Hall of Fame – 2023
Otto Schlicht (1873-1938) emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1892 at nineteen years old. He made his way to Chicago, Illinois and became acquainted with Otto Georgi. Georgi was importing chemnitzer concertinas from Germany at the time and was looking for someone to manufacture musical instruments to sell at his music store in Chicago. Schlicht was ready for the challenge.
Schlicht improved upon the designs of the chemnitzer concertinas being imported from Germany, and in 1902, Schlicht and his associates began to manufacture a collection of high-quality concertina models for Otto Georgi and Louis Vitak (Georgi & Vitak). These musical instruments were sold by Georgi & Vitak under their brand name, Pearl Queen. In 1917, Schlicht expanded his manufacturing business to build concertinas for Rudy Patek. Rudy also sold several models made by Schlicht at his music stores, these being branded as Patek, directly competing with Georgi & Vitak’s Pearl Queen concertinas as musical instruments that were virtually identical in features and performance.
Otto made meaningful improvements to the chemnitzer concertinas originally being made in Germany and the competing instruments made by other domestic manufacturers in business at the time. He received patents for his “Duro Action” aluminum keyboard mechanism and also streamlined the manufacturing process by building much of his own specialized tooling and shop equipment.
For almost thirty years, under Schlicht’s supervision, over 6,000 chemnitzer concertinas were built at his small factory located on May Street in Chicago. This factory was reportedly in the vicinity of the Georgi & Vitak and Patek music stores.
After Schlicht passed away in 1938 and his factory operations shut down in 1946, Christy Hengel purchased much of Schlicht’s tooling, equipment, and material stocks to manufacture his own Hengel’s Concertina in Minnesota. Schlicht was considered by many as the “master builder” of concertinas and most all modern chemnitzer concertinas are modeled after his designs.