitzer

Name of Mother: Marie Richard

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24, #10

Widowed Wife of Luke Sells Stites

Relationship to Lot Owner: Granddaughter

Gravestone for Janet Wurlitzer Stites, daughter of Rudolph Henry and Marie Wurlitzer.(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Janet Wurlitzer Stites
(daughter of Rudolph Henry and Marie Wurlitzer)
July 29, 1902 - May 8, 1992

Son - Percival Wurlitzer

Of the Wurlitzer gravestones only the toddler Percival Wurlitzer, who died at only eight months of age, has a true headstone monument. The picture of the headstone was taken in the shade, and it has heavy black discoloration. The name on it is "Our Percy."  Born November 26, 1877; Died July 25, 1878. This grave is very close to the Wurlitzer stone bench.

Percival Wurlitzer; 1878 - 1878

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place of Death: 60 Franklin Street.

Date of Birth: November 26 1877 (8 months)

Date of Decease: July 25, 1878.

Date of Interment: July 26, 1878.

Disease: Cholera Infantuum.

Parent’s Name: Rudolph and Leonie Wurlitzer.

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 86, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: 3’6” x 19 in..

Ordered by R. Wurlitzer.


Relationship to Lot Owner: Son.

Headstone monument for the infant Percival Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Headstone monument for the infant Percival Wurlitzer.
Inscribed below the reclining infant are the words,
"Our Percy"
Born November 26, 1877
Died July 25, 1878

Son - Farny Reginald Wurlitzer and Family

Portrait of Farny Reginald Wurlitzer. circa 1950s.

Farny R. Wurlitzer,
circa 1950s.

Rudolph Wurlitzer’s youngest son, Farny R. Wurlitzer, did not attend regular high school, as did his brothers, and instead graduated from the Technical Institute of Cincinnati in 1891. Sometime around 1902-1904, he spent time in Europe and acquired further technical hands-on expertise by working for various enterprises, which included Ernst Paillard & Cie (Ste. Croix, Switzerland), J. D. Phillips & Söhne (Frankfurt am Main, Germany)--maker of Pianella Orchestrions, later imported into the U.S. and sold as the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra, and Pélisson Frères & Cie (Lyon and Paris, France).

After his years of extensive technical training and while working for the Wurlitzer Company in Cincinnati, Farny spent some three years with much time on trains calling on dealers chiefly in the west and southwest U.S. Then circa 1910 he permanently moved his place of residence to North Tonawanda, New York, to oversee the operation of the former de Kleist factory and the growth of the Wurlitzer manufacturing branch of the business. Each of the three brothers occupied leadership positions in the company, and each with a unique focus, which for Farny was technical know-how and using it in financially rewarding ways.

Farny Wurlitzer is probably best known amongst automatic musical instrument collectors today because he is the man who moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to North Tonawanda, New York, circa 1909, to supervise the newly acquired de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company, and then later to supervise the construction of and then the day-to-day operation of the newly constructed and expansive Wurlitzer plant built in conjunction with the old de Kleist building. Farny was directly responsible for the manufacture of numerous models of automatic musical instruments (coin pianos and orchestrions) and the famous mighty Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Organs.

Farny Reginald Wurlitzer and Grace Keene were married on August 27, 1910. No children were born of this union. Grace Keene had been Howard Wurlitzer personal secretary at the company, and when he was in Europe she handled his correspondence, including confidential matters. When Howard learned the extent of Farny's interest in her, Howard fired her. Howard and Helene Wurlitzer did attend the wedding about five years later.

Farny was elected to the Wurlitzer Company's board of directors in circa 1904, the year in which he was first employed full time by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. He became Assistant Treasurer on June 25, 1906, and in 1909 he was given responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Company's new North Tonawanda, New York, manufacturing facility (the former de Kleist Musical Instrument Works), with Howard Wurlitzer also devoting much time to the new operation, but from the Cincinnati, Ohio, headquarters building. He became Treasurer on July 23, 1912, Vice President and Treasurer on August 16, 1923, and President of the Company on July 30, 1932. In 1941 he became the Chairman of the Executive Committee, and on May 14, 1942, he was Chairman of the Board. Farny was Chairman Emeritus as of June 28, 1966, and he remained on the board of the parent company until his passing in 1972.

Farny Reginald Wurlitzer; 1883 - 1972 (Cremated Remains)

Place of Nativity: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Late Residence: Kenmore, N.Y.

Place of Death: Residence.

Date of Birth: December 7, 1883.

Date of Decease: May 6, 1972.

Date of Interment: Monday, May 15, 1972.

Parent’s Name: Rudolph Wurlitzer; and Leonie Farny [incorrectly shown on cemetery records as Naomi Farny].

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer Sec 80, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete Urn 12" x 12"

Informant: Niece, Mrs. Sell Stites, 1 Field Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Widowed Husband of Grace Keene.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Son.

Gravestone for Farny Reginald Wurlitzer.

(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Farny Reginald Wurlitzer
Dec. 7, 1883 - May 6, 1972

Grace Keene Wurlitzer; 1881 - 1968

Place of Nativity: Ohio.

Late Residence: 88 Leichester Road, Tonawanda, New York.

Place of Death: Residence.

Date of Birth: December 15, 1881.

Date of Decease: January 21, 1968.

Date of Interment: Tuesday, January 23, 1968.

Parent’s Name: John Keene and Nellie Savage.

Lot Owner: Rudolph Wurlitzer; Sec 80, Lot 24.

Type and Size of Grave: Concrete Vault 7-11 x 38.

Married Wife of Farny R. Wurlitzer.

Relationship to Lot Owner: Daughter in law.

Gravestone for Grace Keene Wurlitzer, wife of Farny Reginald Wurlitzer.(Photograph courtesy of Tracy Newman and Don Rand)

Gravestone for Grace Keene Wurlitzer
(wife of Farny Reginald Wurlitzer)
Dec 15, 1881 - Jan 21, 1968

Additional Reading


Information provided courtesy of Don Rand, Tracy Newman, Art Reblitz, Terry Hathaway, Edna Ingles Stites, Christopher Knoop, and Bill Griess.


Courtesy of Tracy Newman, Don Rand, the late Preston Kaufmann, and Terry Hathaway.