Firma Ed. Kruspe

Johann Eduard Kruspe (1831-1918)

The firm of Ed. Kruspe was established in Erfurt, Germany in 1864 by Johann Eduard Kruspe (1831-1918), elder son of Carl Kruspe (1808 - 1885).

The patriarch Friedrich (Franz) Carl Kruspe was born in Mühlhausen in Thüringen on September 13, 1808. He studied with wind instrument maker Johann Heinrich Gottlieb Streitwolf in Göttingen, about 75 km. northwest of his hometown.[1] He returned to Mühlhausen circa 1829 where he established his own workshop.[2] While in Mülhausen his first son, Johann Eduard Kruspe, was born on September 5, 1831. From Mühlhausen Carl Kruspe moved his workshop for the manufacture of woodwind instruments some 60 km. southeast to Erfurt in about 1836. At first his residence and perhaps his workshop were in the house belonging to piano maker Johann Karl Sondhaus at Bilse Straße No. 1312 (now Pilse No. 11). By 1837 Instrumentenmacher C. Kruspe in Erfurt  is listed in the trade press, and by the following year when his second son, Friedrich Wilhelm was born the family was living at no. 520 Schmidtstedter Straße (now no. 8) at the home of master blacksmith Johan Christian Wendel. 

According to the Official Report on the General German Trade Exhibition in Berlin in 1844 (Karl Reimarus, Berlin, 1845):
Among the submitted clarinets is particularly noteworthy:
First, those of C. Kruspe in Erfurt, which has already delivered instruments to Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland and many patriotic music choirs, but because of the difficulty to get such good useful assistants, is working with only one. It is an exquisitely beautiful work, of excellent sound, easy response, provided with a new, very functional F-key. Price 40 Rihlr. [Reichstaler?] not too high.
In 1845 Carl Kruspe bought the house at no. 15 Predigerstraße (then no. 2458) and in 1854 he bought the house next door (no. 14),  probably for the purpose of expanding his workshop and also possibly to give private living space for his now adult sons. Both houses were probably then also given a unified facade. The title "Hofinstrumentenmacher" (Instrument Maker to the Court) was bestowed on Carl Kruspe in 1865 by ruling prince Günter Friedrich Carl II von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (1801-1889). In 1881 the company was awarded the Königlich Preußichen Silbern Staatsmedaille (Royal Prussian Silver State Medal), which was certainly the result of Kruspe's innovative efforts in so many areas. From 1884 the company was led by Carl's younger son, Friedrich Wilhelm Kruspe, who in 1885 received the title of "Hoflieferant" ("Purveyor to the Court") for his woodwind instruments from ruling Prince Carl Günther von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (1830-1909), son of Günther Friedrich Carl II. [3]  According to Erfurt address books, Carl Kruspe himself appears to have remained active as a musical instrument maker until his death in Erfurt on July, 29, 1885 at the age of 76.
Eldest son Johann Eduard Kruspe was fourteen years of age when the family moved to 15 Predigerstraße in 1845,. This address is marked as letter A in the city map of downtown Erfurt shown at right. The brass instrument maker, Carl Christian Zielsdorf was located at no. 9 Paulstraße shown as letter B on the map.  Known as the "House of the Golden Unicorn" this building would later become the headquarters of Firma Ed. Kruspe. The close proximity (about a two-minute walk) and their later association suggests that young Eduard apprenticed under Zielsdorf, although that has not been confirmed.[4]

Central Erfurt in 1887 (Click for full city view)
An early reference to Firma Ed. Kruspe is found at the first Thuringan Industrial Exhibition held at Gotha from August 1 to September 11, 1853 when Eduard was only twenty-two. He was also also represented at the next two Thurigan Exhibitions held at Weimar in (1861) and Merseburg (1865). On January 2, 1864, a few weeks before he died, Carl Christian Zielsdorf turned the workshop at no. 9 Paulstraße over to Eduard Kruspe. Later, Firma Ed. Kruspe would advertise its founding date as June 12, 1834, referring to Zielsdorf's establishment in Erfurt.[5]

In 1861 Eduard's younger brother, Friedrich Wilhelm Kruspe, had takem over the woodwind workshop of their father, Carl, at nos. 14-15 Predigerstraße. In approximately 1870 the two brothers jointly issued the catalog shown below. At the top of the page are the brass instruments of Firma Ed. Kruspe and at the bottom of the page (only partially visible) are the woodwind instruments of Firma C. Kruspe. Four different valve technologies are offered, Berliner "pumpen", rotary ("cylinder"), Périnet ("piston"), and even one Stoelzel valve cornet à piston. The lone Waldhorn shown is pitched in G.  The only partially visible title "in Prussia" might suggest that this was intended as a country-specific offering for the military. Indeed the inclusion of only one trombone model and one horn model would indicate that the product line was determined primarily by the demand of military bands and orchestras, and less of the symphony. It was probably sometime in this period that the company acquired the title of
Hoflieferant seiner Hoheit des Herzogs von Sachsen Meiningen ("purveyor of his Highness the Duke of Saxe Meiningen").

"Preiscourant der Firmen Carl und Eduard Kruspe" circa 1870, courtesy of Herbert Heyde

Shown below are three examples of single horns by Firma Ed. Kruspe estimated to date from the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. At right the label on the garland of the horn on the left features an acorn motif, [6] while the other two are more simply stamped on the bell. Click for more information on each horn.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, however, there was as shift from mass-produced instruments for the military and amateur musicians to higher-quality products for professional orchestras and soloists. Models that were previously offered with Berliner or rotary valves were now only built with rotary valves.  In 1893 Eduard Kruspe turned the operation of the company over to his son, Fritz Kruspe (1863- 1909). At the Saxon-Thuringian Exhibition of Commercial Products held in Erfurt in the summer of 1893, Firma Ed Kruspe "showed under glass a nicely arranged rich exhibition of exceedingly cleanly fabricated instruments in brass, nickel-silver, and gold brass."

On September 1, 1893 the two sibling companies, C. Kruspe and Ed. Kruspe, opened a joint exhibition and sale of their products at no.5 Mozartstrasse, Leipzig in close proximity to the concert house and Royal Conservatory. The showroom was supervised by Wilhelm Kruspe's oldest son, Carl, who previously had represented his father's woodwind business in Berlin. Examples of this endeavor are represented by several instruments signed “Ed. Kruspe/Herzgl. S.M. Holieferant / Erfurt. /Filiale: C. Kruspe Leipzig”, in particular a trombone in the collection of the Grassi Museum of Musical instruments at the University of Leipzig. Ed. Kruspe had already been represented Leipzig for several years by the Gewandhaus Orchestra's second horn player, Eduard Müller.[7] As early as 1890 an advertisement for Firma Ed. Kruspe announced that Müller was its representative having a showroom in Leipzig: “Muster-Lager in Leipzig./Vertreter:/Herr Ed. Müller, Mitglied der Theater- und Gewandhaus-Kapelle.

At the 1894 Saxon-Thuringian Commercial Exposition the Ed. Kruspe exhibit was described as "metal wind instruments  from the simplest to the finest qualities for theater orchestra, and civil and military musical organizations." In August of that year the Gewandhaus Orchestra solicited by competition a complete set of brass instruments.  The competitors included the most significant makers in Germany and Bohemia, who were probably motivated more by the prestige of supplying the great orchestra rather than any pecuniary gain. Firma Ed. Kruspe, long known for its trombones and hoping to further upgrade its image, won the award for five of that instrument, however the selection of six horns went to Bohland & Fuchs of Bohemia. [8]
Ernst Friedrich (Fritz) Wilhelm Kruspe  was born was born December 13, 1863 in Erfurt, the son of Eduard and Dorothea Kruspe. He married Henriette Auguste Kutschmar (1873 - 1949) and together they had two children: Ilse Kruspe (1898 - 1982), who married Georg Wendler, and Walter Kruspe (1904 - 19??). When Fritz Kruspe took over the management of Firma Ed. Kruspe from his father in 1893, he began a new phase of  technical developments of brass instruments. As the first technical innovation of the Fritz Kruspe Era was a new tenor/bass trombone at the suggestion of Gewandhaus trombonist, Robert Müller. It was registered as a "utility model" (D.R.G.M. 39126) on March 29, 1895, and described as "System Müller Kruspe", but seems to have found no market. [9]

In 1893 operation of the firm was turned over to Eduard's son, Fritz Kruspe (ca. 1862 - 1909) and has continued to the present under the name "Ed. Kruspe".

Ed. Kruspe Utility Models

D.R.G.M. 84247 "Gumpert-Kruspe" (1897)

D.R.G.M. 182267 Change valve (1902)

D.R.G.M. 232038 "Fritz" and "Horner" (1904)

D.R.G.M. 295125 "Gumpert-Kruspe" (1906)

D.R.G.M. 888990 "Wendler" (1924)

D.R.G.M. 964253 "Doppelhorn" (1926)

D.R.G.M. 1027194 "Walter" (1928)

Detail of Map of Erfurt, 1906
(click to see full map)

Deutsches Reichs-Adressbuch für Industrie, Gewerbe und Handel,    1902-1903, 2. Band



1.  Johann Heinrich Gottlieb Streitwolf was born in Göttingen on November 17, 1779, the illegitimate son of "Johann Niclas"; his mother later married a Streitwolf. From about 1797 to 1821 he was a cellist with the Akademische Orchester, a local non-professional orchestra. He later taught cello, guitar, and voice, and also composed for these instruments. He attended lectures by the eminent theorist Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818). In 1809 he commenced activity as a wind instrument maker, starting with flute, then clarinet. In 1820 his newly invented "chromatic basshorn" was favorably reviewed in AMZ. By that time he was employing "many assistants both in and out of house." From 1820  he was in close touch with the Sonderhausen court and the clarinettist there Hermstedt, for whom he built clarinets. As indicated by house purchases in 1823 and 1825 he became increasingly prosperous. In 1828 his first bass clarinet was bought by Fürst Günther von Sonderhausen. In 1835 he was awarded a medal by the Hannover Gerwerbe-Verein (trade association) for his bass clarinet. His last years were clouded by illness and he died in Göttingen on February 14, 1837.  

2. Langer (2012, p.9) states that the establishment in Mühlhausen in 1829 is based on "unconfirmed information" (unbestätigten Angaben) citing Welt-Adreßbuch der gesammten Musikinstrumenten-Industrie, 1912, p. 11. The obituary for Carl's second son and successor,  Friedrich Wihlem Kruspe,  in Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau v. 32, 1911-12, pp. 152-154, gives the same date.

3. The Royal Court of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen clearly favored the firm of C. Kruspe. Günther Friedrich Carl I (1760-1837), who ruled until 1835, was avid clarinet player. He was in contact with  Carl Kruspe's teacher Streitwolf (see note 1, above), and possessed some of his instruments, including one of the first basset clarinets  from 1828.

4. Carl Zielsdorf was born in 1799 in Wittenberg and became a resident of Erfurt in 1828. He initially established his workshop in about 1833 or 1834 (both dates are cited by Firma Kruspe), at No. 29 Paulstraße (then 2363) belonging to the shoemaker Wilhelm Weberstedt. In 1836 he purchased the building at No. 9 Paulstraße known as the "House of the Golden Unicorn." Nothing is handed down about Zielsdorf's career, and the only known example of his work is a soprano trombone in the Deutsches Museum, Munich.

5.  Of course Eduard Kruspe was only three years old in 1834 and his father had not yet even established himself in Erfurt, yet in 1934 the company celebrated its one-hundred-year jubilee. See also the advertisement from 1902-1903 accompanying the text above giving the founding date as 1833.

6. In Germany, the oak tree stood for traditional values such as truth, longevity, and loyalty, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it came to symbolize Germany itself. The playwright and poet, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, (1724 - 1803) hailed it as a national symbol in his play, Hermanns Schlacht: "You are the thickest, shadiest oak...the highest, oldest, most sacred oak, O fatherland." Oak leaves are a prominent symbol on most German military orders. For example, in 1813 Frederick William III, King of Prussia, added a spray of gilt oak leaves to his kingdom's highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite ("Blue Max") as an additional distinction. At that time Erfurt where this horn was made was a city in the Province of Saxony within the Kingdom of Prussia. Oak trees are common in the region and a 350-year-old oak tree still stands inside the Natural History Museum in Erfurt.

7. Bernhard Eduard Müller was born June 2, 1842 in Altenburg / Thuringia, the son of a cooper, Wilhelm Hermann Müller. He was a member of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig as second horn (with Friedrich Adolf Gumpert as a principal) from October 1, 1876 until 1920. He is possibly the same Müller that was employed in the court orchestra in Schwerin, from 1872 to 1874. He remembered primarily for his etudes for horn, however he also composed numerous chamber pieces, including horn quartets, the Kaiser Quartets for Cornet à Piston, and a serenade for horn, flute and piano.

8. The award for four trumets  went to F.A. Heckel, Dresden and the award for one B-Bsss went to V.F. Cerveny & Söhne, Königgrätz, Bohemia.

8. Tenor-, Bafs-Posaune mit Ventil unterhalb des Mundstücks und parallel mit dem Posaunenzug laufendem Ventilzug [ Tenor-, bass-trombone with valve below the mouthpiece and valve slide running parallel with the trombone slide].

Heyde, Herbert. Das Ventilblasinstrument, Seine Entwicklun im deutschsprachigen Raum von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1987. ISBN 3765102253

Langer, Arne; Wenke, Wolfgang. Musikinstrumente von Weltrang, Die Firma Kruspe in Erfurt, Stadmuseum and Theaterr, Erfurt, 2012

Waterhouse, William. The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

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