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D. H. Baldwin Company Records

An inventory of its records at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: A. Whelock
Date: Feb 1963

Biographical History

From inauspicious beginnings in a small, upstairs room in Cincinnati, the D.H. Baldwin Company grew to be one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of pianos and organs in the United States. Baldwin began his business career by selling a few pianos and organs to friends and former music students in 1862. Soon he was able to invest $2,000 to found the company which bears his name.

Baldwin and his partners, Lucien and Clarence Wulsin, A. A. Van Buren, and George W. Armstrong, Jr. opened branch offices in other cities outside of Cincinnati. In 1890, they were able to build their own factory, the Baldwin Piano Company, to manufacture pianos. To supplement this production, they received pianos from other suppliers.

In 1898, the Baldwin Piano Company was incorporated and the supply factories became a part of Baldwin's new company, the D. H. Baldwin Company. The Hamilton Organ Company and the Hamilton Piano Company, located in Chicago, and the Baldwin Piano Company and the Ellington Piano Company in Cincinnati, were some of the suppliers.

International recognition was accorded the "House of Baldwin" when it won the Grand Prix at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and Lucien Wulsin was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor. It also won the Grand Prize at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, and the Grand Prize at London in 1914. By 1913 Baldwin was exporting to 32 countries.

In the 1920s Baldwin expanded its product line to player pianos, and thanks to prudent planning by then-president Lucien Wulsin II, the company was able to weather the Depression. After a brief hiatus during World War II when its factories, like many others, were diverted to producing airplane parts, the company returned to a brisk business in musical instruments. In 1946 Baldwin introduced the first electronic organs, which were so successful that the company changed its name in 1953 to Baldwin Piano & Organ Company.

During the 1970s the company made a concerted effort to expand into the financial sector, acquiring savings & loan institutions, insurance companies and investment firms; by 1982 pianos represented only 3% of the company's business, and the following year excessive debt forced the company into bankruptcy. For the next twenty years the company struggled in and out of debt and changed hands several times, eventually being purchased by Gibson Guitar Corporation in 2001. The company operates today as a division of Gibson Guitar Corporation, and manufactures instruments under the Baldwin, Chickering, Wurlitzer, Hamilton, and Howard names.

Baldwin products have for many years been the instrument-of-choice for professional pianists, orchestras and concert venues across the United States and throughout the world. Baldwin is America's largest acoustic piano manufacturer and sells more pianos in the U.S. than any other manufacturer.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The D. H. Baldwin Company Records are divided into four groups.

The collection begins with a small amount of Correspondence, which contains correspondence between the Baldwin Piano Company and three other piano manufacturing firms. It includes incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Baldwin Piano Company with the Vesey Piano Company (1929-1930), which reveals an effort on the part of Mr. Vesey to persuade the Baldwin Piano Company to build and market a quality radio (circa 1928); the minutes of a presidential report at a Standard Piano Company meeting (1895); and the minutes of a Valley Gem Piano Company meeting (1895).

The majority of the material is found in the next two series, both of which contain ledgers, general journals, cash books, and sales books for their respective companies. The daily transactions, cash receipts and disbursements, and sales records of the various companies involved in the corporation are registered in the journals, cash, and sales books. The ledgers summarize these transactions as well as information concerning costs, revenues, production, investment, distribution and sales. These two series are explained in greater detail below.

The Baldwin Company represents the administrative and producing factors of the corporation, and is subdivided into general administrative records, supply department records, and subsidiary records.

General administrative records of the Baldwin Company contain the Secretary's office ledgers (1902-1915) and cash books (1906-1942). The ledgers include sundry accounts as well as all the capital stock entries. The cash books contain general entries of revenues and real estate rentals from the supply departments and subsidiaries, and expenses incurred by the Baldwin Company.

Supply department records of the Baldwin Company contain the records of the Cincinnati and Chicago Heights warehouses. Included in these are ledgers (1903-1938) showing manufacturing expenses, equipment, goods in process, and charges to subsidiaries; sales books (1904-1920) showing entries of the sale of piano parts to various subsidiaries; and cash journals (1903-1942).

Subsidiary records of the Baldwin Company contain the record books of the various companies that helped make pianos for the Baldwin Company at one time or another. The major subsidiary companies include the following:

Baldwin Piano Manufacturing Company, founded in 1890: ledgers (1895-1938) and cash books (1892-1938). Included are such interesting items as a notice of the Grand Prix Award at the Paris Exposition, volume 95; a memo concerning the name change of the company in 1913, volume 76; and a photograph and information concerning the death of D.H. Baldwin, volume 92.
Ellington Piano Company: ledgers and cash books (1893-1938) and a general journal (1903-1906). The general journal contains summary reports of shipments, balance sheets, comparative wage cost tables, reports of the president, as well as other summary reports. Notable among the ledgers is volume 106, which contains correspondence of Mr. Wulsin, a company president, concerning stockholders and volume III, which contains correspondence from Mr. Wulsin to his board of directors. Volume 125, a cash book, contains a letter and a memorial photograph of D.H. Baldwin.
Hamilton Organ Company (1891-1920) and Hamilton Piano Company (1897-1938): ledgers and cash journals, for the same dates, summarizing the daily activities of these two Chicago-based companies. Of note is the organizational memo pertaining to the Howard Piano Company in volumes 161 and 165.
Miscellaneous other subsidiaries: the Howard Piano Company records (1919-1934) consisting of ledgers and cash books; the Monarch Piano Company records (1898-1933) consisting of ledgers, a journal and a cash book; the Perry Lumber Company ledgers and cash journals (1906-1922) containing entries of sales to the supply factories and subsidiary companies of the Baldwin Company; the Sargent Piano Company records (1921-1922) consisting of a ledger and a cash journal; the Valley Gem Piano Company records (1895-1901) consisting of one ledger revealing limited accounts with the Ellington Piano Company and the Standard Piano Company.

The Baldwin Piano Company represents the sales and distribution factors of the corporation and is divided into general records (general office, sales department, advertising, wholesale and rental department, agents and dealers and phonograph sales records) and division records, including those of Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Southern, Eastern, and Export divisions.

General records comprise the company records, 1884-1955. One of these, volume 215, is a summary ledger which contains early financial statements, division of capital and profits among the partners, agreements, clippings and letters by and about Clarence Wulsin and D.H. Baldwin. Other company records include the sales department ledgers and cash books (1903-1942), summarizing the sales of all the divisions; the cash books (1916-1938) for the advertising work; the wholesale and retail ledgers (1906-1938); and the agents and dealers ledgers, account books, contingent commission books and individual salesmen books (1908-1943). The ledgers, journals, cash books and sales books of the phonograph business (1917-1931) for all the divisions were brought together under company records.

Division records cover the years 1903-1938 and the bulk of them represent the Cincinnati and Denver divisions. The transactions of the various divisions of the Baldwin Piano Company are recorded in the ledgers, cash books and sales record books of the Chicago (1926-1930), Cincinnati (1903-1938), Dallas (1913-1929), Denver (1903-1931), Detroit (1923-1929), Eastern (1915-1930), Indianapolis (1917-1921), St. Louis (1926-1929), Southern (1917-1924) and Export (1916-1938) divisions.

A small amount of Miscellaneous records grouped at the end of the collection consist of journals (1914-1938) and a ledger for the Ellington, Hamilton, and Baldwin Manufacturing Company (1930-1933).

Arrangement of the Collection

Within each division, volumes are arranged by type (e.g. cash books, ledgers) and then chronologically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Baldwin, D. H.
Wulsin, Clarence.
Wulsin, Lucien, -1912.

Corporate Bodies

Baldwin Piano & Organ Company -- Archives.
Baldwin Piano Company -- Archives.
D. H. Baldwin Company -- Archives.


Manufacturers -- United States.
Piano makers -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Ledgers (account books)
Sales records.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

D. H. Baldwin Company Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Lucien Wulsin, Dec. 1967.

Table of Contents


Baldwin Company

Baldwin Piano Company

Miscellaneous records