(Melodeon, American reed organ)
Pipe organs, Theatre organs, Electronic organs
|Subsidiaries||Estey Piano Company, Welte Mignon Corporation, Welte Organ Company, North American Discount Company, Estey-Welte Securities Company, Eswell Realty Corporation, Magna Electronics Company (Magnatone)|
The Estey Organ Company was an American organ manufacturer. Jacob Estey founded the company when, in 1852, he bought out a Brattleboro, Vermont manufacturing business that had begun in 1846. The company went on to become the largest organ manufacturer in the United States. At its peak, it employed more than 500 people, and sold its high-quality items as far away as Africa, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Estey built around 500,000 to 520,000 pump organs between 1846 and 1955. Estey also produced pianos, made by the Estey Piano Company in New York City.
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. He soon bought the shop, beginning a long career as a successful businessman.
About 1850, Estey built a two-story shop in Brattleboro and rented it out to a small company that manufactured melodeons. When the renters ran short of cash, 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. In 1855, Estey organized the first manufacturing company to bear his name, Estey & Greene—followed by Estey & Company, J. Estey & Company, Estey Organ Company—and finally, Estey Organ Corporation.
Jacob Estey saw the manufacturing and sale of these instruments, later known as American reed organs, as a new business opportunity.
Estey reed organs in the 19th century
Estey Organ in the early 20th century
In 1926 the company used the name, Estey-Welte Corporation. That year, it acquired the Hall Organ Company of West Philadelphia and a new built six-floor building at 695 Fifth Avenue as showrooms and salesrooms. This became the company's home, and the offices of the Welte Mignon Studios and the other subsidiary companies—including 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. In 1926 Estey-Welte formed The Welte-Mignon Stuidos of Florida, Inc. in Palm Beach.
Over its more than one hundred years, Estey became the largest and best known manufacturer of reed organs in the world. It made more than 520,000 instruments, all labeled Brattleboro, Vt. USA. In 1901, Estey Organ Company began making pipe organs, and became one of the largest American pipe organ manufacturers. They built and sold more than 3200 pipe organs across the USA and abroad. 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.
Estey Organ after World War II
Following World War II, Estey developed and manufactured electronic organs, joining a limited number of companies that manufactured all three types of organs—reed, pipe, and electronic. In the 1950s, Harald Bode joined Estey. He had been a pioneer in the research and development of electronic musical instrument since the 1930s, and in 1951, he had developed the Bode Organ. At Estey, he helped to develop the Estey Electronic Organ model S and AS-1 (1954), then served as a chief engineer and a vice-president of Estey during the late 1950s.
Fletcher Music Centers purchased the Estey Organ company name in 1989, and subsequently produced several models of home organs. The models included a lifetime free lesson program. They sold these throughout the 1990s, exclusively though their chain of retail stores. Fletcher Music Centers and the Estey Organ Company corporate office is in Clearwater, Florida.
Estey Organ Company Factory
Estey Organ Company Factory
|Location||Birge St., Brattleboro, Vermont|
|Area||5 acres (2.0 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||80000344 (original)
|Added to NRHP||April 17, 1980|
|Boundary increase||January 9, 2007|
The Estey Organ Company's main factory was located southwest of downtown Brattleboro, on the south side of Whetstone Brook between Birge and Organ Streets. At its height, the complex had more than 20 buildings, many of which were interconnected by raised walkways and covered bridges. Several of the buildings were built with distinctive slate siding, resulting in an architecturally unique collection of such structures in the state. One of the buildings now houses the Estey Organ Museum; the entire surviving complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, both for its architecture, and as a major economic force in Brattleboro for many years.
Social contributions by Estey family
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.
- Ahern, Douglas (2013). "Arnold Bernard and Estey". The History of the Magnatone Amplifier. MagnatoneAmps.com.
... In 1959, Estey acquired Magna Electronics and made [F. Roy] Chilton the president of the Estey Corporation. Headquarters moved from the east coast to the Torrance where a line organs would be added to what was already in production under the Magnatone name. Some vague words were spoken in regard to keeping the Brattleboro operation going, but it seemed unlikely. Within a year or two, the 100 year legacy of Estey organ manufacturing finally came to an end, and the doors were closed for good.
- "Mason Buys Estey Organ Shop". North Adams Transcript. November 3, 1961.
- Hall, Henry (1896). Americas Successful Men of Affairs (Volume II ed.). New York Tribune. pp. 287–289.
- Waring 2002, p. 3, Figure 2. “The J. Estey & Company "New Salon Organ," 1881 Estey catalogue”
- "The Phonorium Organ". The Estey Organ Virtual Museum.
- New York Times, Dec. 18, 1926, Organ Company absorbed
- New York Times, January 15, 1927 Sales of organs rise
- "http://barton.theatreorgans.com/cgi-bin/db2net.exe". Retrieved 25 October 2013. External link in
- "Search results: "Theatre Organ" on esteyorgan.com: about 18 pages". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- Rhea, Tom (May 2004), "Harald Bode", Video History Project (Experimental Television Center), archived from the original on 2011-07-19 (also broken format page remains in here)
- Harald's wonderful Instruments, Harald Bode News, 27 April 2010
- Levin, John (March 6, 2010). Estey Electronic Organ model AS-1, designed by Harald Bode (photograph). Estey Organ Museum, Brattleboro.
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "NRHP nomination for Estey Organ Company Factory" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
- Types of pump organs
- PumpOrganRestorations.com, Twelve Different Types of Pump Organs (Types of Reed Organs)
- Estey Organ Museum, How To Find Serial Numbers In Estey Reed Organs
- Waring, Dennis G. (2002). Manufacturing the Muse: Estey Organs and Consumer Culture in Victorian America. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6508-2.
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