From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, revised ed. 1997). -
Established by Mathias P. Möller in Warren, Pennsylvania, 1875; relocated to Greencastle, Pennsylvania, 1877; relocated to Hagerstown, Maryland, 1880; built reed organs, 1875-c. 1909; built pipe organs from 1875; acquired Peloubet Organ Co. of Chicago, Illinois, 1919; incorporated, 1921; acquired Wirsching-Binder firm of Salem, Ohio, c. 1922; acquired
Kinetic Engineering, 1939; acquired Henry Pilcher firm of Louisville, Kentucky, 1944; made wooden airplane wings during World War II; acquired by group of investors, 30 Jun. 1989, including: Paul J. Coughlin, Jr., Roland G. Funk, John W. Seniff, and Harold B. Wright; trade name and assets of bankrupt firm acquired by King of Instruments, Inc., of
Chicago, Illinois, 13 January 1993; production of Möller organs resumed at Hagerstown, Maryland facility, [operations ceased and the facility closed in 1994].
Material in brackets added by editor.
From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders, by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). Expanded and updated by the editor on November 1, 2015. -
- The Diapason, May 1921, 1.
- David Junchen, Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, vol. 1 (Pasadena: Showcase Publications, 1985), 345.
- The American Organist, June 1989, 60.
- The American Organist, March 1990, 56.
- The American Organist, January 1993, 88.
- The American Organist, April 1994, 50.
The M. P. Möller organ company was established by Mathias P. Möller in Warren, Pennsylvania, in 1875; he relocated to Greencastle, Pennsylvania in 1877; and then to Hagerstown, Maryland, 1881. The firm originally built reed organs as well as pipe organs, but discontinued reed organ manufacturing circa 1909 to focus on building pipe organs. The firm acquired Peloubet Organ Co. of Chicago, Illinois, in 1919, followed by the Wirsching-Binder firm of Salem, Ohio, c. 1922. The firm was incorporated in 1921 as M. P. Moller, Inc. Englishman Richard Whitelegg was hired in 1930 as voicer, a turning point in the companies tonal designs.
With the death of Mathias P. Möller Sr., his son, Mathias Jr., become president of the firm in 1937. Moller acquired Kinetic Engineering, makers of blowers, in 1939, The firm made wooden airplane wings during W. W. II. Just before the war's end, the firm acquired the Henry Pilcher firm of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1944. Mathias P. Möller, Jr. died in 1961. He was succeeded as president of the firm by W. Riley Daniels, (his brother-in-law). When Tonal Director John Hose died in 1974, he was replaced by Don Gillett formerly of Aeolian-Skinner. Riley Daniels retired in 1978; his son, Peter Moller Daniels, became president. Peter Daniels left the firm in 1986.
The firm was acquired by group of investors on 30 June 1989, including: Paul J. Coughlin, Jr., Roland G. Funk, John W. Seniff, and Harold B. Wright. Dan Angerstein became the Tonal Director. The firm continued to have labor and cash flow problems, and went into involuntary bankruptcy, closing in April of 1992. The trade name and assets of the bankrupt firm were acquired by King of Instruments, Inc., of Chicago, Illinois, on 13 January 1993, the production of Möller organs resumed at the Hagerstown, Maryland facility. King of Instruments closed in November 1994.
- David H. Fox, A Guide to North American Organbuilders (Organ Historical Society, revised ed. 1997).
- Orpha Osche, The History of the Organ in the United States (Indiana University Press, 1975).
- Email from Daniel Angerstein (former Möller vice-president and tonal director) received November 1, 2015.
From the OHS Database Builders Listing editor, November 5, 2016. -
M. P. Möller: The Man, the Company, and their Place in American Organbuilding
Mathias P. Möller was a Danish immigrant who had previously worked with the A.B. Felgemaker firm of Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1875, he established the M.P. Möller firm in Warren, Pennsylvania as a manufacturer of both reed organs and pipe organs. He relocated to Greencastle, Pennsylvania in 1877, lured by the promise of capital funding from a new partner, but the prospective partner turned out to lack the necessary funds and Moller continued on by himself (Ochse p.289). Three years later, Moller was persuaded by civic leaders to relocate the firm to the western Maryland community of Hagerstown where it would remain for the next century.
This turned out to be an even larger triumph for Hagerstown than the limited vision of snaring a new industry. Unlike his contemporary, Ernest Skinner, who continually skirted bankruptcy, Moller was an exceptional businessman. In addition to eventually building the world's largest pipe organ factory, Moller established his own automobile company, and constructed and operated the finest hotel in town. He gave generously to charities in the community, and served on several boards.
From its start in 1875, the firm built reed organs, this continued until about 1909. Concurrently, they built, or at least assembled, pipe organs from the same date. The firm's first organs were assembled from parts from supply houses, but Moller increased their capabilities over time, doing more and more of the work in-house. Starting in 1894, zinc pipes were made in the factory, by 1898, the firm was making all of its own metal pipes (Ochse, p.290). The effort to make everything in-house was completed in 1939 when the firm acquired Kinetic Engineering, a blower manufacturer.
The firm built mechanical key action organs from 1875 until shortly after the turn of the century. The used tubular pneumatic action from about 1902 until 1919 when the company delevoped its own version of electro-pneumatic action (Ochse, pp.289-290). The changes in action type played a large part in Moller's expansion during this period as the newer key-action types were better suited to assembly-line manufacture. Coupled with increase in demand, the change in manufacturing process allowed the firm to increase output rapidly. Production soared in the new century: Moller reached Opus 1000 in early 1910, 35 years after its opening. Opus 2000 was completed in 1915, only five years later. Opus 3000 was finished in 1919, while the company was changing over to electro-pnuematic actions. Even with the transition, Opus 3500 was reached in 1923, and the 5000th instrument debuted in 1928(OHS Database). The company's advertisment in the May 1921 issue of The American Organist claimed their present capacity of 250 organs a year was being increased to meet unprecedented demand. Not just churches, but concert halls, schools, concert halls, and residence organs were produced in the world's largest organ factory. Nor did Moller have difficulty in building theater organs, the firm competed with Wurlitzer, Robert-Morton and Kimball to provide accompaniment to the silver screen (Ochse p.332). Moller acquired one of their representatives, the Peloubet Organ Co. of Chicago, IL in 1919; and its successor, the Wirsching-Binder firm of Salem, Ohio, around 1922, thereby increasing its capacity. At its height, the company maintained fourteen 'service stations' around the country to expedite tuning and service. In a similar vein, it acquired the Henry Pilcher firm of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1944, positioning itself to return to organ building on a massive scale once war time restrictions were lifted (the firm made wooden airplane wings during the war, along with doors and elevator parts for cargo planes).
Moller survived the lean years of the Great Depression, continuing to build new organs although at a reduced rate. The labor force was reduced, dropping from a high of 115. Another source of revenue was the small, standardized series organ. Moller marketed their ubiquitous Artiste series to funeral homes as well as to smaller churches and chapels, contributing to their survival (Coleberd). Moller also had the advantage of its huge inventory of raw material and parts, new instruments could be constructed without having to purchase all new materials. Founder Mathias P. Moller died in 1937 at age 82, still working until his last few months. His son, Matthias Jr. became president of the firm and guided it through the remainder of the 30s, the war years with the factory's conversion to military supplier and the reversion to organ production in 1945. He would lead the company during the boom years following the war, Moller would reach Opus 10,000 in 1960, the year before his death.
The post war years were good for all builders, but Moller expanded beyond any of them. Moller began not only to build more organs, but more large custom organs, and began to compete with Aeolian-Skinner for the higher end projects. The mechanical quality was solid, the voicing department had been honed under the tutelage of Richard Whitelegg, with further direction from Ernest White, and Moller was well positioned with instruments and service representatives around the nation.
Unfortunately, the tide began to turn in the 1970s, mechanical action instruments were again finding favor, and demand for large electro-pnuematic instruments began to decline. The firm was also beset by labor problems, and its huge facility gradually changed from asset to burden as buildings aged and production slowed. The firm went into involuntary bankruptcy in April 1992. Its assets were auctioned off, and a group of investors purchased the name and certain assets, they made an attempt to continue building Moller organs from 1993 until November of 1994 when the production of Moller organs came to its final end.
Jonathan Ambrosino, "A Good Story with a Bad Ending: M. P. Möller 1875-1992." International Society of Organbuilders, 1993. Accessed August 23, 2015.
- Orpha Ochse, The History of the Organ in the United States. Indiana University Press, 1975.