LIMA — At the dawn of the 20th century when Lima was a growing industrial center and every well-appointed parlor in the city had a piano, Harry Page Maus sold pianos.
Likewise, when horsepower was replacing the power of horses on the city’s streets, Maus and his brother sold automobiles. Later, when the human voice first crackled over the radio, Maus not only sold radios but ran Lima’s fist radio station. And, in the golden age of silent movies, Maus helped invent an organ to accompany the action on the screen. Not surprisingly, when talkies replaced the silent movies, Maus marketed a machine for that, too.
When Maus died at the age of 66 in 1942, the Lima News described him as “a widely known inventor of talking movie equipment, pioneer radio station operator and prominent local sportsman.”
But mostly Maus was a salesman, starting at a general store in Lafayette.
Born Jan. 30, 1875, in Lafayette, Maus was the son of Civil War veteran James L. Maus and Hannah Leatherman Maus. On Feb. 5, 1898, he married Alma Bechtel, with whom he had two children, Gerald and Doris.
Life in Lafayette was difficult for the Maus family in the early years. During one tragic week in March 1890, Maus lost a brother and nearly lost his father. First, the Lima Democratic Times reported March 18, Charles Maus died after he was “caught in the line shaft in the sucker rod factory.” Sucker rods were pipes used in the surrounding oil fields. On March 24 the paper reported that James L. Maus was severely injured when he got his hand caught in machinery at the sucker rod factory.
Another Maus brother, Frank, “was the victim of cruel treatment from older boys some time ago,” the paper reported July 17, 1897, “and as a result his left arm was amputated near the shoulder …” According to the story, the boys beat so hard on Maus’ arm that “the bone became diseased and amputation was necessary.”
On March 26, 1903, a fire in Lafayette destroyed a building used by the Maus Brothers to sell pumps.
In the early years of the new century Harry Maus began selling musical instruments, particularly pianos, out of a general store he was operating on South High Street near the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad in Lafayette.
In ads concocted to mimic news stories, Maus promoted his pianos in the Lima newspapers. A typical ad in September 1907 describes Maus as “the enterprising Lafayette piano dealer” and declares that “having no city expenses to contend with, (Maus) is enabled to sell pianos for less than city dealers.” Ever the promoter, Maus promised to give away a piano on July 4, 1908, when Lafayette would celebrate the change in name of its post office from Herring to Lafayette to match the town’s name.
By May 4, 1909, Maus had effectively joined the city dealers in Lima when he bought the stock of the Mears and Van Gunten piano store and was selling it out of their old quarters in the southwest corner of the Public Square.
As with the 1908 piano giveaway in Lafayette, Maus soon was offering a gift to Lima. “Two cute little bear cubs donated to the City Park (Faurot Park) by H.P. Maus, the hustling and aggressive Lafayette piano dealer, are now at the City Park in a temporary cage, but it is hoped that they will soon have a better home, as several have already offered donations,” the Allen County Republican Gazette wrote June 8, 1909.
The “cute little bear cubs” found a permanent home in City Park where, on Oct. 28, 1911, the Lima Daily News reported, a woman distraught over losing her savings to a fortune teller was found cowering in the bear pit. “Two full grown black bears, one of a vicious nature, paced back and forth in the pit,” the story said. “The woman had either leaped into the pit in the hope that the bears would devour her or had wandered there while in a dazed condition.” A maintenance man rescued the woman.
In February 1910, the Lima papers reported Maus would soon open “a big store in Lima.” On March 13, 1911, a Daily News ad listed the Maus Brothers Auto Co. as operating a Lima office while H.P. Maus was running a piano store, at 129 W. Market St. A Nov. 20, 1910, ad touts the “new sales rooms of H.P. Maus and Maus Bros. Auto Co. at 406-8-10 N. Main St.,” claiming they “will be the finest sales rooms in Lima when completed.”
The grand opening of the remodeled building was in December 1910 and the Maus Bros. Co. was soon advertising the Brush automobile, “the only car that ever climbed Pike’s Peak,” for $450, and hailing H.P. Maus as “the wide-awake piano dealer of this city.”
Less than a year later on Sept. 24, 1911, the Daily News reported H.P. Maus was taking over the entire building necessitating “removal of the adjoining automobile quarters.” Arthur Dillon Maus, H.P. Maus’ brother, would assume control of the dealership, the story said.
In September 1912, the Daily News reported A.D. Maus had purchased a timber tract in Arkansas and would be leaving the family business. “Page Maus remains and will enlarge piano business, remodeling store to meet requirements,” the Daily News wrote. A.D. Maus died in May 1918 of injuries received in a fire in Arkansas.
Maus opened his newly enlarged sales space in April 1913. “Many people visited the opening of the H.P.Maus piano store yesterday afternoon and evening,” the Times-Democrat wrote April 23, 1913, “and express their surprise at the magnificent display of instruments and the beauty of the newly finished display rooms.”
A man believed to be “a professional yegg (safecracker)” visited the store that June. According to the June 4, 1913, Daily News a “plucky” female employee of H.P. Maus thwarted the robbery by locking the man in a room when he was caught tampering with a safe. He eventually was convicted.
Maus’ daughter, 6-year-old Doris, made the news in May 1916, when she was the last of a half dozen Lima residents bitten by a dog that was found to have rabies after Maus rushed its carcass to Columbus for examination. Those bitten, the Republican-Gazette wrote May 31, 1916, were urged to take the “Pasteur treatment,” which was “the only known cure for the disease.” All the victims survived and Lima Mayor B.H. Simpson ordered all dogs to be muzzled and those not muzzled to be shot.
By 1916, Maus was expanding his offerings. “The formal opening of the talking machine department of the H.P. Maus piano store will be this afternoon and evening,” the Times-Democrat wrote Dec. 1, 1916. Maus now billed his business as “Lima’s exclusive phonograph store.”
On March 21, 1920, Maus leased the second and third floors of the North Main Street building. Two months later, the Maus Piano Co. was incorporated with “a capital stock of $350,000,” the Daily News reported. “The re-incorporation was made so that the whole block may be remodeled and enlarged to meet our rapidly increasing business,” Maus told the newspaper.
Next week: Maus moves into radio and theater organs.