This year, Henry F. Robelen donated two music books that belonged to Charles Grobe, a gift that reminds us of two important figures in Delaware’s musical history.
Charles Grobe (1817-1879) received his musical education in his native Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1839 and taught music at the Wesleyan Female College in Wilmington from 1840 to 1861. He remained in Wilmington another ten years, giving music lessons and running a music store. Grobe then moved to New Jersey, teaching at the Pennington Seminary in Pennington from 1872 to 1874 and at the Centenary Collegiate Institute in Hackettstown from 1874 to 1879. He died in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1879.
A highly prolific composer, Grobe published nearly 2,000 works, all for piano. Many of his compositions were “brilliant variations” on melodies by other composers. The Society’s collections include some of Grobe’s compositions, but we need many more to claim to have a full representation of his vast output.
Harry F. Robelen (1849-1899), also from Germany, came to Wilmington with his family as a child. He studied music with Charles Grobe and at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. While in Baltimore, he also learned piano making and tuning at the Knabe factory.
Returning to Wilmington in 1871, H.F. Robelen and his brother took over Grobe’s music business. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Robelen was also involved in music stores in Philadelphia, Chester, and Trenton. After his death, Robelen and Company continued under various owners until it was sold to the Wilmington Piano Company in 1958. As part of his business, Robelen published music, some of it by local composers. He also published pieces that he composed himself, some of which are in the Society’s collections.