The Wurlitzer Harp is a unique creation within the automatic music machines of the collection. It was designed and built by an amateur tinkerer named J.W. Whitlock out of the small town of Rising Sun, Indiana, located along the Ohio River. Whitlock decided he wanted to enjoy harp music without having to hire a harpist to play it. He built seven prototype harps in the barn in his backyard. His first patent application was filed in September 1899, but it took six years for him to complete his his first machines. In 1905, he placed them in cafes and shops in the nearby city of Cincinnati, Ohio. He could not have picked a better location for them. A man walked into one of these cafes and saw a great opportunity. His name was Howard Wurlitzer, the son of Rudolph Wurlitzer, the founder of the great musical company. Wurlitzer offered to buy all seven prototypes from Whitlock, then commissioned 1,000 more and the possibility to expand the commission later. Wurlitzer stipulated that Wurlitzer’s own name needed to be placed on the machines. Whitlock had no problem with that, and production began. He replaced his barn with a factory and a brand new industry began in Rising Sun. Whitlock ultimately created 1,500 machines for Wurlitzer in two different styles, the Model A and the Model B, until sales began to wane by the early 'teens.
The Model A was designed more with functionality in mind than its follow up. Few Model A harps survive today.