S. Nathaniel Adams

Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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  1916 Musicians' Supply Co. ad Image Credit: [2] About Adolph Joseph Oettinger was born April 22, 1860 in Massachusetts to German immig...

 

1916 Musicians' Supply Co. ad
Image Credit: [2]

About

Adolph Joseph Oettinger was born April 22, 1860 in Massachusetts to German immigrants [7]. He started work young in the music publisher and instrument retail shop of William H. Cundy. Around 1884 he briefly opened his own business but closed it and went to work for the George W. Stratton Company until it was purchased by Elias Howe. He opened Musicians' Supply Company in 1905 through his purchase of the "stringed instrument and accessories business of Thompson and Odell". Along with Adolph, the firm was also run by Carl and Julius Nelson of The Vega Company until he bought them out at an undisclosed year [10][15]. He married fellow Massachusetts resident Rose L Hamburger and had two children, Mark and Waldo [7][8]. He died on December 10th, 1935 [9]

In a 1937 book describing the Boston music industry, Musicians Supply Company was described as "the largest dealer in the United States in wood and tools for these instruments" [10].

Adolph also presented some of the musical instruments in his collection at a 1926 exhibition hosted by Waverly Musical Products and the Standard Musical String Co. The instruments hanging on the wall from left to right are:
"ukulele, very early type, all metal", "banjo, very early type", "mandolin, by E. Vinaccia, Naples, 1771", "guitar, by Charles Stumcke, Boston, 1800, earliest of known American guitar builders", "viola pomposa, 18th century, invented by Johann Sebastian Bach", "lute, by Ambrogio Marafi, Milano, 1775", "violinetta or philomel, all wire strings, used in the open", pochette or pocket violin, 18th century, used by the dancing masters", "viola di Gamba, 18th century, 6 strings"
Old and Rare Musical Instrument Exhibition c.1926
A. J. Oettinger is seated to the right of the table
Image Credit: [11]

During an 8 year period somewhere in the 1920s-30s, Italian luthier Giuseppi Martino had worked with the company as a violin maker and repairman [10].

I was lucky enough to acquire an original Musicians Supply Co catalog that was produced somewhere in the late teens through twenties. It includes a vast assortment of stringed instruments, materials to build and repair, and tools used by luthiers of the era. I have digitized it and provided it entirely for free

1910s Musicians Supply Co Catalog Scan


Timeline

  • 1905 - Business incorporated
    • President: Carl L. W. Nellson
    • Treasurer: Adolph J Oettinger [12]
    • Business opened at 164 Tremont St [10]
  • 1911 - Located at 218 Tremont St [1]
  • 1913 - Location also at 64 La Grange St [3]
  • 1916 - Mentioned in The Violinists Guide [2]
    • Treasurer: A. J. Oettinger
    • Employees mentioned:
      • S. H. Adams
        • Sumner was born in Massachusetts
        • 35 years experience
      • W. Ganshirt
        • William was born in Roxbury, Mass.
        • "Specializes in fine bow repairing" 
        • 11 years experience
      • F. A. Mayer
        • Fritz Anton was born in Bohemia
        • Graduate of the Imperial College at Schonbach
        • 10 years experience
        • Specialized in repair of old instruments
      • J. A. Young
        • Joseph specialized in "making fine cellos for soloists"
        • 15 years experience
  • 1924 - Mentioned again in The Violinists Guide [4]
    • Treasurer: A. E. [sic] Oettinger
    • Employees Mentioned:
      • George Allen
      • Charles H Stanwood
        • Born Brunswick, Maine
        • 35 years experience
      • S. H. Adams
  • 1925 - Lease is finalized which moves the location to 83 Newbury St [5]
  • 1927 - A fire severely damages the 83 Newbury St building [6]
    • Estimated damages: $50,000 including valuable musical instruments
  • 1935 - End of the company [10]
    • Located at 177 Tremont St
    • Adolph dies and his sons "had their own business interests elsewhere" so the firm was liquidated

Patents

1903 - US755977 (assigned to Oettinger): Detachable shoulder rest for violins or other instruments
1920 - US1431250: String adjustment for violins

Musicians Supply Co Trademark #95,462
In use since September 15, 1912
Image Credit: US Trademark Office

Musicians Supply Co Trademark #95,842
In use since June 1, 1907
Image Credit: US Trademark Office

Oettinger Products Co.

Adolphs's son Mark was the general manager of the Oettinger Products Co which made banjo, guitar, violin, and violincello tailpieces, banjo stands, tools, and music stands [13].

The Oettinger Banjo Stand
Image Credit: [14]


Sources

[1] https://www.google.com/books/edition/Directory_of_Music_Industries/hMkwAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22musicians+supply+co%22+boston&pg=PA113&printsec=frontcover
[2] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Violinist_s_Guide_Containing_Informa/yotNAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1
[3] https://books.google.com/books?id=jFgEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=%22musicians+supply+co%22+boston&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiM3a-e8K30AhXBB50JHU_AAcAQ6AF6BAgCEAI#v=onepage&q=%22musicians%20supply%20co%22%20boston&f=false
[4] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Violinist_s_Guide/k72To-a4qjMC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22musicians+supply+co%22+boston&pg=PA35&printsec=frontcover
[5] https://www.newspapers.com/image/431095694/?terms=musician%20supply%20company&match=1
[6] https://www.newspapers.com/image/431100526/?terms=musician%20supply%20company&match=1
[7] https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7884/images/31111_4330101-01112?usePUB=true&_phsrc=OTJ321&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=11583845
[8] https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1174/images/USM1490_101-0151?usePUB=true&_phsrc=OTJ322&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=361803
[9] https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5061/images/41264_B132583-00563?usePUB=true&_phsrc=OTJ320&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=230161
[10] https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4384206&view=1up&seq=234&q1=oettinger
[11] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1926-82-25/33/
[12] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1905-40-25/63/
[13] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1925-80-13/51/
[14] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1925-81-26/43/
[15] http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2014/01/who-was-j-oettinger.html


Musicians' Supply Company Catalog I have photographed a Musicians' Supply Company catalog from the 1910s through 1920s when they wer...

Musicians' Supply Company Catalog

I have photographed a Musicians' Supply Company catalog from the 1910s through 1920s when they were located at 218 Tremont St. This catalog is an impressive resource for understanding what materials and tools were available for repairman and builders of fine stringed instruments during the era. There are many trade words and phrases used within the catalog which may not make sense to me but will certainly be interesting to viewers


Here is a description of the contents of the catalog:
It includes finished violins built in the style of Stradivarius, Amati, Friedr Aug. Glass, Panormo, Testore, Bergonzi, Gorffriller, Vuillaume, Lupot, Guarnerius, Gian Rocca, Joannes Franciscus Pressenda, Klotz, Hans Neuner, Johann Baptist Schweitzer, Ruggeri, and Joseph Kreuzinger. They also list a variety of strings including Franz Otto, August Kelmm, A Peroni Elite, V. B. Rome, and Corde Deluxe. There is an impressive selection of bows made in the Bausch, Peccate, Tourte, Gand, Tubbs, Weichold, Suss, Nurnberger, Vuillaume, and Dodd styles (among others) and made from Brazilwood or Pernambuco. They also sold individual parts for repairing and building bows. Followed by the violin cases covered in leatherboard, genuine alligator hide, walrus hide, English sole leather, and felt. Page 20 has the Regina Shoulder Pad. They sold copies of all the popular violin makers' bridges and a large variety of rubber and ebony chin rests. Their house brand of M. S. Co DeLuxe rosin is also mentioned including Clark's Star Rosin and Gustave Bernadel rosin. You could purchase Bausch model violin pegs in ebony with real gold inlays or order a plain set of boxwood, ebony, or rosewood. 

They supplied builders with tops made of spruce, bohemian, swiss pine, and tyrolean as well as backs of maple, sycamore, and tyrolean maple. For ten cents you could also order a maple fingerboard wedge for a violin to avoid a neck reset. Purfling could also be purchased made from genuine whalebone. Blocks and linings were offered in spruce and willow. Pictured on page 33 is a bow hairing machine used for repairing "all sizes of violins, viola, or cello bows". Page 34 contains all of the tools that a luthier would need including post setters, nippers, calipers, purfling cutters, peg reamers, hand planes, scrapers, bending iron, spool clamps, knives, and saws. M. S. Co also supplied forms and patterns made of maple or zinc for Stradivarius, Guarnerius, and Amati. They marketed their own violin varnish, provided brushes, and German or French hide glue. Page 38 shows a unique tool called the Geaka which contained needlenose pliers, scissors, a file, and a string gauge. 

This catalog is an invaluable resource and I am incredibly thankful that I won the auction and was able to digitize it here, for free, instead of locking it away in someone's collection. As always, feel free to copy these and link to them but please credit me and do not use it in any commercial product without first obtaining permission from me. Enjoy

  

Regina shoulder pad