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...

Musicians Supply Company - Boston, Massachusetts

 

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