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A Zither Match

In the late 1870s, zither players in the US began forming clubs to share music with the public. It was during this period that a Bavarian from Ruhpolding, Max Maier, settled in San Francisco and became established as a leading proponent of the zither. At his studio, Max gave music lessons, sold zithers and provided all the requisites for zither players in his community.


Music has its way of bringing people together. There is the common bond of taste and interest, and sometimes there is romance.

Max Maier and Mary Peace, 1887

In San Francisco, in the late 1800s, a woman was accompanied by her mother to visit a zither teacher at his studio. The zither had its charm for the prospective student, but apparently so did the instructor. After leaving, the young woman turned to her mother and professed, "That's the man I want to marry." The zither teacher later revealed that he too watched the pair leave through his window and, thinking of his new student, dreamed, "That's the girl I want to marry."

And so, on February 8, 1887, Mary Hannah Peace and Max Maier were joined together in marriage at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. By 1893, the family had grown by three, with the births of Lydia, Elsie and Herbert. Mary's mother also lived with the family and with the additional income provided by her dressmaking business, the Maier family lived comfortably.

Max Maier was born to a large Catholic family in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, on August 25, 1849, the 19th of 21 children. Max arrived in San Francisco via a circuitous route. As a teenager he apprenticed at a pastry shop, but abandoned this profession for adventure. At 17, he left his village, zither in tow, living for years in Russia, Italy and France where he earned his living giving music lessons.

In 1877, after his travels in Europe, Max settled in San Francisco and established a zither studio. At his business he sold his zither arrangements and compositions, including all the requisites for zither players in his community. For over four decades he directed a zither club, which assumed different names over the years. Formed in the 1890s as the Columbia Zither Club, it was later known as the San Francisco Zither Club until 1926, when it became the Alpine Zither Club. Through this period, Max's zither clubs gave dozens of concerts at public venues in the city.

Max and Mary in their garden,

Oakland, ca. 1924

No one could have predicted the dramatic events that unfolded on the morning of April 18, 1906. The earthquake proved devastating for the Maier family, as it did for so many of the city's inhabitants. In the multitude of fires that followed, many caused by gas main breaks or exasperated by ineffectual containment efforts, Max's zither enterprise was wiped out, as zithers, manuscripts and other precious documents were lost to the flames. Also lost were letters to Max Maier from Queen Lili'uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. Lili'uokalani played many instruments, but it was said that the zither was her favorite. The two started a correspondence after she had ordered zither strings from him, and this exchange lasted for years.

In the days that followed their terrible loss, the Maier family was counted among the city's new refugees. Living in Golden Gate Park, they found relief through support provided by the American Red Cross. Fortunately, the bank where the family kept a significant savings account was not destroyed and they were able to purchase a home in East Oakland. They set about to rebuild their lives at 904 E. 11th St.

Slowly things returned to normal, as family and friends were reunited. Zither students returned and Max gave lessons in the front parlor of their home, while the dining room was used for working out zither arrangements. "Teddy," the family's canary, sang along as Max played.

A treasured part of home life was the family garden. There was a fig tree, and an almond that emitted a wonderful aroma when in bloom. Mary tended her flowers and would draw upon chives, parsley, rosemary and other numerous herbs for her cooking. In the garden were two summer houses, built by Max, equipped with seats and tables for the comfort and enjoyment of family and guests.

Mary is remembered for her cheer and hospitality, as she hosted numerous "Kaffe Klatches" at their home in East Oakland. Max enjoyed humor with friends and the occasional prank, as when he tied a variety of grape clusters to his own vines, leaving his guests deeply impressed with his mastery of the horticultural arts. Or, he would lead into a story from his youth in Bavaria, usually introducing the tale with, "In meiner Heimat…."


San Francisco Zither Club, circa 1912


The following tables provide examples of Max Maier's public performances and sheet music.

Max Maier Zither Programs
Index Program Date Notes
MP-0019 First Concert of the Columbia Zither Club Sunday Evening, January 14, 1894 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0020 35th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, October 20th, 1912 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0021 The Alpine Zither Club, Seventh Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, April 11, 1926 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0022 First Anniversary Concert of the Columbia Zither Club Sunday Evening, August 19th, 1894 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0023 Third Concert of the Columbia Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 28th, 1895 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0024 Fourth Concert and Social of the Columbia Zither Club Thursday Evening, Nov. 19th, 1895 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0025 Ninth Concert of the Columbia Zither Club On Sunday Evening, April 30, 1899 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0026 Tenth Concert and Social of the Columbia Zither Club On Thursday Evening, November 30, 1899 (Thanksgiving Day) Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0027 Eleventh Concert and Social of the Columbia Zither Club On Sunday Evening, March 25, 1900 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0028 Twelfth Concert and Social of the Columbia Zither Club On Thursday Evening, November 29, 1900 (Thanksgiving Day) Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0029 Fourteenth Concert and Social of the Columbia Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 21, 1901 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0030 Sixteenth Concert and Social of The San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, March 15, 1903 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0031 Seventeenth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Thursday Evening, November 26, 1903 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0032 Eighteenth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 17, 1904 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0033 Nineteenth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Eve., October 23rd, 1904 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0034 Twenty-First Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, October 22nd, 1905 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0035 Twenty-Second Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 15th, 1906 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0036 Twenty-Third Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Thursday Eve. (Thanksgiving Day) November 29th, 1906 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0037 Twenty-Fourth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 28th, 1907 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0038 Twenty-Fifth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, November 10, 1907 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0039 26th Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, April 12, 1908 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0040 27th Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, November 8, 1908 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0041 28th Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Eve., April 25th Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0042 29th Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, Oct. 31st, 1909 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0043 30th Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 24, 1910 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0044 31st Semi-Annual Concert of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, November 20, 1910 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0045 32nd Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, April 30, 1911 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0046 33rd Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Thursday, (Thanksgiving night) November 30th, 1911 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0047 34th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, April 28, 1912 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0048 Thirty-Sixth Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, December 8, 1912 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0049 37th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, April 20th, 1913 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0050 38th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday, November 23, 1913 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0051 39th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, May 10, 1914 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0052 40th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, November 29th, 1914 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0053 41st Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday evening, May 9th, 1915 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0054 42nd Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, October 31, 1915 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0055 43rd Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Sunday Evening, May 14, 1916 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0056 44th Semi-Annual Concert and Social of the San Francisco Zither Club Saturday Evening, November 25, 1916 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0057 The Alpine Zither Club, Second Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, April 29th, 1923 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0058 The Alpine Zither Club, Third Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, November 4, 1923 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0059 The Alpine Zither Club, Fourth Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, October 12, 1924 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0060 The Alpine Zither Club, Fifth Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, May 3, 1925 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0061 The Alpine Zither Club, Sixth Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, Nov. 1, 1925 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0062 The Alpine Zither Club, Seventh Concert and Ball Sunday Evening, April 11, 1926 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone
MP-0063 The Alpine Zither Club, Eighth Concert and Ball Sunday evening, November 7, 1926 Code: C / Compliments of Barbara Cheatham and Phyllis Zagone

Max Maier Zither Arrangements
Index Composer Arranger Title Publisher Notes
SM-0063 Traditional Max Maier Pastime for Zither Players Max Maier, San Francisco Code: C
SM-0329 L. von der Mehden Max Maier Lindenau, Polka Max Maier, San Francisco Code: O / Donated in memory of Charles Schroeter
SM-0330 A. Pierce / Traditional Max Maier Happy Youth Galop / Comin' thro' the Rye Max Maier, San Francisco Code: O / Donated in memory of Charles Schroeter
SM-0331 Crough / Thompson Max Maier Kathleen Mavourneen / Clara Schottische Max Maier, San Francisco Code: O / Donated in memory of Charles Schroeter
SM-0332 Faust Max Maier Sharpshooter's March (Schützen Marsch) Max Maier, San Francisco Code: O / Donated in memory of Charles Schroeter



Thank you to Phyllis Maier Zagone, Barbara Maier Cheatham, granddaughters of Max and Mary Maier, and to Conni Plath Reid, great-granddaughter, without whom this article would not have been possible. Elements of this story were drawn from the Maier-Peace family history written by Elsie Weiss Plath, granddaughter, in 1988.

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