The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 5706

Builder Identification

Reading, MA, 1886-c.1890; MA, c.1890-1902; Boston, MA, 1902-1932; Methuen, MA 1936; Reading, 1943; Orrville, OH, 1947-1948; Methuen, 1949-1960

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, revised ed. 1997). -

    Ernest M. Skinner was born 15 January 1866 in Clarion, Pennsylvania; he lived in Taunton and West Somerville, Massachusetts as child. He learned the craft of organ building with George Ryder of Reading, Massachusetts, 1886-c.1890. After his apprenticeship, he joined the George S. Hutchings firm of Massachusetts, working there from c. 1890 until 1902, becoming superintendent in 1896, and vice president in 1902.

    Leaving Hutchings, he established his own firm as Ernest M. Skinner & Co. in 1902; he was a partner with James Cole in Skinner & Cole Organ Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, for 6 months in 1903. He recreated his business as E. M. Skinner in 1904. Skinner made durable instruments using fine materials; he standardized his consoles, making them both elegant and ergonomic; he exploited the possibilities of electric action organs, recasting the organ in a new form; he added new tone colors to the organ, particularly orchestral imitative reeds and string choruses which could build a seamless crescendo; with all these changes taken together, he created a new style which he termed the 'Symphonic Organ'. The firm and its owner attracted attention and won many prestigious contracts, but was perpetually short of working capital.

    Skinner's head of sales, William Zeuch, introduced Skinner to businessman Arthur Hudson Marks. Marks had already made one fortune, and was looking for a new opportunity. Hudson and Skinner agreed to a new partnership with Hudson as the businessman and Skinner as the technical and artistic director. They incorporated as Skinner Organ Co. in 1919. The reorganized firm acquired the Steer firm of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1921 and had factories in Boston and Westfield, Massachusetts by 1927. The Skinner Organ Co. acquired the Emmons Howard firm of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Methuen Organ Co. of Methuen, Massachusetts in 1929.

    The Skinner firm merged with the pipe organ division of the Aeolian firm of Garwood, New Jersey, in 1932, the new firm was styled Aeolian-Skinner. Aeolian was the leading maker of residence organs and their associated player mechanisms, Skinner was in the forefront of builders of concert and church instruments. Although styled as a merger, the Skinner firm acquired the resources of Aeolian, the new firm was building Skinner organs. Gradually however, Skinner himself began to feel the firm was no longer building 'Skinner organs' as more and more customers requested their new organs be designed by G. Donald Harrison, an Englishman hired by Marks. Tensions came to a head in 1936, Skinner left the firm. He established Ernest M. Skinner & Son Co. of Methuen, Massachusetts with his son, Richmond H. Skinner; the new firm relocated to Reading, Massachusetts, in 1943. Richmond Skinner served in the Army Air Corp during World War II, returning home, he decided to leave the organ business and work in the airline industry. The elder Skinner accepted an offer with the Schantz firm of Orrville, Ohio, 1947-1948, as a consultant. He returned to Reading in 1949 and established his last business, operating the firm until he was physically unable to continue. In late 1949, he sold the firm and rights to the name to his foreman Carl Bassett. Bassett continued the business as Ernest M. Skinner Co., relocating to Oakland, Florida in 1959.

    Patents Held:
    Patent #500,040; Jun. 20, 1893; swell pedal action
    Patent #595,660; Dec. 14, 1897; organ
    Patent #11,669; Jun. 14, 1898; organ {reissue}
    Patent #667,039; Jan. 29, 1900; automatic player
    Patent #715,307; Dec. 9, 1902; tracker board
    Patent #725,598; Apr. 14, 1903; electric key action
    Patent #784,440; Mar. 7, 1905; action
    Patent #807,510; Dec. 19, 1905; organ
    Patent #1,076,069; Oct. 21, 1913; electropneumatic swell pedal
    Patent #1,192,005; Jul. 25, 1916; automatic organ

  • Skinner Organ Company/Aeolian-Skinner Staff (prior to 1936):
    Arthur H. Marks, president of the reorganized Skinner Organ Company, from 1919;
    William E. Zeuch, vice-president sales;
    George L. Catlin, general manager and treasurer from 1919;
    George O. Kingsbury, corporate secretary from 1919;
    Walter G. Keating, from 1919, assistant treasurer;
    G. Donald Harrison, Asst Technical Director from 1927;

    Production Staff:
    Carl Bassett, foreman; Frank Astle, foreman; Charles Atkins; Walter Bangs; E. J. Barnard; George L. Beaudry, 1921-38, head of pipe department; Carl A. Benson 1907-1917; Arthur W. Birkmaier, voicer; Walter A. Birkmaier, voicer; Allerton Black, 1921 superintendent; Frederick C. Bolton, 1921-1930, head reed voicer; Arthur Bolton; James H. Bolton, 1921, pipemaker; Frederick S. Brockbank, 1905-1914, head reed voicer; George A. Butler, from 1903; Edward V. Clarke, 1914 to beyond 1921, erector; John Cook, Sr. 1930, pipemaker; Harry A. Debold; G. A. Dominique, chestmaker; Harry A. Dresser, 1908-1914, case design & layout?; Fred Eklund, 1924, executive foreman of action, console, and reservoir shops; Augustus Foster; Marshall N. Geiselman, tonal designer, 1923; Frederick L. Goodman, 1908, becoming head voicer by 1924; John A. Hanley, sub-contracted pipe maker; Maurice E. Hardy, draftsman 1930; William I. Hitchcock, foreman of chest department, later installation superintendent; Theodore J. Ilse, drafting and console work prior to 1908; Albert L. Jones, undetermined, may have been service; Mary T. Kelley, 1921; Carl Larson, foreman of chest and wood pipe shop by 1924; Leslie N. Leet, undetermined- he had experience in both sales and production; Edmund Linhares; Frank Linhares; John A. Linhares; Theodore C. Lewis, 1914-16, voicer; Jason McKown, service; A. Perry Martin, chief draftsman and engineer; Charles T. Meyer, Sr., 1935-1937, pipemaker; Bill Morrill; Henry W. Muller, installation foreman, left to form associated service firm; G. R. Murray; Gordon B. Nevin; Andrew Nicholls; James H. Nuttall; Charles G. Parker; Bryant G. Parsons, Sr.; Gideon L. Parsons; C. Oscar Pearson, tuning & voicing; John Pergallo, Sr.; Roger W. Plaisted; Thomas J. Quinlan; Charles A. Ryder; John Saul; Louis J. Schoenstein; Silvertsen; Hans Steinmeyer; John Stenberg; Herbert Stengel; Herman B. Stengel; E. F. Switzer; James E. Treat; Charles Wahlgren; Harry F. Van Wart; James Westhaver; George Weston; Raymond Whalon; Charles C. White; Charles Willet; Stanley W. Williams; Henry W. Worley; Walter E. Young; Fred Wilck.

  • Sales Representatives:

    Harjung Tchakarian, southern sales; William C. Greenwood; C. Asbury Gridley, Southern U.S.; Herbert E. Hyde, Boston, then Chicago;

    Difficult to Classify:

    Technically part of the staff, although he was there only a year, Englishman Robert Hope-Jones worked for Skinner 1905-06 before forming his own firm (later acquired by Wurlitzer). Hope-Jones brought Henry J. Carruthers, voicer, and David Marr, electrical specialist, with him as part of the package; both left with their mentor and followed him. A. J. Jasper, who did console work, was another Hope-Jones alumnus although not part of the package. He too left for Wurlitzer, and later Kimball.

  • Ernest Skinner & Son; E.M. Skinner Organ Company; (companies formed by Skinner after departing Aeolian-Skinner) Staff: Carl Bassett, foreman; Roy E. H. Carlson; Arthur Bolton, John Cook, Sr., head pipemaker

    Most of these men left the Aeolian-Skinner firm when Ernest Skinner did, and worked for him at one or more of his successor companies.

    See also Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. listing.

Database Entries

There are 5 entries in the database that describe organs by Ernest M. Skinner.


We are always interested in adding to our information about builders and correcting any errors that our Database may contain. If you can provide us with corrections or additions to the information presented here, please click the Update button and use the online form to send us details.

Your cooperation and support are greatly appreciated.


 

OHS Logo

This page was opened in a secondary window or tab. To return to the list of builders, simply close this tab.

At present we have no photographs that should be displayed on this page, though we may well have photographs under a related entry with a different form of the name. We would very much like to have photographs of all builders, nameplates, and other appropriate images in our database. If you can assist us with this project, please send a message to photos@pipeorgandatabase.org. Our photo editor will be happy to assist you.