History of the H. & A. Selmer Company

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History of the H. & A. Selmer Company

From a presentation by Ralph Morgan at the annual meeting of AMIS (American Musical Instrument Society) in Elkhart Indiana in 1994.

R. & G. Morgan Enterprises, Inc.
Fine Woodwind Mouthpieces and Accessories
490 Forest Drive
Springfield, Ohio 45505
Fax 513-324-2490 Telephone 513-322-5041

"The Little Place Over The Glue Factory"
H. & A. Selmer, that is...

1885- Henri Selmer begins manufacturing clarinets and mouthpieces at 4 Place Dancourt, in Paris. For some years he had made reeds.
1898- Henri's brother, Alexandre, comes to the United States to become Principal Clarinetist of the Boston Symphony. His set of Selmers is the first seen in this country.
1901- Alexandre moves to Cincinnati, becoming Principal for the Cincinnati Symphony. The word is starting to spread about the superb quality of the Selmer clarinets. Alexandre sells them to many prestigious players.
1904- A demonstration booth is secured at the St. Louis Exposition, April 30th to December 1st. Alexandre has the first catalogues printed and establishes a sales office in Cincinnati.
1909- Alexandre moves to New York as Principal Clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic. He opens a Selmer retail store on 86th Street. The store was an instant success, and teaching and repair facilities were soon added. A person destined to take over the company in later years, Mr. George Bundy, started working in the store. He was an outstanding pupil of Alexandre Selmer.
1911- Selmer opens a manufacturing plant, with excelsior, at 251 Fourth Avenue, New York, to make fine accordions. At the end of the year Alexandre Selmer has returned to Paris, putting George Bundy in charge of the store. Mr. Bundy immediately contacted several American band instrument and accessory manufacturers and added many different lines of products to the retail store. These included Bach, Martin Band Instruments, Olds trombones, Martin and Vega guitars, Ludwig drums and many accessory items.
1920- The Selmer retail store is moved to larger quarters, on 89th Street.
1922- Yet another move, with rapid business growth, this time to West 48th Street, their most well known address.
1927- George Bundy buys the store from the Selmers, changing the name to H. & A. Selmer, Inc. There was no remaining financial connection between the Selmers, in Paris, and Selmer in America. Mr. Bundy was appointed the sole distributor for Selmer Paris instruments in the United States.

George Bundy came to Elkhart due to the reputation of its being the "Band Instrument City of the World", many thanks to C. G. Conn. He purchased the property at 1119 N. Main Street, and moved many of the New York employees to Elkhart. Due to the small size they only occupied the 2nd floor of the building. It had originally been the show rooms for the Crowe Automobile factory, across the street, and housed the sales rooms for the Hudson Motor Car Agency at the time of purchase. This caused one of the competitors in the band instrument industry to call Selmer "the little place over the garage". Soon afterward, the Hudson Agency moved downtown, and Selmer leased the 1st floor to the Metallic-X Company, maker of metal-based adhesives. Now said competitor talked about Selmer as "the little place over the glue factory"! What a different tune was sung when, 40 years down the road, Selmer replaced Conn as the world's largest band instrument maker!

1930- Another most important contributor to the Selmer saga joined the staff, in the capacity of advertising manager. He was Joseph M. Grolimund, destined to become the second president of the company. J.M.G. or just plain Joe, as he insisted on being called came on board during the depression, but soon devised a mail campaign for Selmer which kept them on the plus side in the profit picture throughout those tough times. While most companies were laying people off, Selmer increased its staff to 17 from the 8 it had two years previously.
1936- The managers of Selmer, due to the rapid growth in popularity of the Selmer Paris instruments, made an unheard of decision. While the other manufacturers were still selling at retail as well as trying to maintain individual music stores as dealers, Selmer, at the insistence of Joe Grolimund, switched to a policy of selling only at wholesale, and only to legitimate retail stores. This move was welcomed by all dealers, and boosted Selmer sales dramatically.
1941- WW II cuts off all shipments of Selmer Paris instruments, and George Bundy buys the Jesse French Piano Company to supplement the sales. Also, he starts the very successful Bundy line of student instruments, then adding the Signet middle grade line.
1944- All band instrument activity is ceased, and the company goes into export packing for the government, strictly a war effort program. Only a few instruments and accessories are available.
1946- Things slowly return to normal, as Selmer Paris is again in production. The production of Bundy and Signet instruments grows rapidly.
1950- Start of an organized field sales force to more firmly establish the Selmer dealer network. This consists of 7 men, the production force has now grown to 52, with 20 in the office, and the 4 men who have purchased the company from George Bundy, now in very poor health. He died in April 1951. The four were Joseph M. Grolimund, Jack Feddersen, Milt Broadhead, and Charles Bickel.
1958- Purchased the Harry Pedler and Sons brass plant on Superior Street.
1961- Selmer purchases the Vincent Bach brass plant. It is not moved to Elkhart at this time. Mr. Bach begins designs for the Bundy student brass lines, to be made in a small new plant in Elkhart.
1963- Selmer purchases the Buescher Band Instrument Company just as it was being closed for good. Actual purchase was by the Bundy Band Instrument Company, a subsidiary of H. & A. Selmer, Inc. The Buescher name and most of the lines were perpetuated by Selmer.
1964- The Bach plant and equipment are moved to Elkhart.
1965- A new two story addition to the rear of the original Selmer plant, doubling the floor space for manufacture of woodwind instruments.
1966- Selmer buys the Brilhart mouthpiece lines, including fibercane reeds. Mouthpieces are made by the J. J. Babbitt Company.
1967- Selmer purchases the Lesher Woodwind Company, makers of oboes and bassoons. Also purchases 19.7 acres in an industrial park for new Bach brass plant and new corporate office building.
1970- Selmer merges with Magnavox Corporation. All stock is eventually purchased by North American Philips Corporation. Selmer purchases a portion of the Premier Drum Company in Leicester, England. The 70's also saw a new case plant, as well as a large warehousing complex.

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