Pipe Organ Database

a project of the organ historical society

William H. Pilcher View Extant Instruments View Instruments

Distinction:

St. Louis, Missouri, 1858-59, 1874-1878; Chicago, Illinois, 1863-74; New Orleans, Louisianna, New York City, Chicago, Illinois, 1910.
Classification: Builder

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February 23, 2016: We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on April 09, 2020.

February 23, 2016:

From the OHS Database, Builders Listing Editor. Updated and revised February 23, 2016. —

William Henry Pilcher (1855–1910) was the oldest son of William Pilcher, and grandson of the first Henry Pilcher.1 He was only marginally connected with building organs, but was well-known as a church musician, recitalist, teacher, and composer.2

William Henry was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1855. His father and uncle were partners there as H. and W. Pilcher, the senior Henry later joined the firm, and it was known briefly as H. Pilcher & Sons.3 In 1863, a riot occurred when Confederate sympathizers attacked a Union garrison stationed there. The Pilchers decided to move to the relative safety of Chicago, where they re-established themselves as the Pilcher Brothers firm.4 While living in Chicago, William H. received his first formal training in music as a chorister at the cathedral.5 He also took his first position as organist in Chicago while still in his teens.6

William H. returned to St. Louis along with his family in 1874. He remained there when the rest of the family moved to New Orleans. William H. planned to join them in 1878, but was dissuaded due to the Yellow Fever outbreak in the city that year. Instead, he moved to Galveston, Texas, taking a position with Trinity Church and opening his first music school there.7 By 1881, he rejoined the family in New Orleans, and opened his second school, the Pilcher Conservatory.8 The school was successful, and William H. married one of the students, Isabella Stevenson, in 1883.9 William apparently had a wanderlust, he traveled frequently as a recitalist, and changed positions often, serving various congregations in New Orleans.10 This culminated in 1892 when he left the conservatory under his wife's management and took two positions simultaneously in New York City: the Episcopal Church of the Nativity and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.11 William H. returned to New Orleans in 1906, but moved in with his parents, although he continued to work with his wife Isabella at the conservatory. He left the school again for a position in Chicago in 1910. He died in a community outside Kansas City while on tour later the same year. Without his reputation and name recognition attached to the conservatory, the family was unable to compete with the newer schools of music opening in New Orleans and closed it later that year.12 We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 21, 2019.


February 23, 2016:

Sources:

  1. Bynum Petty, Henry Pilcher's Sons: Opus List and Historical Sketch, (LULU Press 2014)
  2. John H. Baron, Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, Dec 9, 2013) p. 260.
  3. Petty
  4. Petty
  5. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, (Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1892) 311.
  6. Memoirs 310.
  7. Memoirs 310.
  8. Memoirs 310.
  9. Memoirs 310.
  10. Baron.
  11. Baron.
  12. Baron.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 21, 2019.

February 23, 2016:

Suggested for further reading:

John H. Baron, Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, December 9, 2013)

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on October 21, 2019.

October 30, 2004:

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

Born about 1855 in St. Louis, Missouri; son of William Pilcher*; partner with father in Chicago, Illinois, 1871–1873; in St. Louis, Missouri, 1874–1878; in Mobile, Alabama, 1878; teacher; in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1882–1906?, organbuilder, teacher, composer, organist; in Chicago, Illinois, 1910; died September 14, 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Sources:

  • 1860 Census.
  • One or more local directories of the place and period.
  • Kansas City Journal September 15, 1910.
  • Louisiana History Quarterly January 1948 (Louisiana Historical Association).
  • 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 21, 2019.

Database Specs:

  • 11 Organs
  • 0 Divisions
  • 0 Consoles

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