Pipe Organ Database

a project of the organ historical society

Henry Pilcher View Extant Instruments View Instruments

Distinction:

Born in England, 1798; New York City, New York,/Newark, New Jersey area, 1832-1854; St. Louis, Missouri, 1854-1863; Chicago, Illinois, 1863-1875; Newark, New Jersey, 1875-80.
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 January 27, 1798 in Kent County, England; father of Henry, Jr. and William Pilcher; apprentice with his father and brother William in London, England; operated his firm in Dover, England, 1820; immigrated to New York City, New York, 1832, (with Erben firm?); in Newark, New Jersey, teacher, organbuilder; in New Haven, Connecticut, 1838; (in New York City, New York, 1844-1858?); partner with sons Henry [Jr.] and William in H. Pilcher & Son(s) of St. Louis, Missouri, 1859; retired after 1859; succeeded by his sons and grandsons; in Chicago, Illinois, 1863-1875; returned to Newark, New Jersey, 1875; died November 1, 1880 in Orange, New Jersey.

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), 142, 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.

May 07, 2018:

See the entry for The Pilcher Family for an overview and a family tree of the various builders.

See also: H. Pilcher & Son(s) for more information on the St. Louis firm.

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

October 30, 2004:

Updated by the editor, Feb 11, 2016. —

The first Henry Pilcher was born January 27, 1798 in Kent County, England; he was the father of Henry, Jr. [II] and William Pilcher. He apprenticed with his father and later with his older brother William in London, England. He was operating his own firm in Dover, England, by 1820. He married and soon had a family of five sons. Seeking new opportunities, he immigrated to New York City, New York, in 1832. Settling in Newark, New Jersey, he opened a shop to build organs and and also taught organ. He sent for his wife and sons while in Newark, he may have also worked in New Haven, Connecticut, circa 1838. The family moved to New York City, in 1844 where Pilcher worked for Henry Erben for ten years, again teaching and playing for churches as a side job.

The family returned briefly to Newark, before making a leap westward to St. Louis, Missouri. There he partnered with sons Henry {Jr.} and William in H. Pilcher & Son(s)* of St. Louis, Missouri, from 1854 to 1859 when. Henry retired. He was succeeded by his sons and grandsons. The younger Henry and brother William moved the firm to Chicago, Illinois, in 1863 to escape the disruptions of the Civil War, the elder Henry went with them. The Pilchers might have remained there except for the Great Chicago Fire of 1874. After the fire, the Pilchers went there separate ways: Henry II and his sons moved to Louisville Kentucky and established their own firm there. William remained in Chicago for a year, then returned to St. Louis. Henry senior stayed with William in Chicago until 1875 then he returned to Newark. The patriarch of the Pilcher organ builders died November 1, 1880 in Orange, New Jersey.

*The brothers seemed to have taken turns between them during this period, sometimes both brothers are listed with their father, at other times only one. One brother may have concentrated on organ building while the other operated the chain of music stores and music publishing concerns which the family owned. –Ed.
We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 25, 2019.

Database Specs:

  • 39 Organs
  • 1 Divisions
  • 1 Consoles

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