- Jack L. Ralston
(b Olmutz, Oct 8, 1828; d Feb 21, 1904). American zither maker of Austrian origin. He was the son of a building contractor and furniture maker and was educated at the Olmutz Gymnasium, the Vienna Polytechnic Institute, and in his father’s shop. His interest in zithers and zither music led him to study with Carl Ignaz Franz Umlauf (1824–1902), who is credited with several innovations including the ‘Viennese zither’ and the ‘Viennese’ system of tuning. Schwarzer married Josephine Pettera on 1 March 1859. They emigrated to America in 1864 and settled in Washington, Missouri, in 1866 or 1867. He began making furniture and occasionally zithers but by 1869 he seems to have concentrated on zithers. In 1873 he sent three instruments to the Vienna Exhibition, where he won a gold medal. The factory which had been constructed in 1872 was enlarged in 1885. Schwarzer employed four or five craftsmen and a number of apprentices; at the peak of production in the 1890s the factory employed some 25 workers, eight of whom were craftsmen. Over 10,000 instruments were built, many of which are still highly prized....