Pipe Organ Database

a project of the organ historical society

Henry Pilcher [Jr. or II] View Extant Instruments View Instruments

Distinction:

St. Louis, MO, 1852-1863; Chicago, IL 1863-1874; Louisville, KY, 1874-1891
Classification: Builder

Update This Entry
October 26, 2019:

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

Born July 25, 1828; son of Henry Pilcher [Sr.], brother of William Pilcher, father of Henry W., William E., Robert E., John V., and Paul B. Pilcher; (in New York City 1844-1847?); partner with his brother William in H. & W. Pilcher of St. Louis, Missouri, 1852-1856; partner with his father and brother William in H. Pilcher & Son(s) of St. Louis, Missouri, 1857-1859; partner with brother William in Pilcher Brothers of Chicago, Illinois 1863-1874, except when firm was in partnership with William H. Chant as Pilcher & Chant of Chicago, Illinois, 1864-1866; established Henry Pilcher’s Sons of Louisville, Kentucky, with his sons, 1874; died February 22, 1891 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Sources:

  • Company literature.
  • One or more local directories of the place and period.
  • Orpha Ochse, The History of the Organ in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 167.
  • Barbara Owen, The Organ in New England (Raleigh: Sunbury Press, 1979), 410.
  • Organ Handbook 1986 (Richmond, Va.: Organ Historical Society), 20.
  • Elizabeth Towne Schmitt.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 26, 2019.

February 13, 2016:

NOTE: The suffixes Jr, II and III were not in common use in America in the 1800s, and the Pilcher family did not use them. They have been added here in brackets simply as an editorial means of distinguishing between men with the same names. In other documents, both Henry [II] and Henry [III] have been referred to as Jr., while Henry [I] and Henry [II] are sometimes referred to as Sr. There are also four different Williams in the family tree, but they are not direct lines. See the Family Tree under Pilcher Family - Overview for help in distinguishing between the various Henrys and Williams.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on April 09, 2020.

October 30, 2004:

From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North America Organ Builders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). --

Henry Pilcher [II] was born 25 July 1828 in England; the eldest son of Henry Pilcher {Sr.}. He had two brothers, the older being William Pilcher with whom he had a series of on-again, off-again partnerships. The third brother, Thomas Edward, apparently had little interest in organ building. He was the father of Henry W., William E. [Sr.], Robert E., John V., and Paul B. Pilcher.

Henry Pilcher Sr came to the U.S. in 1832, his wife and children followed soon after. Henry II learned the organ building craft from his father who built a few organs in Newark, NJ, and one in Hartford CT before taking a position with Henry Erben in New York City. When Henry senior returned to Newark and made yet another attempt to establish his own firm, Henry II and brother William decided to stop competing head to head with the firms of New England and New York, and moved west. Henry II and William established H. & W. Pilcher of St. Louis, MO, in 1852. After his wife's passing, the senior Henry left Newark in 1856 joined the St. Louis firm now rebranded as H. Pilcher & Sons of St. Louis, MO, 1857-1859. Henry senior retired circa 1858, Henry II and William continued the firm together and separately under different names until the uncertainties of the Civil War caused them to close shop and move north to Chicago in 1863. The two brothers new firm was the Pilcher Brothers of Chicago, IL 1863-1874, except when firm was in partnership with William H. Chant as Pilcher & Chant of Chicago, IL, 1864-1866.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the Pilcher factory, shortly thereafter the brothers Henry II and William separated for the last time. William remained in Chicago for two or three years before returning to St Louis, Henry went to Louisville KY and established his own firm with his sons as partners. Whether because of timing, location, Henry's late developing business sense, or a combination thereof, the firm of H. Pilcher & Sons (later Henry Pilcher's Sons) of Louisville, KY, 1874 - 1891 succeeded when the other Pilcher concerns struggled or failed. The firm achieved financial stability and produced nearly two thousand organs before the Great Depression brought business to a trickle. Henry II died 22 Feb. 1891 in Louisville, KY and did not see the expansion of the successor firm under his sons, Henry W. and William E. Pilcher, nor its closing near the end of World War II when his grandson, William E. Jr sold the remaining assets to M.P. Moller in 1944. We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 25, 2019.

Database Specs:

  • 18 Organs
  • 0 Divisions
  • 0 Consoles

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