Marr and Colton
The Marr & Colton Company was a producer of theater pipe organs, located in Warsaw, New York. The firm was founded by David Jackson Marr and John J. Colton. The company built between 500 and 600 organs for theatres, churches, auditoriums, radio stations, and homes.
David Marr was born in London in 1882. He served seven years as an apprentice in an organ building firm in Edinburgh, where he learned every phase of pipe organ construction. In 1904, he moved to the United States where he acquired employment with the Skinner Organ Company in Boston. He later worked for the Hope-Jones Electric Organ Company, owned by Robert Hope-Jones, who made many initial innovations in the development of the Unit Orchestra, later to become known as the Theatre Organ. While working for Hope-Jones, Marr met John Colton.
The Hope-Jones firm was eventually sold to the Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda, New York, and David Marr and John Colton joined the Wurlitzer team. For two-and-one-half years, David Marr worked for Wurlitzer, ultimately becoming factory superintendent.
Tempted by the prospect of operating his own company, Marr opened the Marr and Colton Organ Company in Warsaw, New York, in 1915. John Colton was with the new company from the beginning, but contrary to popular notion, did not invest any money in the new organization.
The first theatre organ produced by the company was for the Oatka Theatre in Warsaw. At the height of its operation in the 1920s, the company had branch offices in New York City, Detroit, and Hollywood, and some 375 people were employed by the firm. David Marr would often attend the opening of a new theatre in which one of his instruments was installed. Occasionally, he would do the final tuning in the theatre before the grand opening.
In 1932, John Colton left the firm to join the Kilgen Organ Company in St. Louis as a salesman, and died shortly after. Operations ceased at the Warsaw plant in the fall of 1932. David Marr set up a shop in his home cellar and garage, performing organ repair work. He serviced organs in churches and homes until he died on December 20, 1951.
Current organ installations
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- Ohio Theatre, Toledo, Ohio
- Clemens Center, Elmira, New York
- Arcada Theater Building, St. Charles, Illinois
- The Chevalier Theatre, Medford, Massachusetts
- The Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center, Newport, Rhode Island www.janepickens.com
- The Grand Theater, East Greenville, PA www.thegrandtheater.org/history
Former organ locations
- Leow's Rochester Theatre, Rochester, New York
- Capitol Theater, Wheeling, West Virginia
- Roosevelt Theater 887 Broadway (4/18), Buffalo, New York