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

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   History Stromberg-Voisinet was formed in late 1921 by Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer, Charles G. Stromberg, and Frank C. Voisinet after ...

The Stromberg-Voisinet Company (1921-1931)



Stromberg-Voisinet was formed in late 1921 by Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer, Charles G. Stromberg, and Frank C. Voisinet after they purchased the manufacturing company of Andrew Groehsl. Not to be confused with the archtop production of Elmer Stromberg... Their initial headquarters were at 3406 Greenview Avenue in Chicago [3]. By the end of 1922 they had moved to the second floor of 312 Union Park Court [1]. They signed an initial lease at the location for 5 years at a price of $12,000. By 1929 their location was listed as 316 Union Park Court and I suspect they were renting the entire building at that point. 

Charles G. Stromberg

Charles Gustave/Gustaf Stromberg was born in Sweden on April 8th, 1873. He immigrated to the United States in 1889 and was married in 1897. In the 1910 census, Charles was a machinist at a musical instrument manufacturer [7]. By WWI he was a draftsman at Western Electric and lived at 3939 Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago [8]. At the 1930 census he listed his occupation as a salesman of musical instruments [9]. He died in 1960 and was listed as an "instrument maker" [10] 

Frank C. Voisinet

Frank Charles Voisinet was born 1876 in Versailes, Ohio to French immigrants. Evidently, Frank was a man with multiple vested interests. By 1920 he was the president of a "milling company" and by 1930 he was the president of a "pottery company" [11][12]. In 1926 he was part of a new investing firm [13]. He died in 1937 at the age of 61 [4].

Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer

Henry Kuhrmeyer was born May 26th, 1894 in St. Paul, Minnesota to German parents. By 1920, he was in New York having served on the USS Yankton [15]. He remained in the music industry for most of his life. He died March 18th, 1956 [14]


  • 1921 - Andrew Groehsl sells his manufacturing firm to Kuhrmeyer, Stromberg, and Voisinet
  • 1922 - Stromberg-Voisinet moves their factory to 312-316 Union Park Court
    • The first Stromberg-Voisinet catalog is released [17]
      • It offers 15 mandolin and 10 guitar "styles"
      • Stromberg Patent Heads are featured on every model
      • The back of the headstocks are embossed with a fancy design
      • All their instruments are kept in stock except bowlback mandolins which are built to order
  • 1923 - Announcement of a "lyre-shaped" mandolin which features tuning machines of their own make [16]
  • 1927 - The "Venetian" body style is produced [20]
  • 1929 - A soundboard-mounted contact pickup, developed by Kuhrmeyer, is released exclusively through Milton G. Wolf at 816 Kimball Hall in Chicago [18]
  • 1930 - Henry Kuhrmeyer patents the adjustable neck design that would help define his later "Kay Kraft" instruments
  • 1931 - The "Aero Uke" is released

Image Credit: Music Trade Review

  • July 1931 - Stromberg-Voisinet ceases to exist and the company is renamed Kay Musical Instrument Company with Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer as the president [19].

Stromberg Patent Heads

In 1921, Charles Stromberg patented tuning machines that were recessed within the headstock of the instrument. These were seen as a design and aesthetic improvement by the company.

Stromberg Tuners on a Bruno-branded guitar
Image Credit: Facebook - Jim Cunningham

Finding the Factory

Union Park Court no longer exists and finding the previous street name isn't quite a simple Google search away. Thanks to the Chicago Historic Society, Library of Congress, and various historic architecture websites I managed to start to piece together our modern maps with the maps at the time Stromberg-Voisinet was formed. 

(North is oriented to the right)
Image Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection - Blanchards 1906 Map

Union Park Court ceased to be by at earliest 1937 and became North Laflin Street while it's parallel St. John became North Justine Street [5][6]. Union Park Ct. covered two to three blocks of industrial buildings and so I had to locate which building would've housed the factory. The street numbers are inconsistent so I wasn't going to take them at face value but instead try to determine where this factory would've sat. Most old city maps don't show individual building numbers and will sometimes have note block numbers but that wasn't the case here.

Fire Insurance Maps

In comes the Sanborn Map Company which spent nearly 50 years creating a detailed map of every block in Chicago. They passed through Union Park Court in 1916 so I wouldn't get to see what the factory looked like during S-V's time. Thankfully the Chicago Public Library has compiled an index of the Sanborn Map volumes and what streets they encompassed. Volume 6, published in 1916, covered the areas north of Madison Street between Halsted Street and Western Avenue.

Lot bordered by Carroll avenue to the North and Fulton to the South
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Vol. 6, 1916 
Image Credit: Library of Congress

Zoomed version of the above screenshot

We can see '312' and '316' on the right hand side of the building which denotes the street number. This is the Stromberg-Voisinet factory five years before the company began. After locating a key to Sanborn maps, I could then determine what the building was. 'All 6' meant the building had 6 floors and 'A.S' in a circle meant the building had an automatic sprinkler system. The building did have electric power as well as a brick enclosed elevator in the south west corner. 

1938 Aerial Survey of the block
316 Union Park Ct is the tall building casting a shadow over it's neighbor
Image Credit: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois

The Factory

Lucky us, 316 Union Park Court actually translates into the modern world as 316 N Laflin Street and the original building is still standing. It was renovated in the past 15 years.

S-V Factory Pre-Renovation - 2006
Image Credit: Cook County Treasurer

Stromberg-Voisinet Factory - Present Day
Image Credit:

A drone pilot recorded a video in 2018 of the renovated structure



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