Charles Alexander Smith Passes Away
(From October 6, 1917, issue of The Music Trade Review)
Portrait of Charles Alexander Smith, founder of the C.A. Smith Piano Company in 1884, later to become the Smith, Barnes & Strohber Piano Company. Deceased September 30, 1917.
CHARLES ALEXANDER SMITH
President of Smith, Barnes & Strohber Co. Dies in His Eightieth Year—Was One of the Pioneer Members of the Western Piano Trade—Host of Prominent Men Attend Funeral
CHICAGO, Ill., October 3.—Charles Alexander Smith, president of the Smith, Barnes & Strohber Co., and a pioneer and dominant factor in the Western piano trade, died at his home in Highland Park at 8 o'clock last Sunday morning, September 30, in his eightieth year. His death did not come altogether unexpectedly either to his associates or to the trade generally, as it had been known for some time that he was a sick man. Following an operation early in the year he had been obliged to give up his habit of constant daily attendance and personal supervision of the great business which he had persisted in up to that time in spite of his advanced age. In spite of his illness he had been at the office practically once a week ever since, conferring with the members of the wonderful organization which he had built up around him.
Mr. Smith was born in Wayne County, Mich., in 1838. He came to Chicago in 1856 and engaged in the harness and saddlery hardware business. The great fire of 1871 practically put him out of business, and after that he joined a mercantile firm in St. Paul and traveled out of that city for some time. In 1884 he embarked in the piano manufacturing business under the name of C. A. Smith & Co., occupying a little building on Indiana street, near Franklin, and turning out two pianos a week. This was the nucleus of the great company of to-day, owning two of the largest plants in the piano field. The business grew very rapidly, and in 1891 a site was bought on Clybourn avenue and the present large plant was built and occupied. About this time G. K. Barnes joined the company, and it was reorganized under the name of the Smith & Barnes Piano Co. Mr. Barnes withdrew in 1898.
In 1903 the business had grown to such vast dimensions that the great plant at Milwaukee was secured in addition to the Chicago factory. In 1906 the business of the Strohber Piano Co., of Chicago, was taken over and the name again changed to the Smith, Barnes & Strohber Co.
Mr. Smith did not start in the piano business as a retailer simply manufacturing for his own retail trade, but sold his product through the dealers from the very beginning. He was a man of remarkable foresight and always built and planned along large lines with confidence in the future of business and his own tested judgment and ability. He was a keen judge of men, however, and years ago began to build up an organization of strong men, thoroughly imbued with his policies and amply able to carry the great business along the lines which he laid down. C. H. Smith, his son, is vice-president and secretary and general superintendent of the factories. E. M. Eastman, manager of the Milwaukee factory, and W. A. Dodge, long a factor in the business, are vice-presidents, and Dr. J. R. Wolfenden is treasurer of the company. These, with Fred Widling and Henry Meyer, constitute the board of directors. A few years ago another development took place and the company established their own retail branches in four Western cities. Mr. Smith was president of the Smith-Ries Piano Co., of St. Louis, the Smith Piano Co., of Chicago, and the Smith Piano Co., of Milwaukee. A year and a half ago the Kansas City house was established as a direct branch of the Smith, Barnes & Strohber Co.
Mr. Smith's principal financial interests were confined to the piano trade, but he was a large stockholder in the Continental and Commercial National Bank. He was a Mason and the oldest living member of the Garden City Lodge, of Chicago.
He is survived by his widow, a daughter, Mrs. J. R. Wolfenden, wife of the treasurer of the company, and his son, Charles H. Smith, vice-president and secretary and factory superintendent. There are four grandchildren, Lorna Wolfenden, George P. Elbert, Herbert Elbert and Charles Schwandt.
The funeral services for the family took place to-day, Wednesday, at 1.30 p. m., at the home of the deceased in Highland Park, where they were conducted by Dr. Walcott, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of that suburb, of which Mr. Smith was a member. Interment was at Rose Hill and services, conducted by Dr. Percy Wolfenden, of Waterford, Conn., were held at the chapel there for friends and associates in the piano trade. The honorary pallbearers, composed largely of his friends of many years' standing in the piano trade, included W. B. Price, E. S. Conway, James F. Bowers, Harry Schaaf, Christian J. Steger, George P. Bent, James F. Broderick, E. H. Uhl, E. H. Story, E. C. Smith, Otto Schulz, Louis M. Severson, Adam Schneider. The others outside the trade were George M. Reynolds, president of the Continental and Commercial National Bank; Chief of Police Herman H. Schuettler, C. Wilcox, E. Brand and Addison Warner. The active pallbearers were W. A. Dodge, E. M. Eastman, Harry Meyer, all of the Smith, Barnes & Strohber Co.; T. E. Johnson, manager of the Kansas City branch, and J. M. Hawxhurst and H. E. Edmiston, Smith Piano Co., Chicago.
Out-of-town members of the trade who attended the funeral included: I. L. Grinnell, Detroit; T. E. Johnston, Kansas City; E. M. Eastman, Milwaukee; H. D. D. Holmes, Milwaukee; A. B. Smith, Akron; Oscar Stranburg, Jamestown, N. Y.; H. E. Heffelman, of Klein & Heffelman, Canton, O.
The floral offerings .were profuse and elaborate and included one in the form of a piano.
Both the Chicago and Milwaukee factories were closed from Monday until Thursday in honor of the deceased, and the stores in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Kansas City were all closed on the day of the funeral.