The company was started in 1903 by Cyrus Adler and RS Hill in Louisville, Kentucky strictly as an organ maker. As was common with many large manufacturers, the associations often consisted of an investor and a skilled craftsman. Adler was a successful owner of a large lumber company. RS Hill was from the Mason & Hamlin factory. Hill would be the superintendent who designed the instruments and managed their construction and quality.
Louisville, Kentucky was an odd location, considering that most manufacturers chose New York, Chicago, and Boston as more ideal locations. Adler chose Louisville because of its good rail access and was confident that the location would be profitable. Adler moved into an existing building that had previously been occupied by a furniture company.
In 1904, plans were drawn up to build a large plant across the street. But a dispute arose with the city councilors. Adler wanted a simple switch and rail to be installed to connect the two floors. Some council members objected to the plans for no apparent reason, and small discussions ensued. Eventually the new construction project was scrapped, resulting in the loss of hundreds of construction jobs.
A fire started in the packing room that destroyed part of the building. The damage was around $ 15,000 (roughly $ 380,000 today). All credit was given to the firefighters, otherwise all would have been lost. However, the water, to put out the fire, caused great damage to the instruments.
Adler produced a great and glorious display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. This was the expo that featured the ice cream cone. The exhibit was apparently a success as they had secured a five-year contract with Sears & Roebuck to build the Beckwith organ.
During the following year, they had 100 employees making between $ 50 and $ 150 a month.
The factory was eventually expanded to 100,000 square feet and took up an entire city block. The company had its own 350 horsepower power plant and 500 electric lights with more than ten miles of electrical cable.
The company shipped 40 organs a day and became the largest manufacturer in Louisville at the time. Between 1910 and 1928 they were also building Adler pianos, known to the public as the Beckwith piano sold by Sears through their catalogs.
Adler Manufacturing, as well as Geo. The P. Bent Piano Company would eventually be bought by the Sears & Roebuck Company, which would continue to sell pianos and organs until 1949.
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