J. F. Granzow

Used with permission of Arlene Kenyon and the Kossuth County Historical Society



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John Frederich Christian Theodor ("Fritz") Granzow (1856-1940) moved to Algona to assume directorship of the Algona Municipal Band in 1897, a position which he held for 35 years. Born in Grimmen, Germany, Granzow was professional bandsman (clarinet) in Germany before emigrating to the United States. He emigrated to the United States in 1882, where he first lived in Minnesota for a number of years. He played professionally with a number of bands including the First Regiment of Minnesota, the 52nd and 56th Infantry bands of Iowa, and the Iowa State Band as well as the Ringling circus band.

From his base in Algona, Granzow started many bands in the surrounding towns and counties. Much like Prof. Harold Hill in The Music Man, when Granzow started a band, he received a commission on all the instruments that were purchased for the band. The Musical Messenger, a trade publication of the Fillmore Music House of Cincinnati, Ohio, published a profile of Granzow (see below) in January 1917 in appreciation for his good work as one of their "agents."

Sources: Kossuth County Historical Society and Arlene Kenyon

The Musical Messenger, January 1917


Some years ago, before The Musical Messenger was a subscription magazine, we printed in it a sketch of our friend Fritz Granzow, as he is familiarly known among friends. Mr. Granzow had then been a valued friend and customer for a number of years, and our friendship has grown riper and increasingly enjoyable with the passing of the years. He was among the first, if not the first, agents the Fillmore House had the pleasure of appointing. His long connection with the house and his enthusiasm, as a musician, for music and the brotherhood of musicians deserves for our new readers a reprint of that sketch.

"Mr. Granzow was born in Kreise Grimmen, Province of Pommern, Germany, April 8, 1856. He began the study of music in Grimmen in 1871. Made rapid progress with his music, graduating in October, 1876, as a band teacher with a diploma. He then became a member of the Fourteenth Infantry Band in Straisund as first B-flat clarinetist. This band consisted of forty-eight men, and he spent four happy years with them. In 1880 Mr. Granzow went to Butzow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he found a band whose leader was suffering from tuberculosis, and he was chosen leader, in the sick man's place, out of eleven applicants for the position. He was very successful with this band, putting it to the front, and making for it a splendid reputation among the people.

"During all this time he heard a good deal about America, and had a longing to come to 'God's Country,' as he and others spoke of the U. S. A. He says that in Germany it was reported that when God made America he smiled upon it. When Mr. Granzow came to this cournty he realized his fondest dreams as to the beauty and prosperity of our famed land.

"Since coming to America Mr. Granzow has played with some of our best bands, such as the First Regiment of Minnesota and the Iowa State Band. He was principle musican of the Fifty-second Iowa Infantry for three years. Also the same of the Fifth-sixth Iowa Infantry for two and a half years.

"Most of this time he acted as band instructor. In fact, he has been a popular, active and successful band instructor since the year 1876. It has been impossible for him to accept all the calls that he has received. He has taught in towns of population all the way from 20,000 inhabitants down to villages.

"Mr. Granzow is a patriotic man. He has great love for 'Old Iowa,' as he calls it. He has often been told of the enticement of other States, but he says 'Old Iowa is good enough for me.'

"While most of his teaching has been done in Iowa, in and around Algona, he has also taught in several towns in Minnesota, and has not only been called back to places a second time, but a third time also.

"One of the pleasures of the Fillmore band and orchestra business is the getting hold of customers who become 'regulars' with us. We make new acquaintances through correspondence, and the acquaintance gradually ripens into a friendship. This friendship transforms the humdrum of business and letter writing into a social enjoyment. Such has been our experience with Mr. Granzow. Our differences have been easily adjusted in every case.

"Our efforts at fraternity are not in every case a success, but in most cases they are; and we are gradually getting together a band of congenial, fraternal and appreciative agents in whom we believe with a whole heart, and who reciprocate with like faith. When anything goes wrong we don't sputter and froth and say bad words. We remember that mistakes happen in the best regulated families. We believe each other to be entirely honest and that wrong will be made right as soon as discovered. In such cases we say to each other, for instance, 'How's this? I asked for a cornet and you sent me a drum!' Or, 'I asked for a medium-priced instrument and you send me one that is equal to what my fellow bandmen here have paid double the money for. How about it?' We patiently and peacefully await the answer, settling our differences, not by a quarrel, but by arbitration.

"It is interesting to read over the record of Mr. Granzow's work as well as we can gather it together. In 1900 there wasn't a Fillmore instrument in his section of the country; but to-day most of the instruments in that section are Fillmore instruments, and the band music Fillmore music. Here are some of the places where Mr. Granzow has organized bands and taught them. They are using Fillmore instruments and music:

"Iowa: Eagle Grove, Bode, Ottosen, Emmetsburg, Graettinger, Gruver, Dolliver, Fenton, Lott Creek, Ringsted, Armstrong, Saint Benedict, Goldfield, Irvington, Algona, Britt, Hayfield, Mason City, Kanawha, Burt, Cylinder, Hobart, Renwick, Corwith, Lone Rock and others; Butterfield and Odin, Minn., Glendale, Cal., Blue River, Wis., and other towns. In nine cases out of ten these towns purchased sets of instruments, some as high as from twenty-five to thirty instruments, and after they got started they kept on buying.

"Mr. Granzow, of course, had to meet heavy competition in his territory, for there are many agents of other houses in [missing text] more instruments that all other agents than all other agents combined in a territory of a hundred miles.

"Mr. Granzow has the advantage of the ability to play and test all instruments. Comparatively few agents are able to handle more than one or two instruments, but he is quite at home with all of them. Mr. Granzow has lived in Algona since 1897. When he arrived here there were a few band instructors and agents, but they did not know much about music. It wasn't long before Mr. Granzow had most of the business, and to-day he has practically all of it, not only for Algona, but the territory for many miles around.

"Not only has Mr. Granzow the advantage of being a thorough musician, he is a thoroughly honest and reliable man, and has made a reputation for honest business with everybody, and that is the reason for his success. He faithfully performs all he promises."

Article furnished by the Kossuth County Historical Society.

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