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

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About Herwin was a short lived record label and distributor which existed in St. Louis, Missouri from 1924 until about 1930. Its founders ar...

Herwin - St. Louis, Missouri


Herwin was a short lived record label and distributor which existed in St. Louis, Missouri from 1924 until about 1930. Its founders are commonly attributed to the brothers Herbert and Edwin Schiele but further research shows that the company was actually founded by Herbert and his father Edwin Schiele. 

Edwin Schiele Sr was born July 9th, 1862 to German immigrant parents, Sigmund and Fanny, in St Louis, Missouri. Sigmund found success in the wholesale liquor business and earned a comfortable living for the family. They lived at 1428 Papin Street in a 3 story brick building between 14th and 15th Streets [2]. Edwin attended St Louis Public Schools until he turned 14 when he took a job at the wholesale dry good store of Judd & Platt. After 3 years of employment, he joined his father in the liquor trade as secretary and treasurer of his father's company. His father died in 1882 at the age of 56 leaving Edwin in control of the company [1]. 

Herbert Schiele was born January 25th, 1899 as the third child of Edwin and Minnie Schiele (nee Kramer) in Saint Louis, Missouri. They lived at 4139 Maryland Avenue in a two story brick home that they rented . They were a relatively well off family and employed two live-in maids. In 1910, they had moved to a luxury apartment complex at 4548 Forest Park Boulevard; not far from the famous park that had held the Worlds Fair years prior [11]. All three of their homes have been unceremoniously torn down during the last century as part of 'urban renewal'.

Edwin Schiele Jr was born July 8th, 1909 and was too young to have participated in these businesses in any meaningful fashion [12].

Schiele Advertising Co

In 1913, Edwin and his brother Seymour founded the Schiele Advertising Company which carried on into the 1920s.

Artophone Co

Prohibition in January of 1920 put an end to the Schiele liquor industry so Hebert and Edwin pivoted into the musical merchandise industry. They obtained control of the Artophone Company, a talking machine manufacturer founded in 1916 by Robert H. Cone Senior and his son. Edwin took on the role of President while Herbert became the secretary and treasurer. The company switched its focus from manufacturing to distributing of more general musical merchandise.

Image Credit: Music Trade Review

In 1923, 1101 and 1103 Olive Street suffered a fire originating from the basement which destroyed product from 3 large firms including Artophone. They lost around $45,000 worth of talking machines, records, and assorted merchandise [3]. They temporarily relocated to 1213 Pine Street while repairs were conducted [4]. Later that year, Arthur C. Thiebes Co took over the retail operations of Artophone while they would continue operating in a wholesale fashion [7]. Excitingly, in 1925 Artophone absorbed Wholesale Musical Supply Co and were joined by the brothers Ray and C. W. Layer [5]. 


Herwin Records began being distributed by Artophone around 1924 or 1925, according to snippets I've found. There isn't a ton of detail available but a man named John Randolph spoke with Herbert and compiled some history on the company and records in the late 1940s. A 1957 mention in "A Glimpse at the Past - An Illustrated History of Some Early Record Companies that Made Jazz History" by Michael Wyler describes Herwin records as being relatively rare. Another, later, mention describes the records as being pressed from cheap shellac which may explain their scarcity.

It was around this time that Edwin and Herbert began distributing records under the name Herwin. The label being a portmanteau of Herbert and Edwin.

Artophone - continued

In 1926, they moved out of the Thiebes building to 1622-1624 Olive Street with plans on expanding their offerings to include band instruments with their brand name [8].

In 1929, Tonk Brothers purchased the merchandise branch of Artophone and shipped the remaining stock up to their office in Chicago. It is noted that the record, radio, and phonograph operations of Artophone would remain unaffected [6]

In 1930, Artophone sold Herwin Records to Paramount Records which axed the label [9].

According to Herbert's youngest son James, Artophone Co continued to exist into the 1950s until his father purchased another local firm St. Louis Screw & Bolt [10].

The Herwin Guitar

This is the pièce de résistance. The reason I compiled a bunch of background information. I saw this guitar on Reverb and initially dismissed it as the logo looked and sounded like something from 1950s Germany. But I came back around to it and realized that this very well looks like an American made guitar from far earlier than I originally thought.

Reverb - Izzy's Vintage Guitars

The listing identifies it as being from the 1920s and likely from Chicago which I agree with. The exact builder manages to escape me but I know St Louis didn't have any prolific guitar builders during that era but did have a strong piano manufacturing center in the same block that Artophone was based out of. My gut is telling me that it is a Harmony because of the fingerboard inlays, wood selection, and checkerboard binding but I cannot say that it is for certain without more photos/better info.

Reverb - Izzy's Vintage Guitars


[11] 1910 Census -
[12] 1920 Census -

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