The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 5553

Builder Identification

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1886-1914.

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders, by David H. Fox (Richmond, Va.: Organ Historical Society, 1991). Edited for the revised OHS Online Database website, 2017.-

    William Schuelke (Sr) was born in April 1849/1850 in Koenitz, West Prussia, Germany. He emigrated to the United States as a young man and was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by 1870. He moved about the Midwest for the next few years: He was in Dayton, Ohio, 1871-1872; then Hamilton, Ohio, in 1873; in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1874; finally settling in Milwaukee. His first venture in the new city was with Theodore Steinert in Schuelke & Steinert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1875-1876. After the short-lived partnership, he established Wm. Schuelke Organ Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The senior William Schuelke died December 6, 1902 in St. Mary's, Indiana.

    After his departure, the firm was continued by his sons, Max and William J. Schuelke. The firm went bankrupt September 16, 1914 and the brothers went their separate ways, each establishing his own business. William J. continued building organs while his brother Max apparently confined his activities to tuning and maintenance work.

    Staff: Charles Besch; Elmer H. Hunholz; Frederick W. Roesler; Max Schuelke; William J. Schuelke; Henry Tellers; Herman J. Tellers.


    • Patent #145,453; December 9, 1873; wind valve
    • Patent #549,690; November 12, 1895; organ* [pneumatic valve action]
    • Patent #572,128; December 1, 1895; organ [pneumatic assist to mechanical key action to lighten touch].
    • Patent #572,129; December 1, 1895; organ [pneumatic assist to mechanical key action to lighten touch when couplers are drawn].
    • Patent #572,130; December 1, 1895; organ [modification of pneumatic system to simplify manufacturing ].

    *Titles used for patents are not precise, these patents are for components of an organ, not for an entire organ of novel design. The editor has attempted to add more detail [in brackets] using the text of the patent as the source. Note, however, that the language used in description of patents is a mixture of legal and engineering terms and is not easily understood, the editor cannot guarantee the precision of his summations. -Ed.


    • United States Census, [years are not listed in Fox's Guide, presumed 1870.]
    • The Diapason, October 1914, 1.
    • The Diapason, August 1921, 3.
    • The Diapason, June 1945, 27.
    • Local directories of the place and period.
    • Orpha Ochse, The History of the Organ in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 304.
    • Piano and Organ Purchaser-s Guide, Purchaser-s Guide to the Music Industries, (New York: Music Trades), 1918.
    • Elizabeth Towne Schmitt.
    • The Tracker, 34:1, (Richmond, Va.: Organ Historical Society, 1991), 24.

Database Entries

There are 57 entries in the database that describe organs by Wm. Schuelke Organ Co.

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Builder's Nameplate (on casework). (2011) Photograph by Ryan Mueller

Builder's Nameplate. Photograph by William T. Van Pelt