Now for something a little different.
A few weeks ago, I got a few e-mails from Chris Holtz, a grandson of Fred Holtz, head of Martin Band thru the 30’s and 40’s. Unfortunately, when I got his e-mails, I was sick and heavily medicated. I then proceeded to forget about his e-mails until he sent me another one.
Sorry ’bout that, Chris.
I don’t generally write anything about instrument companies’ history — I’m more interested in horns — nor do I write much about copmanies’ second lines, but I think Mr. Holz’s e-mails are interesting. Plus, I didn’t have to research it :).
I’m including the full text of each e-mail. This is a lot of interesting info about the Martin company and I hope you enjoy reading it:
[My] grandfather [worked at Martin] from 1921 to 1948, my Uncle Fritz worked there from 1935 to the RMC days, and my Mom and three other uncles worked at MBI [Martin Band Instruments] at one time or another. I enjoy history and am trying to straighten what I can of Martin’s. One of the most confusing areas has been the often errant information often given on Martin’s “purchase” of The Indiana Band Instrument Company.
I’ve done a good bit of background on this one because much of it didn’t jive with what I knew to be true when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties. After checking with my Mom (the receptionist 1945-47) and two of my aunts (Fred Sr’s daughters) and three of Fritz’ sons, I can affirm that once Martin (Orville Bassett – majority owner & Gen Mgr and Fred Holtz Sr – Sales Mgr and my grandfather) created the Indiana Band Instrument Company in 1928, all production of both Martin and IBICO horns was done at the Baldwin St. plant by the same talented group of metalworkers and machinists. This was much like Conn with their Pan American line and Buescher with Elkhart Band Instruments, both accomplished several years earlier. Martin did purchase the small Pedlar clarinet operation across the street, but other than making a small number of clarinets (with little success), it was used for storage. Until 1942, IBICO existed primarily on paper as a means of broadening their market to those who could not afford the Martin product line. With WWII war production ahead, they dropped the IBICO entity. As many have noted, the Indiana product line made use of older designs and tooling, perhaps also removing a feature or two. Actual quality did not change [until] the fifties became the sixties, [when] some of the most experienced workers retired. With the change in ownership in 1961, my Uncle Fritz became disenchanted with the RMC plan of latching on to the expected “Music Man” student horn boom. Quantity became [the] most important [consideration]. Though he had been there from 1935 as floor manager and from 1948 as VP, he decided it was time to leave and devote full time to his instrument case company, Elkhart Wood Products (Elwopco). MBI had never been an assembly line operation. Each craftsman had a work table and did what he did best whether forming, engraving, or polishing. Sadly, it took only two years to pull the plug.
I believe I’ve uploaded another album into the url listed below. This album includes a number of press clippings that gives some insight into Martin Band History, as well as both professional and personal history of both my grandfather Fred Holtz and that of O.P. Bassett (majority owner and G.M. of MBI from 1920 til his death in 1931).
https://plus.google.com/photos/116729702962080076876/albums/5727329324294476209 [Note: reqires a Google account to view. Click on each article to see a bigger version.]
I noticed many “authorities” (allexperts, ask.com, etc) have given faulty answers pertaining to IBICO and Martin products and dates based on an initial error (that Martin bought IBICO in 1938) and the rarity of the serial number list for “Indiana” line. Edwin on his TheMartinStory.net has a good understanding of what he has labeled “range2.” Martin kept the IBICO horns off their “Martin list.” I would suggest including that portion of his list in any Martin ledger.
Pete here again. I asked if Chris Holtz had any information on Martin’s association with Wurlitzer. I got the following e-mail and article:
[The below article] will explain much of it. I know Martin did a good number of stencils for wurlitzer, and after seeing this clipping, that would be very understandable. I don’t know of anything after that, or what relationship Paul Richards had with Wurlitzer before his collapse. I do know that my Uncle Fritz (Fred Jr and MBI VP from 48-62?) has little good to say about RMC in general.