Originally published in the newsletter The Zither, circa 1920, "A Brief History of the American Zither Verband and the United Zither Players Association of America" details the birth of the American Zither Verband and the productive congresses that followed. Permission for the republication of this article has been kindly extended by the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia, Missouri.
The idea of forming a National Zither Players' organization was first conceived by A.W. Schepp, of Kansas City, Mo., in 1911. He unfolded his plan to Mr. F. W. Mehl of Kansas City and Mr. H. C. Grohe of Washington, Mo. While these gentlemen thought it a splendid scheme, yet they feared that the plan could not be carried out successfully in so large a country as ours, without much labor. It was decided to get into communication with some of the best known as most enthusiastic Zither players, for the purpose of making their acquaintance and establishing a regular correspondence, thereby mutually creating Zither enthusiasm. These gentlemen were in turn requested to write to their own Zither acquaintances and thus establish an endless chain correspondence. The gentlemen who took to this idea with enthusiasm are Max Mayer of St. Paul, A. K. Fahrner of Davenport and F. Lueder of Peoria, Ill., and much of the initial success during the formative period was due to the valiant work of these men. It must not be forgotten, however, that Messrs, Mehl, Grohe and Schepp were by no means idle, but did heroic work to get things underway. The plan at this time was to gather a few of the most enthusiastic Zitherists during the fall of 1912 and talk the matter over. Things, however, developed so rapidly, that it was deemed advisable to issue invitations and call a general meeting of Zither players for the purpose of effecting an organization. All those who attended this gathering will never forget the pleasure and enthusiasm which pervaded the First American Zither Congress at Washington, Mo., September 2nd, 3rd and 4th of 1912.
The American Zither Verband was born at this Congress and the officers chosen were: A. W. Schepp, President; A. K. Fahrner and Miss B. H. Keller, Vice-Presidents; F. W. Mehl, Secretary; H. R. Herschel, Treasurer; and A. K. Fahrner, Musical Director. In the nine months of its existence the Verband nearly trebled its membership, thanks to the untiring efforts of its officers, and especially those of Mr. F. W. Mehl, its secretary. Mr. Fahrner's vim and thorough musical knowledge as the musical director was a guarantee to the subsequent musical triumphs of the A. Z. V.
The second Congress of the A. Z. V. was held June 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1913, at Davenport, Iowa. The brilliant musical, social and financial success of this Congress marks one of the brightest spots in the history of the American Zither Verband. The following officers were elected: A. W. Schepp, President; J. Fremont Frey, First Vice-President; H. R. Herschel, Second Vice-President; F. W. Mehl, Secretary-Treasurer; Albert K. Fahrner, Musical Director.
The third Congress of the A. Z. V. convened at Cleveland, Ohio, June 15th, 1914, and continued until June 18th. Those who attended the Cleveland Congress will never forget this happy and highly successful event. All of the officers of the preceding year were re-elected.
The fourth Annual Congress was to be held in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1915, but on account of the world war and attendant unfavorable conditions it was decided to defer all Zither Congresses until after the conclusion of Peace.
During this four-year period of comparative idleness, members of the A. Z. V. to a large extent became more or less apathetic, and indeed the impression prevailed that the organization no longer existed.
A meeting of the officers was called by President A. W. Schepp to meet at Washington, Mo., in the summer of 1919. However, on account of illness, Mr. Schepp was unable to attend this meeting, and it was due to the untiring efforts and determination of Director Fahrner, who presided at this meeting, that we are indebted for the success of the Fourth Congress of the American Zither Verband, which was held at Washington, Mo., October 27th, 28th and 29th, 1919.
At the business meeting of the Fourth Congress a new idea was presented by Mr. Wm. P. Hilton of Cleveland, Ohio. His plan was to incorporate and make the Association a stock company with a capital stock of $10,000.00 with shares at $10.00 each. The object was, since every member must buy at least one share of stock, to put the organization on a sound financial basis. This plan found favor with the attending members and was adopted.
There having been more or less objection to the old name, a new one, viz: The United Zither Players' Association of America, was chosen. A new code of rules and regulations to comply with the laws of the State of Ohio, under which the United Zither Players' Association of America was incorporated, had to be devised.
The officers of the year 1920 are Henry Wormsbacher, President; J. Freymont Frey, First Vice-President; Wm. P. Hilton, Second Vice-President; O. J. Jelinek, Secretary; Chas. H. Loew, Treasurer; A. K. Fahrner, Musical Director; Wm. Wagner, Librarian.
Schepp, A. W., ed. "A Brief History of the American Zither Verband and the United Zither Players Association of America" The Zither. Volume 1 Number 1. 1920: 1-2. Franz Schwarzer, Papers, 1840-1951, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia, MO.
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