Many big inventions were made by not just one - but a couple of ingenious people. True for Welte-Mignon a well. Bockisch-Welte-Popper-Feurich (picture: Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau No 25, Mar 1905) were the key people enabling the big success of the Welte-Mignon. Many more people had to contribute to make things happen.

However many pieces to the puzzle have been collected, the comprehensive story behind Welte-Mignon has not yet been told. To better understand Welte-Mignon it is required to dive into the details on each step: the invention, the product development, the market entry, the sales, the service, the commercial background, the partner network, the downturn and the market exit of Welte-Mignon. Not to be misunderstood - there are wonderful pieces of work available on Welte-Mignon (i.e. by Peter Hagmann) and literature (i.e. by Augustiner Museum in Freiburg) and catalogues (i.e. the Welte-Mignon Welte roll catalogue by Dangel/Schmitz) and webpages (i.e. pianola.org) - nevertheless we still think, important elements to the story are missing. Once all the details are understood and linked to a coherent picture, the Welte-Mignon story will be told as it should. We perceive this hasn't been done yet due to a couple of reasons:

> many independant companies and people had been involved, their notes and documents took separate ways thru history and never got compiled to one story

> the drastic downturn of the industry and external disruptive impacts (economic crisis, war) ruined the key companies and prevented a continued company documentation

> WWI and WWII killed or scattered so many contemporary witnesses, instruments, machines, documents

> Welte-Mignon had been one, but just one important invention in a row of other important inventions (organs, orchestrions) that might have been be valued higher

> the historic interest in Welte-Mignon came too late to systematically benefit from most of the contemporary witnesses and sources

> previous attempts to compile facts on Welte-Mignon had been huge and great individual efforts, nevertheless not yet comprehensive or interlinked enough

> some collectors and dealers seemingly never wanted to have all facts shared or secrets disclosed, to maybe keep the value/prices of their collectables up

> main interest of many owners and collectors and even museums had been the technical details only - so they never looked into the business and esp. musical part of the story

> a joint and scientific well-grounded approach to this topic had never been performed yet - one reason: museums didn't really cooperate in this

> the public interest into this area is limited - and todays piano manufacturer do not perceive this part of their history worth investing

> without todays chances of the Internet, the global network, the digitization, etc. research and cooperation had been very difficult and often were unheralded

We try to support an initiative to overcome these obstacles, as we are convinced that there is an amazing story to be told, full of wow-elements, historic adventures, ingenious moments and above all, a one-of-its-kind history on music.

Equivalent stories have to be told on i.e. Philipps DUCA and Hupfeld DEA/Tri-Phonola. We will work on this as well.

Any contribution to this is highly welcome.


Popper "Artist" = Mignon...

This article (Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, Sep 1904) describes the first public presentation of the Popper "Artist" at Pre-Easter fair in Leipzig. As creator M. Welte & Soehne (Freiburg) has been named. No doubt, this is the early Mignon, still with the Popper owned product name "Artist". Noteworthy, Popper & Co also got the rights on the product name "Mignon" on April 9th, 1904. Same for the product name "Welte-Mignon" on April 28th, 1906.

One topic of intense discussions had been the naming - as to what we know, very difficult discussions took place between Welte, Bockisch und Popper. The name switched three times from Artist to Mignon to Welte-Mignon, which indicates, that Welte came out on top of this discussion. Remarkebly, the potentially key inventor, Karl Bockisch didn't took place in the product name at all.

The relevance of Karl Bockisch is highlighted in this article, saying "This Piano-Orchestrion as well as the Kunstspielapparat "Artist" are creations of Karl Bockisch, ..., who is the innovator...". However some weeks later, the publisher had to correct this statement to "...Karl Bockisch AND Edwin Welte...".


Wonder of the world...

This article taken from the German "Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau" (Mar 1905) describes the first public presentation of the Welte-Mignon at Leipzig Pre-Easter Fair. Today, we may not envisage how this event had really been perceived by the people that time. Today we are very used to technical innovations - in 1905 a self-playing piano, played like by a real pianist, must have been a wonder of the world.

To enable such a presentation many efforts had to be undertaken, many obstacles to be overcome, a lot of fortune had to join into the development. We will try to outline step by step how this may have happened.


Hugo Popper...key enabler

One of these elements to a success story of Welte-Mignon had been the discussions around market positioning and pricing of Welte-Mignon.

One very interesting insight into this still-have-to-be-told-story can be taken from a 1906 letter written by Hugo Popper to his general manager Hermann Moehle (picture: Popper catalogue): "...my belief had always been, that Mignon has to be positioned as marvelous thing at a price of 10000Mark, or as fast salable product at a dear price of 3000Mark..." (source: copy of the letter by W. Baus, original owned by Hanns Popper). Hugo Popper indicates that he didn't really agree to the chosen market positioning by Welte. At this time the sales price of a Feruich Welte-Mignon cabinet had been 3650Mark, and Hugp Popper struggled with the announcement of a price increase by Welte.


Calculation of Hugo Poper...

Another astonishing detail in the Welte history is this calculation by Hugo Popper (focused on the Feurich Welte cabinet). This is again taken from the Hugo Popper letter to Hermann Moehle in 1906 (source: copy of the letter by W. Baus, original owned by Hanns Popper). These letters had been written by Hugo Popper, when being highly annoyed by M. Welte & Soehne and their announcement of a price increase.