The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 1195

Builder Identification

Chicago, Illinois, 1884–1910.

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders, by David H. Fox (Richmond, Va.: Organ Historical Society, 1991). -

    Makers of water motors in Chicago, Illinois, 1884–1910.


    • The Stopt Diapason, no. 43 (newsletter of the Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the Organ Historical Society).

  • From the OHS Database Builders Listing editor, September 4, 2016. -

    [The water motor was a variation on the water mill that used running tap water instead of a natural stream,] Small motors using the public water supply came into extensive use in the 1870s and 1880s in the United States. A water motor consisted of a small water turbine that was suspended in a metal casing. The smallest water motors were used to run sewing machines, jigsaws, fans, and other similarly mechanized items. The larger water motors were recommended for operating coffee grinders, jeweler's and locksmith's lathes, grindstones, and church organs1 [replacing the 'bellows boy' who pumped the earlier organs.]

    Since churches of the era did not pay taxes for public utilities, the water supplied a free power source to operate the organ. William Barnes claimed this kept the devices in use for sometime after electric blowers became common.2*

    *This practice was not without pitfalls: When neighbors tired of hearing the organist practice on the Roosevelt organ at Flagler Memorial church in St. Augustine, Florida, they turned on their lawn sprinklers causing the water pressure to fall and the organ motor to lose power.3 —Ed.


    1. Lloyd Alter, "Unintended consequences: motors driven by tap water," accessed Sept 13, 2015,
    2. William H. Barnes, The Contemporary American Organ 5th ed, (New York, 1952).
    3. Conversation with a St. Augustine organist, 1974.

Database Entries

There are no entries in the database that describe organs by Chicago Water Motor & Fan Co.

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