Max and Micheline Urban Papers

Identifier: 96-46

Scope and Contents

The Max Urban Papers is divided into seven series, with each series further divided into subseries to better reflect the content. Series 1 includes personal and family papers. Series 2-6 contain material relating to Urban's multifaceted music career. A representative portion of the various kinds of musical scoring paper he used has been retained in the collection. The last group is composed of material related to Micheline Urban's involvement with astrology.

Max Urban's numbering for both draft music manuscripts and published music has been retained. In some cases, a title has two or more different numbers, resulting in multiple file folders for a title. For example: drafts of "No me mires asi" are marked as numbers 167 and 168. Also, Urban often wrote small parts for several titles on connected folds of composition paper. Example: three bars of music for #102, Corazon del Marimol, are on the same fold of composition paper with sections for #97, Madame Butterfly; #103 Marcheta; and #105a, Maria hari. Therefore, researchers should consult all files containing alternately numbered versions of a title and should use the "Find" feature for musicians' names and song titles in various files.

The collection includes some orchestral scores and sheet music published by other musicians which Urban consulted when making new arrangements. One example is of composer Jorge M. Dada's dance song, "Mexicanita," which was published in the September 22, 1935, issue of El Cine Grafico (Mexico). The entire issue of the newspaper accompanies Urban's draft score for "Celos." Two World War I era military marches, "Alte Kameraden" for pianoforte, composed by C. Teike (Leipzig, Germany), and the marching song "Quand Madelon ...," by Louis Bousquet and Camille Robert (Paris, 1917), are also included in the collection. Urban's arrangements for orchestra for both pieces are included in the collection. Another source included in the collection is the first issue of "Pro-Arte" Revista Musical (August 15, 1929), a Mexican magazine of sheet music and news for music professionals. The collection also includes some sheet music that was published in Cuba.

Series 7 contains Micheline Urban's astrological work. Included are natal charts Urban prepared for some of her international clients, brochures for classes she taught, research notes, and some of her publications about astrological topics. Several astrological publications are included in the collection. Among them are the first issue of the International Society for Astrological Research's Journal of Astrological Studies (1970), the first issue of the Journal of Geocosmic Research (1974), the first issue of the Congress of Astrological Organizations' CAO Times (1975), and a 1973 guide to preparing for an astrologer's certificate examination. The collection includes astrological publications and personal horoscopes that she prepared for several international clients. She was a member of the American Contract Bridge League, achieving the rank of Junior Master.

The collection contains correspondence between the Urbans and the Lairds. Additional correspondence with Max and Micheline Urban is included in the Charlton Grant Laird Papers (AC 0076 and AC 0284).


  • 1968-1990


Conditions Governing Access

Unprocessed collection is open for research. Advanced notice is required; contact staff to schedule access. Materials must be used onsite. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law or special donor agreement.

Biographical Note

There is conflicting information concerning Max Urban’s background. A 1981 biographical sketch written by his widow states that he was born in Hochdonn, Germany on July 5, 1894. Another source in the collection identifies his birthplace as Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic). His father was Michel Urban. His mother’s maiden name was Lukachewski.

Urban was privileged to be one of only six pupils ever accepted by Max Reger (1873-1916) at the University of Leipzig’s Conservatory of Music. Reger, a concert pianist, organist and conductor, was professor of composition at the conservatory until his death and was ranked with Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler as a leading composer of his time. Two of his other students were Joseph Haas and George Szell.

After Urban’s graduation from the conservatory, he began a career as a pianist and conductor. He composed or arranged background music for over 200 films in Czechoslovakia, England, France and Germany. His first wife was actress and screenwriter Anna Sedlácková (1887-1967), who was also born in Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. She and Urban co-founded the film company ASUM in 1912. She wrote under the name Andula Sedlackova for four films in Czechoslovakia in 1913. From 1912-1935, she appeared in 14 Czechoslovakian films. Max Urban was involved as the director, cinematographer, and/or writer for several of them. He was a member of the cast in Americky souboj (1913), as well as its cinematographer and story writer. Their marriage ended in divorce.

After directing the Czechoslovakian film Nightmare, released in 1914, Urban served in the German Army during World War I from 1914-1918. He was the cinematographer and story writer for the Czechoslovakian film Idyla ze stare Prahy (1918). He moved to Mexico in the 1920s. While living in Mexico City, he arranged Mexican songs, conducted radio concerts (XEW, XEB, etc.), and composed orchestral arrangements for the radio concerts, involving about 300 Latin American compositions. Some Spanish-language newspaper articles about his work with Mexican radio are included in the collection.

Urban was in on the ground floor of the emerging Mexican cinema industry, composing, arranging, and conducting the recording of background music for over 160 Mexican movies from 1932-1954. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists him as the music director for several films during that era, including documentaries and feature films. The Max Urban Production Company (also known as Producciones Max Urban) released three short documentary films, directed and edited by Urban in 1934: Pachuca, Taxco, and Viernes de dolores. Music for Taxco is included in the collection. Urban was also a cast member in Sobre las olas (1933) and Amores de ayer (1944). Urban's manuscript score for the film Nostradamus (1937) is included in the collection. Several flyers and booklets for Urban's films are included in the collection, along with clippings from Mexican newspapers about his involvement with Mexican films. By 1948, he owned the largest music publishing house in Mexico.

Urban made arrangements of over 800 scores by many well-known composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), George Gershwin (1898-1937) and Robert Schumann (1810-1856). He became a member of the Reichsmusikkammer, Germany's State Music Bureau, as a composer, arranger and conductor, in about 1937, while composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was serving as its President. Urban was a member of STAGMA, Germany's state-approved agency for musical copyrights before 1939, and registered his compositions with that organization, along with filing copyrights for them in Washington, D. C. After World War II, STAGMA was renamed GEMA (Gesellschaft fur musikalische Auffuhrungs- und mechanische Vervielfaltigungsrechte). Business records and correspondence with GEMA are included in the collection. Urban was also a member of ASCAP, a USA copyright society for performance rights. He also submitted copies of his work to the Ibero Amerikanische Institute. Some music in the collection was registered with BMI, another USA copyright society for performance rights. The Urban collection includes some draft scores and published music featuring several women composers and lyricists with whom Urban collaborated. Among them are Dorothy Auerbach, Jacqueline Batell, Ernestina Lecuona de Brouwer, Maria Grever, Lois E. Jones, Maria Teresa Lara, Maria McDonald [also spelled MacDonald], and Mabel Wayne. Of particular interest is an autographed copy of the sheet music for "Dos Amores / Two Loves," by Maud Martin, with a note thanking Urban for publishing her first song (1946).

Besides composing and arranging ballroom dance music, ballets, film scores, folksongs, and classical music, Urban drew upon South American history for some of his compositions. Representative samples include "Danza Azteca" and "Himno Al Sol, el lengua Maya." The collection includes several Spanish-language publications by Mexico's Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Direccion de Misiones Culturales about dance in the culture of various ethnic groups, among them the Apaches, the Matlanchines, and the Yaqui.

Urban’s second wife was Micheline (Misha, Michele) Reichert, who was born in Nancy, France on September 7, 1907. Her parents were Emile Reichert and Georgette Rossnerr Reichert. She had one sister, Josette McCarthy, who worked as an executive secretary at the Republic National Bank in New York City during the mid-1970s. Micheline Reichert graduated from the Nancy Music Conservatory in 1922. She became a naturalized American citizen on August 22, 1952, while she and Max Urban were living in Hollywood, California (1956-1964). The Urbans lived in Los Angeles, California from 1964-1978. Michele Urban was a practicing astrologist, instructor and author. She was a member of Professional Astrologers, Inc.

During World War II, Urban prepared arrangements of works by several classical composers and published them via the Mills Music, Inc., in New York City. Urban became a citizen of the United States of America and was a member of Musicians Union Local 47 (Los Angeles, California). While living in Los Angeles, Urban was the Musical Director for the Fine Arts Productions and Television Guild, Inc., a production company. The company had its own studios and a little theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Its president was Milton Syde. Urban also worked as the Artistic Director for Harmony Studio of Hollywood, which was located in the R.C.A. Building on Vine Street.

Max Urban & Company, Inc., located at 1651 Cosmo Street in Hollywood, California, was the sole selling agent for Ediciones Atlas S. A., Mexico (music by Mexican composers and arrangers), and also used the name "Continent Music Co." Max Urban & Co. became a Nevada corporation in 1948. The corporation also did business under the name of Flag Records in Hollywood, California as a recording studio. Urban arranged or composed the music for some of the corporation’s publications. Dr. Charlton Laird and Mrs. Helene Laird of Reno were business partners with the Urbans. Atlas Music Publishers, Inc., the Globe Record Company, and Max Urban & Co., Inc., were among the business ventures shared by the Urbans and the Lairds. The Nevada seal for Max Urban & Co., Inc. is included in the collection, along with financial records for the corporation.

In the late 1940s, Helene Laird wrote song lyrics for music that Urban composed for her, including: the "Ballad to the Harlem River," which was dedicated to Juliana, Countess Dandini di Cesena; "Two on the Terrace," which was dedicated to Emily Hilliard; and "Song of the Seasons," which was dedicated to Peggy Arnold (May 26, 1948). Urban also wrote the music for “Once Upon a Rainy Day” and "Cowboy Cave," musical plays written by Dr. Charlton (Larry) Laird, and also for several individual songs with Larry Laird's lyrics. In 1951, Urban played the organ for Nancy Laird’s wedding at St. Stephen’s chapel on University Avenue in Reno.

Urban was invited to perform his compositions for various civic groups in Reno, including the National Business and Professional Women’s Club (February 1948) and the Reno Lions Club (March 1948). One source in the collection mentions that Urban composed a series of works about lakes in the western United States, including “Pyramid Lake.”

Max and Micheline Urban invested one-half interest in the Eldorado Enterprises/Anthony Company casino, headquartered in Gardena, California, in 1976. Micheline Urban listed Dr. Charlton Laird and Dr. Robert Gorrell, members of the English Department faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno, as personal references on her "Schedule A" investment application document (January 28, 1976). At that time, Max Urban was the music programmer for Tape Athon Music, Inc., in Inglewood, California. The Urbans owned real estate in Carson City, Nevada, at this time, while still maintaining a home in Los Angeles, California. After a failed attempt to buy a house in Las Vegas in the spring of 1978, for which the Urbans had sold real estate holdings in Carson City, they moved to 1840 Kings Row, Reno, Nevada, in August 1978.

Affectionately called "Maestro" by his film industry colleagues and the Mexican press, Urban's work is relatively unknown in the United States of America. Urban continued to compose music throughout his life. Max Urban died at his home in Reno, Nevada, on March 10, 1981. He was buried at the Masonic Memorial Gardens in Reno.

After his death, Micheline Urban actively pursued legal protection of his music copyrights. She also contacted various music publishers in an effort to get some of her husband’s unpublished music manuscripts published.

Micheline Urban died at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, on February 4, 1997, and was inurned at the Masonic Memorial Gardens in Reno. She was survived by one sister and two nephews.


38 Linear Feet (83 boxes)

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Arranged into the following series: 1) Personal Papers; 2) Mexican Cinema and Radio Career; 3) Music Composed and/or Arranged by Max Urban and Other Musicians; 4) Music Business Material and Records; 5) Photographs; 6) Sound Recordings; 7) Micheline Urban Astrology Material.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Brian Colodny, trustee for Micheline Urban on January 3, 1997.

Related Materials

Related archival materials held by the University Archives Department:

Charlton Grant Laird Papers, AC 0076 and AC 00284.

Separated Materials

One copy of the sheet music for "Carmencita" (1948), with lyrics by Larry and Helene Laird and music by Max Urban, was transferred to the Charlton Grant Laird Papers, 1936-1980 (AC 0076), on December 10, 2007.

Photographs from the collection have been transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archives as collection number UNRS-P2008-16.

The National Automobile Club's "Road Map of the Western States" was transferred to Special Collections' Road Map File.


Guide to the Max and Micheline Urban Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)