Pipe Organ Database

a project of the organ historical society

Pilcher Brothers (New Orleans) View Extant Instruments View Instruments

Distinction:

New Orleans, Louisiana, 1883-1892.
Classification: Builder

Update This Entry
February 23, 2016:

NOTES:

1) Because there are several men named Henry or William in the four generations of the Pilcher family who built organs, the editor has adopted the genelogical convention of designating the generations using Roman numerals. The second Henry was known as Jr. and then Sr. in his lifetime, but was never styled Henry Pilcher II. See Pilcher Family - Overview for a simplified family tree
2) Bynum Petty, Henry Pilcher's Sons: Opus List and Historical Sketch, (LULU Press 2014)
3) Petty ibid.
4) "Pilcher," Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, American Supplement, 1926 ed. quoted by John H. Baron.
5) Elizabeth Towne Schmitt, "Pilcher"
6) Schmitt ibid.
7)
8)
9)
10) John H. Baron, Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, Dec 9, 2013) p. 261
11)
12) Baron, ibid. p.
13) Baron, ibid. p. 261.
14) Baron, ibid. p. 262.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 23, 2019.

October 10, 2015:

From the OHS Database, Builders Listing editor. Updated and revised Feb 21, 2016. —

The first use of Pilcher Brothers as a firm name was by William [II]1 and Henry [II]1 Pilcher when they moved to Chicago in 18632 from St. Louise. This was succeeded by Pilcher Brothers & Chant while Henry W. Chant was a partner, 1864-1866; after Chant's departure, the brothers resumed their previous name, 1866-1871.3 The business was disrupted by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Grove's 1926 edition states the business was destroyed, although Elizabeth Towne Schmitt states the factory was not directly affected by the fire.5 Regardless of the building's status, the two brothers parted ways about this time: Henry and his sons eventually settled in Louisville, Kentucky where he established Henry Pilcher & Sons. That firm became Henry Pilcher's Sons after Henry's retirement.6 William remained in the Chicago area for another three years after the fire,7 continuing the business as Pilcher Brothers, then changing to William Pilcher & Son (which son is not clear, the oldest, William H., had by that time taken a full time position as organist,8 so Albert is the most likely candidate). William then returned to St. Louis and attempted to revive the firm there,9 but there is confusion as to the business name he used while there.

Around 1878, William and family moved to New Orleans. At the time, New Orleans was the only city in the post-war Southern states with a significant musical culture, rivaling Boston, New York, and nouveau riche San Francisco.10 While there, William and his sons may have operated under various names; they are referred to as the Pilcher Organ Company, Pilcher and Sons, and William Pilcher and sons. In 1897, the name Pilcher Brothers was revived, although now it was William's sons who were the brothers. This last incarnation of Pilcher Brothers as a firm closed in 1900.11 William's oldest son, William Henry, had established a conservatory in New Orleans, and the senior William was a vice president. After Pilcher Brothers closed, William senior took a more active role in the management of the Pilcher Conservatory, helping his daughter-in-law, Mrs. William Henry Pilcher (nee Isabella Stevenson), while his son William Henry Pilcher was living in New York where he had taken positions with the Episcopal Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Epiphany.12 The other brothers, Albert S., and Charles H., joined the Philip Werlein firm in New Orleans where their brother George W.D. was working.13 William did make one final attempt to operate a shop, he and son Charles H. Pilcher did business as Wm. & Ch. H. Pilcher for a brief period (1906-1910). William H. died while on tour in 1910, the same year that the his father and brother's business closed. His conservatory did not survive without him, and closed that year as well. 14 The Pilcher name faded from the New Orleans musical scene, while the Louisville branch expanded their business during the second and third decades of the twentieth century, before succumbing to the double blow of the Great Depression and World War II. We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 23, 2019.


October 30, 2004:

From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). —

Active in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1883-1892. Staff: Albert S. Pilcher; George W. D. Pilcher; William Pilcher, William H. Pilcher.

Sources:

  • One or more local directories of the place and period.
  • Elizabeth Towne Schmitt.

 

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 23, 2019.

Database Specs:

  • 9 Organs
  • 0 Divisions
  • 0 Consoles

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