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

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 About Andrew Groehsl (b. 1859, d.1952) was an Austrian-born luthier most well known for founding his own instrument company in Chicago whic...

Andrew Groehsl - Austrian Luthier in Chicago

 About

Andrew Groehsl (b. 1859, d.1952) was an Austrian-born luthier most well known for founding his own instrument company in Chicago which later became the Kay Musical Instrument company. He was married in 1893 to Amalie Bohmann (no relation to luthier, Joseph Bohmann) [1]. He was also known in the Chicago area as a "legendary" player of the Tamburitza and I believe there is a passage referencing him in the book Tamburitza America by Milan Opacich [9]


Andrew Groehsl Company

The Andrew Groehsl Company (also called the Groehsl Mandolin Company by some modern authors) was a manufacturer of musical instruments in Chicago during the turn of the 20th century. Andrew brought to America his knowledge of Eastern European instrument construction and built both traditional Serbian and modern American instruments. He also built instruments for Harry J. Flower's music shop under the MayFlower name which I have compiled research about in this article

1890

The company is founded around this time

1906

The factory is listed as being located at 81 Illinois Street and employing four individuals; one under 16 and three above 16 [6].

1911

Andrew is listed as being a musical instrument manufacturer at lives at 3406 Perry St [5 p.547]

1921-22

The company is purchased by Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer, Frank C. Voisinet, and Charles G. Stromberg and becomes Stromberg-Voisinet. [2][4]

1923

Andrew is listed as being a musical instrument repairman and lives at 3406 Greenview Ave (Perry Street became Greenview Avenue) [5 p.45]

1952

Andrew Groehsl dies at the age of 93. His occupation is listed as being a violin maker. [1].


Factory Location

According to the 1906 Sanborn Map Company's review of the property, the Groeshl factory existed in a 6 story building housing multiple industrial tenants. It was directly next to Chicago Fire Department Engine Company No. 42. 81 Illinois Street housed multiple manufacturing tenants and included an elevator and windows on each floor. The building was demolished in the 1970s and remained a parking lot until it was redeveloped in the mid 2010s [10]. The Fire Department building is still standing at 228 W Illinois St and a large, modern building sits where the factory used to be.

George Beaumont prepared the plans for the building and M. J. Tillman was slated to head construction of the 25 x 100 foot building that would cost $12,000. These plans were in the works in 1896 [11].


Sanborn Map Company, Vol. 1, 1906
Image Credit: Library Of Congress

The factory building (narrow building seen in the middle) as it stood in 1963
Image Credit: Historic Aerials


Corner of Roscoe St and Perry St
Sanborn Map Company, Vol. 9, 1894
Image Credit: Library of Congress


Instruments

Andrew Groehsl built a variety of instruments during his lifetime including traditional Serbian instruments and modern American instruments. Of the traditional instruments from his culture, I've seen his builds of a Tamburitza or Tamburica which, to my ignorant eyes, looks like a 5 string guitar with ornate inlays like one would expect on a European bowl back mandolin.

This quote from a September 1979 issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan mentions an instrument built by Andrew Groehsl
. . When the music ended, Blazekovich packed away his 50-year-old bugarija, which looks like a five-string guitar. The instrument couldn't be duplicated today, he said. It has a butterfly pattern inlaid into mahogany on the body and bears the name of Andrew Groehsl, who made East European instruments a half-century ago in Chicago. [8]
His instruments can be styled very ornately, especially his European instruments, which has led to a lot of attribution to Washburn and the Larson Brothers but his instruments are entirely his own. 

They are all French polished and are constructed with Brazilian Rosewood or mahogany and Spruce. Some instruments have the Stauffer-style headstocks and they have colorful wood or pearl bindings. 


Groehsl label from a guitar 
Address listed as 755 Perry Street
Image Credit: Reverb - Lazy Angels Music

Groehsl label from a tamburitza 
Address listed as 3406 Greenview Avenue
Image Credit: Private Seller

Sources

[1] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2M4-J2LL
[2] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1922-74-10/31/
[3] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7X2-7XC
[4] https://jedistar.com/groehsl/
[5] https://www.chicagoancestors.org/sites/default/files/downloads/1923g.pdf
[6] https://books.google.com/books?id=Kj8oAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA267&dq=Groehsl+company&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiYtZbSvpnuAhULWs0KHaYyB3Q4ChDoATACegQIBBAC#v=onepage&q=Groehsl%20company&f=false
[7] https://archive.org/details/lakesideannualdi1911unse/page/546/mode/2up?q=groehsl
[8] https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/205755709/
[9] https://babamim.com/milan_opacich_usa_national_treasure
[10] https://www.historicaerials.com/location/41.88140401812702/-87.69511878490448/1973/18
[11] https://www.newspapers.com/image/33362718/?terms=%2281%20illinois%20street%22&match=1