Marlowe Arthur Sigal

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Marlowe Sigal
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Born(1930-10-08)October 8, 1930
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedMay 4, 2018(2018-05-04) (aged 87)
Newton, Massachusetts
CitizenshipUnited States Of America
Alma materHarvard University

Marlowe Arthur Sigal (October 8th, 1930 — May 4th, 2018) was an American businessman, philanthropist, and an expert and collector of antique musical instruments.[1] He was also known for amassing one of the world’s premier privately held collections of antique keyboard and woodwind instruments. Sigal was the founder and president of the Solutek Corporation, the oldest manufacturer of photographic chemicals in the United States. Marlowe Sigal died at the age of 87 from complications resulting from a heart attack.

Early Life

Marlowe Sigal was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was raised in Easton, Pennsylvania.[2] Sigal graduated from Easton High School and was an eagle scout and avid photographer. He learned to play both clarinet and saxophone, which he played in his high school’s marching band, orchestra and dance band. [3] When Marlowe was fourteen, his father acquired an old reed organ (Estey Cottage Organ, 1877)in need of repair.[4] His father told him that if he could fix it, he could have it. This began his interest in restoring and playing keyboard instruments.


Sigal attended Harvard University from 1948 to 1952 where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry, then graduated from Harvard Business School with a master’s in business administration in 1954.

While at Harvard he was the photo editor of the Harvard Crimson (newspaper) and played saxophone in the Harvard University Band. He continued to march at least once per year from his time as a freshman until the year of his death 70 years later. This is believed to be a record.[5]


After graduation from business school, Sigal entered the Navy, attending Naval Officer Training school in Athens, Georgia (January 2, 1955 – June 23, 1956) He was then posted as a supply officer at the Naval Shipyards in Boston, Massachusetts. After completing his tour of duty (November 28, 1957) [source: Armed Forces of the United States Report of Transfer or Discharge], the Navy encouraged Sigal to remain in the armed forces as a career officer [source, letter from superior officer]. He declined, focused on a dream of building his own business.

For the next few years he worked at Pilot Chemical in Boston. In 1961, Sigal purchased A. A. X-ray, a Boston based business that specialized in manufacturing chemicals for medical x-ray, and repair of x-ray development equipment. Rebranding the business as Solutek Corporation. He subsequently expanded into production of chemistry for industrial and dental x-ray, microfilm, artistic photography, and photolithography. He ran the business up until his death.

Philanthropic Pursuits

In 2003 the Northampton County, Pennsylvania Historical and Genealogical Society of Easton, Pennsylvania, purchased the building that had previously been Sigal’s, a women’s clothing store owned by Marlowe Sigal’s father. Sigal (along with his children, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews), contributed significantly to the museum. As a result of these contributions, the museum was dubbed The Sigal Museum of Northampton County History and Genealogy in memory of his parents and late brother. Sigal was a member of the board of directors of the National Music Museum from 1996 till his death. He relished his role assisting in setting direction for this important museum of musical instruments. [Source: NMM] Marlowe Sigal sat on the board of the Harvard University Band Foundation, and served as its President for a time. [Source: Bass Drum Journal, May 2018[6]

He established the Marlowe Sigal Photography Prize, recognizing outstanding photojournalism in the Harvard Crimson (newspaper).

He also served on the boards of:

Musical Instrument Collection

Sigal said his interest in music started with piano lessons in second grade. In high school he learned to play both saxophone and clarinet, thus developing the interests in keyboard and woodwind instruments that would later drive his collecting interests. His collecting began in 1965 with the acquisition of an 1834 Broadwood and Sons. Over the subsequent decades, Sigal's collection grew to 92 keyboard instruments, over 450 woodwinds, and some 60 other instruments. In 2015 Schiffer Publishing published “Four Centuries of Musical Instruments: The Marlowe A. Sigal Collection” [link], a catalogue of his collection, with photos by Marlowe Sigal and text by noted expert Albert Rice. In addition to collecting and restoring these instruments, Sigal regularly enjoyed playing piano and harpsichord, as well as performing on antique bassoons in an early music quartet. Sigal’s impressive collection attracted the interest of other collectors, academics, and performers. The American Musical Instrument Society visited the collection regularly. Over a series of years, 5 CDs of early music were recorded at his home on period instruments:

  • Seth Carlin – Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Michael Tsalka – Türk: Easy keyboard Sonata, Collections I & II
  • Sarah Freiberg, Byron Schenkman – Francesco Guerini: Cello Sonatas

Marlowe Sigal was a member of CIMCIM, AMIS, ICOM, the Galpin Society, SPNEA, and others.


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