Estey Organ

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Estey Organ
Industry Musical instruments
Area served
Products Pump organs
(Melodeon, American reed organ)

The Estey Organ Company was founded by Jacob Estey when he bought out a Brattleboro, Vermont manufacturing business in 1852. The company went on to become the largest manufacturer of organs in the United States. The original company had been founded in 1846. It employed more than 500 people and its high-quality items were sold as far away as Africa, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Around 500,000 to 520,000 pump organs were built between 1846 and 1955.There were also Estey pianos made by the Estey Piano Company in New York City.

Estey Organ trading card (late 19th century)


Jacob Estey[edit]

Jacob Estey

Jacob Estey (born 1814 in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, died 1890) ran away from an orphanage to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he learned the plumbing trade. He arrived in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1835 at age 21 to work in a plumbing shop which he soon bought and thereby began his long career as a successful businessman.

About 1850, Estey built a two-story shop in Brattleboro and rented it out to a small company which manufactured melodeons. When the renters were unable to pay rent, Estey took an interest in the business in lieu of rent, eventually becoming sole proprietor. Despite having no musical talent or skills as an inventor, Jacob Estey grew the company into a great success, giving up the plumbing business.[1]

Organ powerhouse[edit]

Old Estey Organ Factory

Jacob Estey saw the manufacturing and sale of these instruments, later known as American reed organs, as a new business opportunity. In 1855, Estey organized the first manufacturing company to bear his name, Estey & Green, which was followed by Estey & Company; J. Estey & Company; Estey Organ Company; and finally Estey Organ Corporation, until the company went out of business in 1960. Estey remained dormant until the Estey Company was resurrected in 1990 by Robert Fletcher of Fletcher Music Centers.

Various types of Estey reed organs        
Welte Mignon's Philharmonic Organ
Estey Piano Company Building

In 1926 the company had the name Estey-Welte Corporation, it acquired in the same year the Hall Organ Company of West Philadelphia and a new built six-floor building at 695 Fifth Avenue as showrooms and salesrooms. This would become the new home of the company and the offices of the Welte Mignon Studios, as well of the other subsidiary companies. This were the Estey Piano Company, the Welte Mignon Corporation, the Welte Organ Company, the North American Discount Company, the Estey-Welte Securities Company and the Eswell Realty Corporation.[5] In 1926 Estey-Welte formed The Welte-Mignon Stuidos of Florida, Inc. in Palm Beach.[6]

Estey pipe organ
opus 1111 (1913)
Estey Residence Pipe Organ console (1922)

During these more than one hundred years, Estey became the largest and best known manufacturer of reed organs in the world, building more than 520,000 instruments, all of which carried the inscription of "Brattleboro, Vt. USA". In 1901, Estey Organ Company embarked on the manufacture of pipe organs, becoming among the largest of USA pipe organ manufacturers, and built more than 3200 pipe organs across the USA, even shipping some abroad, before 1960. The company provided organs for many important locations, including New York City's Capital Theatre, the Sacramento, CA Municipal Auditorium, and Henry Ford's home in Dearborn, Michigan.

Also during the era of silent films, Estey made over 160 Theatre Organs.[7][not in citation given][8]

Later history[edit]

Following World War II, Estey undertook the development[citation needed] and manufacture of electronic organs, and thereby joined a limited number of companies which manufactured all three types of organs.

The Estey Organ company was purchased by Fletcher Music Centers in 1989 and subsequently continued to produce several models of home organs sold exclusively though their chain of retail stores throughout the 1990s. The models produced were very successful along with Fletcher Music's Lifetime Free Lesson program which allowed thousands of hobby players to learn how to play recreational music. Fletcher Music Centers and the Estey Organ Company corporate office is located in Clearwater, Florida.

Estey Hall of Shaw University, North Carolina

The Estey family had a long tradition of company leadership and community involvement, including residential development such as Esteyville; banking; town government; schools; fire protection; military units; churches; and Vermont state politics and government. Estey Hall on the campus of Shaw University is named after Estey, who contributed to the construction of the building. Fletcher Music Centers continued the tradition of community involvement by helping fund a music therapy wing at All Children's Hospital located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Among Estey's designers of electric organs was Harald Bode.


  1. ^ Hall, Henry (1896). Americas Successful Men of Affairs (Volume II ed.). New York Tribune. pp. 287–289. 
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Waring 2002, p. 3, Figure 2. “The J. Estey & Company "New Salon Organ," 1881 Estey catalogue
  4. ^ "The Phonorium Organ". The Estey Organ Virtual Museum. 
  5. ^ New York Times, Dec. 18, 1926, Organ Company absorbed
  6. ^ New York Times, January 15, 1927 Sales of organs rise
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Search results: "Theatre Organ" on about 18 pages". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
Types of pump organs

Further reading[edit]

  • Waring, Dennis G. (2002). Manufacturing the Muse: Estey Organs and Consumer Culture in Victorian America. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6508-2. 

External links[edit]