The New York Symphony Orchestra was founded as the New York Symphony Society in New York City by Leopold Damrosch in 1878. For many years it was a fierce rival to the older Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York (New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO/NPO)). It was supported by Andrew Carnegie who built Carnegie Hall (opened in 1891) expressly for the orchestra. The Symphony was known for performing more colorful French and Russian works than the Philharmonic, which excelled in German repertoire.

Upon his death in 1885, Leopold Damrosch was succeeded as musical director by his son Walter Damrosch.

In 1903, during a reorganization, it was renamed the New York Symphony Orchestra, and its first recordings were made that year as the “Damrosch Orchestra” for Columbia Records (of which only one was commercially issued, the prelude to Georges Bizet’s Carmen).

In 1920 it became the first American orchestra to tour Europe, and radio broadcasts of its concerts began in 1923. In 1928, the orchestra merged with the Philharmonic Society of New York to form the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, later the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO/NPO).


The New York Symphony Society was founded in 1878 by Leopold Damrosch (1832 – 1885) and upon his death was taken over by his son, Walter Damrosch (1862 – 1950). In 1903 he reorganized it to become the New York Symphony Orchestra as a cooperative with profits and losses to be shared among the members and guarantors. The orchestra was reorganized once again in 1907 with a board of directors to assume all financial responsibilities and to provide its musicians with regular salaries. The Symphony continued until 1928 when it merged with the New York Philharmonic to become the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, comprising mostly members from the Philharmonic. 

In its prime the New York Symphony embarked on many national tours. At right it is seen in in concert at San Francisco in 1910. Below the members of the orchestra are gathered around Mr. Damrosch (front center) with their instruments in 1912. The normal mode of transportation was by rail but as the photos at the bottom of this page show, boats were employed at San Francisco. 

New York Symphony Orchestra (NYSO).

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