Wilcox & White Co


  For four decades the Wilcox & White Company, of Meriden, has occupied a position of leadership in the manufacture of musical instruments and was the pioneer in the development of the mechanical player piano, placing upon the market the first instrument of the kind, the Angelus, which has been brought to a high state of perfection and still enjoys unexampled prestige in its field.

  For many years the company was chiefly engaged in the manufacture of organs, under the name of the Wilcox & White Organ Company, which was founded in 1877 by Henry Kirk White and Horace C. Wilcox. The latter was a capitalist of Meriden, and was so impressed by the plans of Mr. White, who was a practical organ builder, for establishing a company for the manufacture of musical instruments, that he invested large sums of money, for that day, in the new enterprise. From the beginning the company proved a paying concern and Mr. White threw himself with all of his great energy into the work of supervising the operation of the plant and planning for the extension of its trade. Its first capital stock was one hundred thousand dollars but at the time of the reorganization of the concern under the name of Wilcox & White Company, the capitalization was doubled, and this made possible still further enlargement of the plant, which at various times had been added to, to provide for the expansion made necessary by the continued growth of the trade. The company was organized for the manufacture of reed organs and its instruments found ready sale in all parts of the country and were generally recognized as the best reed organs produced in America. As its reputation spread the whole civilized world became a market for the Wilcox & White organs, and in 1888 the volume of business was still further increased as in that year the company added to its line the Symphony, or pneumatic self-playing organs which had a large sale. In 1897 a new era was inaugurated in the business of manufacturing musical instruments by the invention by Mr. Edward H. White, the superintendent of the factory, of the Angelus, the first successful device for the mechanical playing of a piano. For many years Mr. White had been experimenting along that line and the patents which he took out on the invention included such fundamental principles that although there have since been many other mechanical players placed upon the market none have gone beyond the basic powers of excellence of the Angelus. In the intervening twenty years there have been numerous improvements in the mechanism of these instruments and the company is continually seeking to make every change, however small, in its construction, which will improve its responsiveness to the control of the operator. It has received the commendation of trained musicians and when all its devices for securing any desired variation in tempo, dynamics or rhythm are utilized it is impossible to distinguish between its playing of a piece and the same selection played by a fine pianist. The Angelus may be attached to any piano and is manufactured in a variety of woods and styles so as to match any piano case, and such was the demand for this instrument that the capacity of the factory was more than doubled within a few years.

  A building two hundred and fifty feet in length and forty feet wide was devoted entirely to the manufacture of this instrument and to the Angelus piano, which has the player feature incorporated within the piano but may also be played by hand. The company employs regularly between three and four hundred men and has been an important factor in the industrial development of Meriden. Every Angelus or Angelus piano leaving the factory has, at various stages in its manufacture, been subjected to the most rigorous inspection, and it is known beyond a doubt that it measures up to the high standard of quality that has become synonymous with its name.

  The Artrio Angelus, the wonderful new reproducing piano, is the latest development of the Angelus, provides faithful and complete reproductions of the artistic interpretations of great pianists in addition to what the regular Angelus affords. Simply by inserting the record-roll and turning on the electric current, the Artrio Angelus plays the composition exactly as it was played by the artist who made the master roll. All of the exquisite artistic effects, every crescendo and diminuendo, the soft, velvety pianissimos, each crashing sfortzando and the thumb melodies peculiar to the master pianist are reproduced with absolute fidelity and completeness without any act or touch of human hand. Pianists who have recorded their interpretations in the studio were amazed and delighted when they first heard the Artrio Angelus give repetitions of their own renditions, because every note, every touch, every tone and tempo were faithfully reproduced. Such great pianists as Harold Bauer, Ossip Gabrilovitsch, Tina Lerner, Richard Epstein and Ethel Leginska were especially enthusiastic.

  The rapid growth of the business would have been impossible had not each department of the factory been conducted along the most modern lines and in accordance with the principles of industrial efficiency. Henry Kirk White, one of the founders of the company and the man chiefly responsible for its early development and upbuilding, was succeeded in the management by James Henry White, who is still at the head of the concern. Two other sons, Edward H. and Howard White, were also prominently connected with the management of the business until called by death, and it was the former who invented the player pianos. The third generation of the family is ably represented in the direction of the company’s affairs by F. C. White.

  The same qualities have characterized father, son and grandson; a ready recognition of opportunity, keen discrimination between the essential and the non-essential, resourcefulness in meeting new conditions, determination, and above all, unswerving integrity. They recognized that all enduring business success must be based upon integrity of manufacture and a liberal merchandising policy.

Modern History of New Haven
Eastern New Haven County


Volume II

New York – Chicago
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company 

pgs 677 - 678

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pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary &
Anne Taylor-Czaplewski
May 2002