The de Kleist Journals

The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company

Introduction to the de Kleist Journals

The availability of the de Kleist Journal information came about due to a collaborative book effort between Art Reblitz and David Bowers, The Reblitz-Bowers Guide to Coin-Operated American Pianos and Orchestrions, which is still a work in progress. Its genesis, however, inspired a lot of new research, some of it in the Archives Department at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where certain accessible original de Kleist factory records, donated many years earlier by the Wurlitzer Company, were photographed. The de Kleist Journals dovetail nicely into and with the Wurlitzer 10,000 series ledgers explained and with database reports available elsewhere in this Mechanical Music Registry section. The overlap between the de Kleist Journals and the Wurlitzer Ledger occurs in November of 1905, and sheds light on the relationship between de Kleist and Wurlitzer during some of the early years of mechanical music development.

Eugene de Kleist

Wurlitzer Tonophone manufactured by deKleist.Eugene von Kleist was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1853, and reportedly learned the organ trade from Limonaire Freres, a well-known street and fair organ builder with a factory in Paris, France, and another located in Waldkirch, Germany. At some point he thought it useful to Anglicize his name, changing it to Eugene de Kleist. There are two conflicting accounts as to exactly when this name change occurred, one being that this change took place when he moved to Limonaire’s London, England, branch office, the other holding to the idea that he changed his name when coming to the United States. Whatever the case, de Kleist immigrated to the United States in 1892, and the following year, 1893, he organized the North Tonawanda Barrel-Organ Factory, and began a new career building barrel organs here in the United States. Then, in January of 1903, probably to better demonstrate de Kleist’s expansion of business beyond just the barrel organ, the de Kleist business was reorganized and The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company commenced doing business. This study of de Kleist approximately covers the span of years beginning with 1903 and ending in the middle of 1907, a time period documented by the de Kleist Journals #3 and #4. If other de Kleist journals exist, then, of course, the study could be expanded, but, at least for the time being, the study is limited to the two aforementioned journals simply because these are the only two journal books made available to this author.

The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company

It is the accounting journals for the beginning years of The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company that have fortuitously been made available for this study, and which includes three separate books:

Inasmuch as the first and earliest de Kleist journal studied here is clearly marked Journal No. 3, it is logical to presume that there must have been at least two earlier journal books, Nos. 1 and 2. If these forerunner books did in fact once exist they most certainly would have been maintained by the North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory, the predecessor organization to the newly organized de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company. But because the fourth journal ends in June of 1907, and since the de Kleist company was not bought out by Wurlitzer until January of 1909, it is highly probable that at least one additional de Kleist journal, dating from 1907 onward, once existed. But while it is a logical certainty that these other de Kleist journals once existed, and maybe still do, they are currently somewhere beyond the reach of this author.

What is Included in this Study

What is Not Included in this Study


Incomplete Data

The extracted de Kleist Journal data made available within and/or linked to this web page is known to be incomplete. Several journal pages were missed during the photographic copy session, and numerous pages are either partially cut-off or part of the page obscured by a coat sleeve and/or hand. Fortunately in many instances this obscuration of page data did not block out instrument sales/shipping information pertinent to this particular study project. If and when replacement page copies are made available any recognized incomplete or missing data issues will be promptly corrected. In the meantime, however, the de Kleist Journal material, with all of its imperfections, is presented "as is" via the database report links at the bottom of this page. For anyone interested in what pages have major issues please click here for a PDF file reporting all de Kleist compromised journal pages.

Information Recorded in the Database

An accounting journal, by definition, contains a running log of company activity, along with references to General Ledger accounts, which are separate ledger books not available to this author. As such, the journal books are not a chronological listing of instruments sold, repaired, and shipped, but rather they contain entries for “acceptables” (today normally referred to as “receivables”) and "liabilities." These two broad categories are further broken down into many sub-categories. Some of these sub-categories, such as those for various band organ customers or the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company (the exclusive distributor for coin-operated instruments), relate to new or repaired instruments, such as the Tonophone, Pianino, Mandolin Quartette and various Band Organs, which are interspersed with sales of extra music barrels or cylinders, music rolls, repair parts and/or supplies. Only the entries specifically relating to the sale or repair of instruments is included in the de Kleist database. The separate sale of extra or replacement barrels, cylinders, music rolls, parts, and supplies, regularly interspersed amongst the organ and coin-operated instrument line items, are not included, nor is any cash, material, machinery, stable, or any other sub-category accounting, all of which lay outside the scope of this particular study.

Journal No. 3

Cover page text for deKleist Journal No. 3.The cover page of the first and earliest journal book examined (see image at right) for this study clearly bears the rubber stamped title “THE DE KLEIST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MFG. CO.” in purple ink, with “NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y.” in black ink stamped directly underneath. Then further down the page and enclosed in brackets is the penciled notation “Journal No. 3 – 1903.” The accounting data entries for Journal No. 3 begin appropriately on page 1 and thereafter extend on consecutive pages (except for a few blank pages) up through page 598. Page 599, the last page in the book, is blank. At the very top of each data page is a date heading, with the first page dated “Tuesday, January 6, 1903.” Directly underneath the date heading on this first page is a sub-heading: “The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company begins business with the following.” This single, unique heading precedes all accounting and descriptive data, and infers that this page represented the first day of business for the newly organized de Kleist company, formerly known as the North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory.

The first eight journal pages contain accounting divisions relating to “Resources” and “Liabilities.” This accounting data infers but does not directly show sales, repair, or shipping activity. However, what it does do very well is provide an insightful picture of the company during its opening days, the bank it dealt with, and who it used as suppliers. Amidst this data are sub-sections for “Cash Accounts,” lists of purveyors owed money, “Patents,” “General Expenses,” “Materials,” “Machinery,” and “Stable” (harness, feed, etc.). Throughout the journal both general accounting and instrument information is interspersed and sometimes very intermingled with otherwise relatively uninteresting handwritten text. What this continual mixing of detail means is that each page requires careful examination in order to accurately cull out any instruments repaired or sold and shipped. The first instrument noted is a 41 key style #18 organ, shown on page 9, specifically dated December 31, 1902, and purchased by the Herschell Spillman Company. As this first entry demonstrates some line items are specifically dated, overriding the page heading date, but suggesting a date on which the sale of the organ actually occurred.

De Kleist Journals and Wurlitzer Ledger Overlap

Journal books Nos. 3 and 4 dovetail nicely with the Wurlitzer 10,000 series ledgers, which begin to overlap with the de Kleist journals in November of 1905. When comparing dates between the de Kleist Journals and Wurlitzer Ledger the dates tend to generally correspond quite accurately, but with a smattering of clearly obvious discrepancies, a few extreme enough to suggest some sort of original recording error. This stated:

Although most of the time the dates between the two above mentioned documents are identical, it is also the case that occasionally the two dates vary by one or two days maximum. But this minor variance can easily be attributed to an entry delay by the de Kleist or Wurlitzer accounting department, such as when entering a transaction on the next or following work day.

Adding Current Historical Information

The database structures used to implement the de Kleist Journal databases are designed to accommodate, in addition to the necessary fields to hold the actual journal data, an additional field dedicated specifically to retain author and/or reader provided historical information relative to a particular instrument. This makes it possible for the web site authors, as well as outside collectors, enthusiasts, and historians, to submit pertinent historical information about a specific item, which can then be considered for inclusion within the overall database structure.

Interesting Journal Oddities

Database Report Style Notes

Throughout the journals there are many band organ and coin-operated piano repair and/or remodel entries. To make these notations easier to read commas have sometimes been added to separate discrete elements that in the original text tended to run together.

Report Header Style Notes:

  1. The de Kleist Journal starts on page 1, dated Tuesday, January 6, 1903, and begins with the heading: "The de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company begins business with the following.
  2. An asterisk (*) after a serial number flags the item as being a first instance or occurrence within the ledger/database.
  3. The dagger (†) after a style description flags a repaired item whose model related information is copied from what is presumed to be the initial or primary journal (sale) entry.
  4. The "Destination" line, if present, follows this format: "Customer Name" (if any given); plus the "Ship to Name" (if any given); plus City and State (if any given). If no destination data is provided this line will not be present.
  5. The journal credit amount indicated for an entry is shown at the 2nd data line's right hand margin.
  6. The original ledger material has been slightly edited and obvious spelling and location errors corrected, but in all instances the original intent has been preserved. Otherwise the reader would be confronted with an endless number or annoying (sic) notations.

Updating the Database and Reporting Errors

Pianino 4003 handwriting issue.Clicking on the linked image to the right provides access to partial page images showing instances of phrases, words, or names that have yet to be interpreted with any assurance of correctness, or that may not yet be discernible in any useful way. These images allow other interested parties to participate in resolving vexing handwriting interpretation issues, all of which have been previously studied by several individuals, but with no unanimous or definitive interpretation forthcoming, and so additional comments are solicited and welcome. Maybe someone "out there" on the World Wide Web will have just the perfect combination of experience, knowledge, and insight to provide the clarity needed to correctly comprehend what has remained elusive up to this time.

The database is designed to additionally accommodate current historical comments and other pertinent information relative to a particular instrument, which, if submitted, will be considered for inclusion within the database. To report errors and/or to submit new and/or supplemental information regarding the de Kleist Journals please send corrections and/or comments via a e-mail to

All database report information is offered "as is," without any guarantee or warranty whatsoever of any kind, neither stated, implied, nor inferred, as to the accuracy, correctness, exactness, suitability, or usefulness of any content.

Distribution of Database Information
Last Updated on June 16, 2014

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The de Kleist Journal Pages (1903 ~ 1906)
Download the deKleist Journals by Original Input Order Report.
265 pages.
Download the deKleist Journals New Instruments by Serial Number Report.
233 pages.
Download the deKleist Journals Grouped by Year and Style Report.
270 pages.
Download the deKleist Journals New Instruments Grouped by Year and Style Report.
236 pages.
  Download the deKleist Journals Repaired Instruments Grouped by Serial Number Report.
32 pages.
  Download the deKleist 1st Instance by Input Order Report.
6 pages

Archives Department, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

The de Kleist Journal data compiled and put into database format by Terry Hathaway, and with appreciation to Q. David Bowers for making the information available as part of a book project.

Consultation on interpretative issues: Q. David Bowers, Matthew Caulfield, Dana Johnson & Art Reblitz.


Terry Hathaway.