It was founded in 1900 by Fritz Scheel, who also acted as its first conductor. In 1907, Karl Pohlig took over the post, but it was Leopold Stokowski, who became principal conductor in 1912, who made it famous. Under him, the orchestra gained a reputation for great virtuosity.
In 1936, Eugene Ormandy joined the organisation, and jointly held the post of Principal Conductor with Stokowski until 1938, when he took over the role full time. He remained with the orchestra for forty years, and many of the orchestra's best known recordings were made under his baton.