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Oscar Schmidt Inc.

Oscar Schmidt Inc.: “

Spoonamore: Created a page regarding the Oscar Schmidt Company and related Zither and AutoHarp information

The Oscar Schmidt Company. (aka) Oscar Schmidt Lap-Harp and [[Zither]] Company, Oscar Schmidt Musical House, and Oscar Schmidt International.

The Oscar Schmidt Company designed and manufactured numerous models of parlor instruments including Lap-Harps, Auto-Harps, Gizmo-Harps, Chickering-Harps, Germania-Harps, Zithers, Cord-Zithers, Regent-Zithers and [[Ukelele]]. The company, now owned by Washburn Corporation, continues to manufacture AutoHarps and Ukeleles.

Founded by Oscar and Otto Schmidt in [[Jersey City]], New Jersey in 1871, the company applied for dozens of patents in musical instruments and related equipment. The Oscar Schmidt Company was formally incorporated in 1911 and at the companies peak in the early 1920’s, the company had manufacturing facilities in five cities.

The company’s [[parlour music]] instruments were relatively easy to play by amatuers. Oscar Schmidt designed small, portable, durable, easy to learn instruments useful for family entertainment in the decades between the civil war and the emergence of radio and television.

The company’s products were sold primarily door to door by traveling musical salesmen from the early 1880’s until 1965. Lay-away payment plans coupled with well made steel and wooden travel cases made the Oscar Schmidt companies a popular choice for people who wished to buy an instrument they planned to take to classes, parties or other gathering.

The company was also notable for it’s usage of current events as a marketing tool. Each year the company would offer new ‘special editions’ of it’s products linked to newsworthy events likely to appeal to the sympathy of customers the door to door salesforce would meet. Among the events warranted special edition instruments included: Presidential Elections, The Sinking of the Titanic, The Flood at Jamestown, Lindberg’s Crossing of the Atlantic, Alaskan Statehood, Haiwain Statehood and numerous battles of World Wars I and II. These ‘special editions’ would include a small image or dedication commemorating the event and pieces of sheet music with music written about the recent event. The Oscar Schmidt Travelling Salesmen were famous for keeping detailed records of the buying habits of customers, and the selection of ‘special editions’ was made annually with the intent to sell additional instruments to existing customers.

Oscar Schmidt Parlour Instruments are frequently found today in the attics of old homes, at estate auctions, or in antique stores. A few music stores and web sites are devoted to these parlour instruments. They remain easy to play, durable and thus are popular with some music teachers for the same reasons they were popular with the public before the advent of radio and television.


[ link FretLessZithers – A multimedia site dedicated to all facets of this family of Parlor Instruments including many musical samples]

[ link The Modern Oscar Schmidt Company, maker of AutoHarps and Ukeleles]

[ link An AutoHarp and Zither devotee site with a good identifier page of the many sub-types of zithers and autoharps]

[ link A Complete Taxonomy of Zithers based on Tuning, String Types and Sounding Systems]

(Via Wikipedia – New pages [en].)

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