Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records

 Collection
Identifier: MUSIC-007

Collection Overview

Abstract

The Vitak-Elsnic Co. Business Records Collection contains information on both the operation of the publishing company and the American Polka music scene itself. The company was based in Illinois and operated from 1912 to the 1980s. Vitak-Elsnic's music catalogue was purchased by Bill and Helen Brown of Brown Distributing Co. In 2009, the collection was acquired by Bartlow Enterprises of Deshler, Ohio and then by Music Publishers of America in 2013. Materials for the collection are primarily from the years that Vitak-Elsnic Co. owned its own catalogue.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1900s-2018

Extent

44 Boxes

Scope and Contents

The Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records contain materials related to both the operation of the publishing company and the American polka music scene itself. Materials for the collection are primarily from the years that Vitak-Elsnic Co. owned its own catalogue, though there are some records from the 1980s and 1990s, when it was owned by Brown Distribution. The collection contains rich correspondence between Vitak-Elsnic and publishers, arrangers, and related music industry workers in the early and mid 1900s, as well as its later business arrangements with and royalty payments from SESAC. Taken together, the series of correspondence, copyright claims and renewals (with attendant correspondence), catalogs and song lists, and inventory cards, which have markings that indicate the popularity and sales of individual titles, can shed light on the business decisions of a small, independent, ethnic music publisher in the mid-1900s. Of particular note in the collection are the many handwritten manuscripts of arrangements and compositions represented in the collection, as well as the "By Tune" series, which compiles correspondence, manuscripts, publications, and copyright notices for several tunes in the Vitak-Elsnic catalog.

Biographical / Historical

Together, Louis Vitak and Otto Georgi founded the music company that would later become Vitak-Elsnic. Louis Vitak was born 1863 in Bohemia and immigrated to America in 1881. In 1890, he established a music store in Canton, Ohio before moving to Cincinnati in 1895. Vitak relocated to Chicago in 1902, where he partnered with Otto Georgi, a German immigrant, and founded the Georgi & Vitak Company in 1912. The company sold musical arrangements for band, concertina, and piano, as well as musical instruments, some of which were made by the owners themselves. Georgi eventually left the company and was replaced by Joseph P. Elsnic, Louis’ nephew, and the company name was changed to Vitak-Elsnic. By the late 1920s, the company had expanded its selection of sheet music to include more arrangements as well as original compositions. The accompanying royalty agreements and copyright documents can be found in this collection.

In 1986, the Vitak-Elsnic catalogue was purchased by Bill and Hellen Brown. Brown Distributing Company remained the sole owners of the catalogue until it was purchased in May 2009 by Bartlow Enterprises. In 2013, the collection was purchased by Steve Harris, Todd Harris, and their cousin Cal Massmann. In January of 2017, Music Publishers of America came under the sole ownership Steve Harris as did Vitak-Elsnic catalogue.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers using this collection assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright, and are responsible for securing permissions necessary for publication or reproduction.

Language of Materials

English

Arrangement

The collection is organized in nine series: I. Inventory Cards; II. Copyright Claims and Renewals; III. Publisher and Arranger Correspondence; IV. General Correspondence; V. Catalogs, Song Lists, and Publications; VI. Manuscripts; VII. By Tune; VIII. Corporate Recordkeeping, Royalties, and Invoices; IX. Realia.

Related Materials

The published polka scores that were acquired with the business records have been cataloged separately. They can be found in the library catalog - the prefix "VE" has been used in the call number to designate Vitak-Elsnic.

Related Materials

To order polka scores from the Vitak-Elsnic Division of Music Publishers of America LLC, please visit their website: vitak-elsnic.com

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records were a gift of Steven D. Harris on behalf of Music Publishers of America, in 2017. An addition was made to the collection in 2019.
Title
Guide to the Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records
Author
Compiled by Katelyn Balkum
Date
2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Revised by David R. Lewis and MLBSSA staff