de Kleist, Eugene Frederick.jpg

Eugene de Kleist portrait (Landmarks of Niagara County, 1897 PD).jpg

Dublin Core


de Kleist, Eugene Frederick.jpg


(1853–1913) German-born Eugene de Kleist settles at Sawyer's Creek in Martinsville in 1893, having been recruited by the Armitage-Herschell Company to develop and build organs for their carousels. His North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory and later the de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company are on the present-day Wurlitzer grounds.

"The Baron," as the squat aristocrat is known around town, has a taste for the finer things in life. He owns a head-turning chariot, at least one luxury Pierce-Arrow automobile, and three custom-built powerboats (The Fox, and The Dolphins I and II), which he enters into races (with some success) at the Buffalo Launch Club and in Florida. He is also reported piloting a yacht, keeping purebred hounds, and hunting with bankers in Canada.

De Kleist becomes mayor of North Tonawanda in 1906. In 1908 he hands the automatic musical instrument business over to the Rudolph Wurlitzer Mfg. Co. (some say as a result of the growing distraction of his many hobbies), and returns to Europe in August, 1910. On July 30, 1913, he dies in Biarritz, France while traveling.

From Landmarks of Niagara County (1897):
Eugene Fr. T. de Kleist was born in Dusseldorf Germany, January 18, 1853. He is descended from a long line of noble German ancestors. Many of his family have been at times and actually are prominent officers in the German army, as well as conspicuous in private life. The name of von Kleist is one that is highly esteemed and distinguished in the Fatherland.

After the German-Franco war, Mr. de Kleist went to England, where he learned thoroughly the art of organ-building. He came to America in 1892, and in 1893 opened the organ factory at North Tonawanda, where he employs a number of skilled operators in the building of church-self-acting and barrel organs, which are unsurpassed. Every part of the organ is made in his factory, so that each is perfect and suited exactly to the instrument for which it is designed. Mr. de Kleist ships his organs all over the world and commands a large trade without sending out salesmen, which speaks highly for his goods. He is an enterprising and successful business man, and has built a fine residence in North Tonawanda on the street on which his factory is situated.

Mr. de Kleist married Charlotte, the daughter of the late Gustave T. T. Chelius, major in the regular Dutch army, and she is the niece of the late Dr. Ger. F. Westerman, well famed in zoological centers as the founder and life-long director of the magnificent zoological park N. A. M. at Amsterdam (Holland). They have four children, Charlotte, Martha, Auguste and Hedvige. Mr. de Kleist and his wife are members of the Catholic church at Tonawanda; he is a Republican in politics.





“de Kleist, Eugene Frederick.jpg,” North Tonawanda History, accessed June 25, 2024,