Alfred Dolge was one of the most important and fascinating men in piano history. Born in 1848 in Saxony, Germany, he attended school in Leipzig. When he was 17 when he entered his father’s business “A. Dolge and Co., Piano Manufacturers”. Very little is known of this father’s business. Very few instruments are known to exist from “A. Dolge & Co.”, indicating that the firm of Dolge Sr. was likely a very small family-owned firm building instruments in very small numbers. As an apprentice in his father’s firm, Alfred Dolge learned every facet of piano manufacturing as it was done in the old European tradition.
Alfred Dolge first came to the New York City when he was 17 years old, working in piano building and importing. Young Alfred saw a substantial opportunity in supplying the fast-growing American Piano Industry with much needed supplies such as felt, leather, etc. In 1874, Alfred Dolge settled in Brockett’s Bridge, NY and established his felt manufacturing operation. This venture was so successful that Brockett’s Bridge was renamed and incorporated as “Dolgeville, NY” in 1881. Within a few years, Dolgeville grew from a population of 325 to over 2,000, many of whom were German immigrants whom he had been introduced to the area by advertisements and agents.
Eventually, Alfred Dolge built felt mills, made felt shoes, autoharps, piano cases, piano sounding boards, piano hammers, etc. Alfred Dolge is also credited for creating and implementing the concept of modern social security. His factories included profit sharing, pension plans and life insurance – all ideas which were well ahead of their time.
Dolge suffered financial ruin and left Dolgeville for California in 1899. His years in California proved to be very successful for him as an author, historian, and economist. He is credited for archiving much historical information about manufacturers and suppliers in the 19th and early 20th Century piano industry. His books, including the famous “Pianos and their Makers”, kept much of the historical information we have available today from being lost forever. Alfred Dolge died in Milan, Italy in 1922 on a world tour while promoting his books. He is buried in the Dolgeville cemetery.
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