|The Starr Piano Company began
as the Trayser Piano Co. in 1872. One if its founders was James
Starr. In 1878, the company was reorganized as the Chase Piano
Company, and Benjamin Starr joined his brother James in the business.
In 1884 they bought 23 acres in the Whitewater Valley gorge and
constructed a six-story factory powered by the river. In 1893
it became the Starr Piano Company, and it soon became a sprawling
complex of buildings and lumber yards and one of the biggest employers
|By the 1920s, it
was manufactuing not only pianos and player pianos, but phonographs.
To go with the phonographs it began producing records, first
under the Starr name, then under a separate division. The Gennett
Records Division of Starr Piano recorded artists of early jazz,
blues, and country. Because these were new music forms in the
1920s the large record companies did not record them at all,
so the records produced during this time constitute the earliest
recorded examples of these forms. Artists such as Louis Armstrong,
Jelly Roll Morton, Hoagy Carmichael, and Bix Beiderbecke performed
in the studio in the Whitewater Gorge.
Declining record sales and the Depression
ended Gennett Records, and the Starr name continued for
a few more years making radio cabinets and refrigerators.
The complex fell into disrepair and in the 1970s demolition
reduced it to a
few structures -- the smokestack and the shell of the
building that still bears the shadow of the Gennett Records
Return to Business and
Return to the Local
©Morrisson-Reeves Library, Richmond,
E-mail our Archivist email@example.com