Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory

The Boston Musical instrument Manufactory was founded in 1869 as an amalgamation of the partners and workers of Graves & Co. and E. G. Wright & Co.  (Catalogs claim the company was founded in 1841, the year Wright began operation in Boston.)  Soon after the merger with Graves, however, Wright withdrew and joined Hall and Quinby.  The firm's initial catalog was issued in September, 1869 to coincide with the new company's exhibit at the Annual Fair of The Mechanics Arts Society held at Faneuil and Quincy Halls in Boston. It was prefaced with the following "CAUTION":
     "Having changed the name and style of our former firm, (E.G. Wright & Co.) to that of Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory, and knowing that others may perhaps, advertise the old name,  in order to enhance the value of an inferior  quality of instruments, we would state, that the business is continued without interruption, with the same manufacturing, tools, patterns, workmen and all else appertaining to the manufacture of our first-class work; and that the manufacturing department is still under the personal superintendence of the former practical partners, Messrs. Henry Esbach and Louis F. Hartman, gentlemen of large experience, with extended reputation as inventors and manufacturers, who carefully examine and critically test each instrument manufactured by us, without whose approval none are permitted to leave our establishment.
     "We would, therefore, caution all against the impression that others produce the perfect and complete class of instruments  which we do, for we are satisfied with nothing but the best, and warrant each of our instruments perfect throughout.
     "We  manufacture at our own establishment, from the raw material, to the finished instrument entire, each  and every part, from stock of peculiar properties, made expressly for us, and by a corps of the most thoroughly experienced workmen..."
The concern in the above paragraphs of "CAUTION" was that following the transfer of tools and materials by E. G. Wright in 1869 to his former partners, Messrs. Esbach and Hartman now doing business as Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory, Mr. Wright had gone into partnership with brass instrument competitors, David Hall and George Quinby. At the same time Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory continued operation on the fourth floor of 71 Sudbury St., which had been the long-time site of the former partnership,  "E.G. Wright & Co."  At issue was the use of the name "E.G. Wright & Co." by Hall and Quinby, located only a few doors away at 62 Sudbury St.  Hall & Quinby displayed advertisements under its own name as well as  "E.G. Wright & Co." both at the same address. Following the death of Mr. Wright in 1871, his estate conveyed in writing the use of his name to the partners in Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory with notice to Hall and Quinby. An injunction was granted by Supreme Judicial  Court restraining Messrs. Hall and Quinby from further use of Mr. Wright''s name in future advertising "until the matter is finally disposed by an equity suit." It was alleged that when Mr. Wright joined Hall & Quinby it was "pretended" that the old firm of E.G. Wright & Co. had moved from 71 to 62 Sudbury St., and that they "continued to exhibit the name E.G. Wright & Co. at their place of business, in advertisements circulars, catalogs, business cards and in other ways sufficient to receive the trade and custom attached to and connected with the name of E.G. Wright & Co, which has been known and acquired a valuable reputation in business for more than thirty years past." In the equity suit it was claimed that Hall and Quinby had "no consent in writing from Wright of  his representatives to use his name after his decease" and that the rights to that name had been transferred to the partners in Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory by Mr. Wright's estate. Despite the injunction and the final decision by the Court in favor of the estate of Mr. Wright, and the partners Messrs. Esbach, Hartman, and William G. Reed,  Hall and Quinby continued to state in their advertisement stating that they were owners and managers of the entire stock and tools of the late firm of E.G. Wright & Co. By 1874, Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory began advertising themselves as "Formerly E.G. Wright & Co."

   The Boston Directory,1868

The new company was also known by the names of its three principals Esbach, Hatmann & Reed.

Henry (Heinrich) S. Esbach (1827 - 1902) was born in Saxony, Germany on November 27, 1826 and came to the United States on June 14, 1847. Settling in Boston by 1850, he stated his occupation as musical instrument maker, which would suggest that he had already served his apprenticeship and probably reached journeyman status before leaving Germany. As a skilled worker he would have quickly became allied with one of the several brass instrument makers in Boston, perhaps E.G. Wright. On October 28 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.  In 1858 he was working with Joseph Lathrop Allen Mfg Co. (see Boston Directory entry below).1 From 1864 to 1866 he was a partner with E.G. Wright and Louis F. Hartman,  and followed by the short-lived Wright, Gilmore & Co (1867-1868). In 1869 he was a co-founder of Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory with Louis F. Hartman. In 1889 as assignor of the company he was issued a patent for a cornet.  In 1863 Mr. Esbach was registered for the draft into the Union Army, but at the age of 37 and married, he was not asked to serve. He and his wife Magdelena (born February 7, 1837 Massachusetts) had two children: Henry W. Esbach  (ca. 1854), and  Carolyn L. Esbach, born in January, 1859, who married Edward Davis. Henry Esbach died in Boston on May 22, 1902, and his share of the company passed to Louis F. Hartman.

Louis F. Hartman (Hartmann)  (1827 - 1903) was born in Germany in March 1827 and arrived in the United States on August 19, 1839, with his father and brother and sister. From sometime before 1850  he was boarding with master brass instrument maker Joseph Lathrop Allen first in Norwich, Connecticut, then in Boston. learning the trade and working in Allen Manufacturing Co. From 1864 to 1866 he was a partner with E.G. Wright and Henry S. Esbach, and then with Wright, Gilmore & Co (1867-1868, see clipping below).  Mr. Hartman became a naturalized citizen of the United States on March 12, 1859. He and his wife Annie R. (born  February, 1831 in Maine) had one daughter, Fannie D. Hartman, born in October 1860, who married Thomas Vose. Louis Hartman died in 1903.

William Goldman Reed (1846 - 1905) was born in on February 27, 1846 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Reed, a Danish-born Master Mariner, and Jane Jones. In 1866, at the age of twenty he was working as a clerk, however by 1870 he had become a musical instrument maker with Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.  In 1871 he was one of the three partners named in as plaintiffs the equity suit against Hall & Quinby described above. By 1875 he had become the firm's treasurer.  On December 28, 1898 he and Mary Brabrook Gale were married. She was the daughter of  George W. Gale, a prominent lumber dealer, banker, and insurance executive. When William Goldman Reed died on April 15, 1905, but the year before his death management in the company was transferred to his wife's family. Her father, George W. Gale, became president and his son, Willard N. Gale, was named treasurer.

Samuel Graves, Jr. (1794 - 1878) was a well-established musical instrument maker by the time of the formation of Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory. Born on July 1, 1794 in New Boston, New Hampshire  he had established himself first in West Fairlee, Vermont in 1824, then moving to Winchester, New Hampshire in 1830, primarily making woodwind instruments. In 1837, James Keat, third son of London brass instrument maker, Samuel Keat, moved to Winchester and presumably introduced Mr. Graves to making brass instruments as well. With the assistance of Keat, he became one of the first makers of valved brass instruments in the United States. Following a fire in 1848, Mr. Graves was unable to recover his full business and finally sold his shop in Winchester.  In 1850 his son, George. M Graves, relocated the business to Boston, where Samuel rejoined the firm of Graves & Co. in 1856. At the height of the Civil War, he went into partnership wiht bandmaster Patrick Gilmore as Gilmore, Graves & Co. In 1869, along with sons George M. Graves, William E. Graves, and grandson Elbridge W. Graves, joined with the former partners and workers of E.G. Wright & Co. to form Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory. The following year, Samuel Graves was disabled by a stroke and retired to Wells River, Vermont where he died on November 18, 1878. In 1870 William E. Graves was no longer listed, and  by 1876 only George M. Graves remained.

Boston Directory for the Year 1858

Among the founding group of skilled workers at Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory were three brothers  Anton, Erhardt and Ferdinand Hüttl.2  They had emigrated with their families from their native Austria and arrived in the United States on the bark Nelson on June 29, 1854.  Erhardt and Ferdinand were already skilled instrument makers, while Anton was originally a gunsmith. They were hired by Joseph Lathrop Allen, and Messrs. Hartman and Esbach were among their co-workers at Allen Manufacturing. All three brothers became naturalized citizens of the United States on September 17, 1860.

Anton Hittl (ca.1823 - 1907)3 was the son of Anton Hüttl and Theresa Mayer Hüttl. He arrived in the United States in about 1855 and became a naturalized citizen on September 17, 1860. He and his wife Frances (ca. 1825 - 1887) had three children: Anton A.  (ca. 1851 -), Julius  (ca. 1853 - ), and Albert (ca. 1856 - ).  Eldest son Anton A. Hittl was a musician and later followed his father's profession as a musical instrument maker with Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.  Mr. Hittl and his son Anton were original founding members of the Fidelia Musical and Educational Association, a German singing society organized in the Germantown section of Boston on November 25, 1884.  He died a few years after his retirement at the age of 84 at his home at 101 Bell Rock St., Malden Massachusetts on August 23, 1907.

Erhardt Hittl (ca. 1825 - 1895 )4 and his wife Anna Schmidt (1827 - 1895) had the following children: Antonia (ca. 1849), Emily (ca. 1853), Elizabeth (ca. 1855 - 1891), Bertha (ca. 1857),  Adolph (1859), Emma(ca. 1861) and William (ca. 1863).  Mr. Hittl died on June 3 1895, only two weeks  after his wife passed away,   The death of his wife, "superinducing an overpowering attack of despondency," caused him to take his own life at his home in West Somerville. 

Ferdinand Hittl (ca. 1827 - 1916)5 and his wife, Catherine Schetinger (ca. 1840 - after 1920) had the following children: Louisa (1857 - ), Charles(1859 - ), Otto (1861 - ),  Catherine (ca. 1866 - ).  Frank (ca. 1876 - ). Son Charles Hittl followed the family trade as musical instrument maker, while Otto initially went into the same trade but later became a self-employed gardener. Ferdinand Hittl retired from the Boston Musical Instrument company in 1909. He  died on September 3 1916 at the age of eighty-nine.

Advertisement, 1880

Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory offered a full range of voices of trumpets (including the well-known “Boston Three Star Trumpet”), cornets, trombones, upright horns, and tubas for military bands as well as fine orchestral horns. Instruments could be ordered in copper, brass or German silver and either left or right-handed Serial numbers were introduced in 1880. From its start the firm enjoyed a good reputation and business was good. Six months after its founding in 1870 an enthusiastic fan of the newly formed "The Newport Brass Band" in Rhode Island gushed:
"The Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory have recently made a most superb set of instruments for the Band; the instruments made by this well known and long established house have for many years stood first in the estimation of the best musicians, and the instruments now in the hands of the band are believed to be as fine a sett as can be found in any country."
The following year the New Hampshire Sentinel writing about the Marlboro Mechanics Cornet Band purchasing a new set of instruments:"The instruments, consisting of sixteen pieces, were manufactured by the 'Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory' and are pronunced by competent judges  to be of superior quality and finish." Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory received an award at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. In addition to supplying brass bands with instruments, the company was also known for making fine presentation pieces. In 1873 Mr. C. Loring Stetson, leader of the Weymouth Band was presented a "splendid silver Eb Cornet from the celebrated Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory ... also furnished with a handsome black walnut cornet case."  In 1885 J.R. Lucier, the blind cornet soloist, was presented a solid silver and gold cornet, "elegantly engraved and valued at $300.  It has all of the latest improvements, including the mute attachment."

The six-story brick building that included Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory extended from 69 to 73 Sudbury Street, Boston. The Manufactory occupied the entire fourth floor and was one of six occupants in the building. On Saturday evening July 22, 1882 fire broke out on the floor below occupied by Joseph Zaine & Co., manufacturers of sanitary water closets. The fire quickly spread to the fourth floor where it was contained but not before it caused $1500 in damages to Manufactory.6

Boston Daily Globe, July 7, 1899

On July 6, 1899  at about 5:00 a.m. a three-alarm fire broke out at 5 through 9 Hawkins St., 67 through 73 Sudbury Streets, known as the Wentworth Building, causing an estimated loss of more than $40,000 damage. Among the casualties was Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory. In the above drawing of the building at Sudbury and Hawkins during the 1899 fire, part of the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory sign can be seen through the smoke above their fourth floor premises. It was six-story high block of which firemen were already somewhat wary.  Fifteen engines and two water towers poured thousands of gallons of water a minute for three hours while the fire ate its way through the building from the basement to the roof. The fire was fueled by oil and naphtha stored throughout the building, and through the supply of tobacco in the cigar factory on the top two floors. At the time the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory was working on a $5000 contract for silver-plated instruments for the U.S. Government and had a large stock on hand. It was said that it lost practically everything. It's damages were estimated to be at $7000, but the firm was covered by a total $13,500 insurance through several companies.

Following the fire the firm relocated to 51 Chardon Street in 1900 owned by Arthur M. Alger and Ralph Anthony, trustees of the Bowdoin Real Estate Trust. In December of 1898 William Goldmann Reed had married Mary Brabrook Gale daughter of George W. Gale (1837 - 1916). Henry Esbach died in 1902 and his share of the company passed to Louis F. Hartmann. About that time the company name was changed from the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory to the Boston Musical Instrument Company but was not incorporated under that name until 1913. Louis F. Hartmann died in 1903 leaving William Reed as the sole surviving original partner. In 1904 management was taken over by the family of Reed’s wife, Mary Brabrook (Gale), with her father,  George W. Gale as President and Director, and brother, Willard N. Gale, treasurer.7 Some of the former workers continued, including Ferdinand Hittl (until 1909) and Charles Hittl. On January 1, 1913 the company was incorporated, and $9,000 in preferred and $21,000 in common stock was authorized.8 Geroge W. Gale died in Boston on July 29, 1916 and his son Willard Gale took over as president, with Paul Dean, clerk. The Gales had no direct experience in musical instruments making and not much time to devote to the firm. Charles R. Harris was engaged as manager but his background was in restaurant management and with a milling company. Following World War I Boston Musical Instrument Company was sold to  Cundy-Bettoney. In 1918 the two companies were at separate locations but by 1921 they were both located at 51 Chardon Street. Boston Musical Instrument Company continued in operation until about 1928. On January 4, 1927 the authorized preferred stock was reduced by $5,400 to $3,600, and the common stock by $12,000 to $9,000. The corporation was not formally dissolved until March 23, 1955.

Special thanks to Mark Elrod and Robb Stewart for the use of the photo of Mark's E.G. Wright & Co. horn, and to Robert Eliason for his assistance.

1. For a full biography of Joseph Lathrop Allen see Early American Brass Makers by Robert E. Elliason (Brass Research Series No. 10,  The Brass Press, Editions BIM, Vuarmarens, Switzerland, 1979 and 1981,  p. 15ff).

2. The family name was originally Hüttl (sometimes transliterated into English as Huettl), however sometime before about 1860 it became Hittl, a spelling used consistently in public records for all three brothers and their families thereafter. That spelling is adopted here. Accompanying the brothers was their father, Anton Hüttl, Sr., who was a glover. Another brother, Adolph Hüttl was established as a woodwind maker in Boston from 1860 - 1869, and in 1870 as "Hüttl & Fischer", before moving to Chicago in 1874.  The family is no doubt related to the firm A.K. Hüttl that flourished in Grazlitz from 1877 to 1945, but that relationship has not been confirmed.  Also aboard the bark Nelson were instrument makers Emanuel Riedl (18) and Joseph Koestler(20). Mr. Riedl remained in Boston until after 1900 as a musical instrument maker, however he has not been associated with Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory. Mr. Koestler appears to have not continued a musical instrument maker and may have gone into partnership as a jeweler/engraver with Loeffler before removing to California as a brass finisher.

3. Anton Hittl stated his birthdate as October 20, 1825 on his petition for naturalization. This date is not consistent with U.S. Census records and other public records which indicate he was born circa 1823, 

4. Erhardt Hittl stated his birthdate as July 8, 1829 on his petition for naturalization. This date is not consistent with U.S. Census records and other public records which indicate he was born circa 1825. The record of his death states that his mother's name was Annie Morris, which is different from his older brother, Anton.

5. Ferdinand Hittl stated his birthdate as May 30, 1830 on his petition for naturalization. This date is not consistent with U.S. Census and other public records which indicate he was born circa 1827. 

6. At the time of the fire the building was owned by Arioch Wentworth. Occupants were Floyd & Moore, ornamental stucco workers (basement), Francis Sargent & Co., carriage repository (floors 1 and 2), Joseph Zaine & Co., sanitary water closets, and George W. Hawkes, manufacturer of adjustable braces (floor 3), Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory (also known as Esbach, Hartmann & Reed, floor 4), C. Clement & Shaw, boot manufacturers (floors 5 and 6). Damage to the building was less than $500, and total damage was estimated at $3700.

7. Ayars (1937) states the year of the name change as 1913, however The Directory of Directors in the City of Boston and Vicinity 1905 and following show Mr. Gale as president and director of Boston Musical Instrument Company. Other sources state the name was changed as early as 1902. At the same time Mr. Gale also held the same titles with the George W. Gale Lumber Co., the Lumber Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Boston,  and National City Bank (Cambridge). In 1915 Mr. Gale and four other directors of the bank, were found guilty of negligence connected with the failure of the bank in 1909 due to the actions of bookkeeper, George W. Coleman.

8. After 1913 ownership and management of the company becomes somewhat murky.  According to an article in the Elkhart Indiana Daily Review in 1913, Karl Blessing, son of Elkhart brass insturment maker Emil Blessing, was a salesman for Boston Musical Instrument Co. The same article mentions that Karl Nelson was "head" of the company, Karl (Carl) Nelson, was also a principal in Vega Co. in Boston, founded in 1881 by Swedish-born Julius Nelson and several partners. Later his brother Carl joined the firm and became the office and sales manager. The company manufactured fretted string instruments. Its shop was located across the street from Boston Musical Instruments Company. In 1905 they absorbed the plectrum instrument making of Thompson & Odell and about four years later, their brass instrument manufacturing business at 62 Sudbury St, the former works of Hall and Quinby.

Ayars, Christine Merrick. Contributions to the art of music in America by the music industries of Boston, 1640 to 1936, H.W. Wilson Co., New York, 1937

Boston Directory for the Year 1858, Adams, Sampson & Co., Boston, July 1, 1858

"Injunction Granted", The Boston Journal, Boston, Massachusetts, July 24, 1871

Waterhouse, William, The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

 Send eMail to Dick Martz
Contents of this site and all original photographs copyright 1999-2011, Richard J.Martz
All rights reserved.