Founded 1926 by Edwin F. Kalmus (1893–1989) in New York as Edwin F. Kalmus Orchestra Scores, a music store which served as retail agent for a number of European and American publishers. Although several contemporary American works were issued in the early years, by 1933 the enterprise increasingly concentrated in publishing classical works which had entered the public domain in the USA, making them widely available in inexpensive reprint editions. Kalmus was among the first American publishers to issue miniature scores, or to apply the term "urtext" to its editions.
After moving the firm to Miami in 1971, Kalmus sold the study score, vocal, piano and chamber music titles to Belwin-Mills (1976), though the original company remained independent and continued to publish orchestra, band, and chamber music from its new headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida. Divisions and imprints of the Boca Raton firm include The Well-Tempered Press, Masters Music Publications, and Klavier Records. In January, 2008, the Grafton, Ohio music publisher Ludwig Music Publications was purchased and the Masters Music division was re-named LudwigMasters Publications. The Ohio facility continues to operate as a promotional office for the band and educational catalogs.
The Belwin-Mills controlled portion of the original catalog was subsequently taken over by Columbia Pictures Publications, Warner Brothers Publications and ultimately Alfred Publications of Van Nuys, California who continue to publish music with the Kalmus name using the Kalmus Classic Series imprint, the vast majority consisting of inexpensive reprints of older editions of study scores, vocal scores, piano and chamber music now in the public domain. This series at one time included nearly complete reprints of several important collected works editions, notably those issued by Muzgiz for the Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky. The use of the name "Kalmus" as an imprint by Belwin-Mills and the successor companies (Alfred at present) has been an ongoing source of considerable confusion among musicians, retailers, and librarians about the companies and what is published by whom. This is made even more confusing as Columbia, Warner and Alfred have taken a number of issues out of print, some of which are then issued by LudwigMasters under its own Well-Tempered Press imprint.
On October 22, 2018, the firm moved from its offices in Boca Raton to Jacksonville, Florida - losing much of its longtime permanent staff. Additionally the new Jacksonville facility saw the installation of new printing equipment which evidently failed to function as planned leading to tremendous delays in order fulfillment and significant loss of business. Despite valiantly attempting to keep the firm running in the face of enormous challenges, the closure of the oldest reprint house in the United States was announced by President Joe Galison on October 18, 2019 - nearly a year after the move, with all business activity ceasing on October 23. With the ending of operations, a number of editors and arrangers whose works are under copyright retrieved their works and assigned them to other publishers. Clark McAlister (who used no less than seven pseudonyms - Joseph Goodwin, John Holmes, Robert Malcolm, Conrad Marshall, Giovanni Orsini, Douglas Stroud and Howard K. Wolf - along with numerous titles under his own name), Clinton F. Nieweg and his co-editors for the Nieweg Performance Editions and Lucas Drew were signed by Serenissima Music while the catalog of Giancarlo Chiaramello was re-assigned to Luck's Music Library. On February 18, 2020 an announcement was made that a license to print the remaining copyrighted works (chiefly educational and band items issued by LudwigMasters) had been issued to Keiser-Southern Music, whose production and distribution is through Hal Leonard. As the bulk of the Kalmus catalogue consists of public domain reprints, these of course can (and are) reprinted by several publishers.
(Edwin F. Kalmus & Co.)