The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 5809

Builder Identification

Detroit, Michigan; Berkeley, California; Los Angeles California 1906-12; Van Nuys CA 1912-17; Pasadena, CA 1922-1947

Additional Notes

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

    Edwin A. Spencer was born in 1870 in Canada; the son of an organbuilder. He was in England at some point in his early life; then returned to Canada to Hamilton, Ontario. He moved to the U.S. and was with Farrand & Votey of Detroit, Michigan probably starting circa 1890, and leaving prior to 1899. Spencer moved west, he settled in California and began with Thomas Whalley firm of Berkeley, California. He was later with the first Murray M. Harris Organ Co. of Los Angeles, California, in 1900; when that firm was taken over by investors and reorganized as the Los Angeles Art Organ Company, he went back to Berkley to be a partner with Thomas W. Whalley from 1905 to 1906. He returned to Murray Harris when Harris established his second firm in 1906. He was superintendent, vice president and manager by 1912; after Harris left the firm, he held a similar position with the successor companies Johnston Organ Co. (1912) and California Organ Co. (1914) both of Van Nuys, California. When American Photo-Player took over the California Organ Company in 1917, he was transferred to their subsidiary firm in Berkeley. He remained there until 1922, then established his own firm in Pasadena, California in 1921. Spencer died in Pasadena in 1947.

  • Derived from "History of the Robert Morton Unit Organ" a supplementary booklet distributed with the September 1966 issue of The Console magazine, edited and published by Tom B'Hend. —

    E.A. (Edwin) Spencer was foreman of the Murray Harris company of Los Angeles which had been established in 1906. (An earlier venture of Harris had failed and was reorganized as the Los Angeles Art Organ Company). When the Murray firm was lured to Van Nuys CA by a developer, Spencer went with Harris to Van Nuys. Harris decided to leave the organ business about the time the move was completed, E.S. Johnson purchased majority interest and operated the firm as Johnston Organ & Piano Manufacturing Company with the same core of craftsmen from Harris. Suburban Homes supported the company initially with generous capital contributions, but grew tired of the lax financial practices of the firm. In 1914 they took over, and then promptly turned their interest over to Title Insurance and Trust Company of Los Angeles, holders of the mortgage on the factory building. The firm which was renamed the California Organ Company.

    Harold J. Werner was the president of American Photo Player Co. of Berkley, CA. Photo Player made small stock model theater organs of four to six ranks, and had sales offices in Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York. Werner noted the growth of the 'palace' type theaters seating over a thousand patrons; these huge spaces required far larger organs than anything Photo Player could build in their factory. Werner began a search for a larger production facility, his top sales man, Henry "Cocky" Charles, discovered the California Organ Company plant at Van Nuys, California. Werner investigated, and began negotiations. It seemed an ideal match, the only impediment was Spencer, the foreman at California. Spencer had started with Harris, and he had no interest in building theater organs. The deal was struck while Spencer was out of town for an installation. Spencer was transferred to American Pipe Organ Company in Berkley, a small subsidiary of Photo Player With American Pipe Organ Co. of Berkeley, CA, 1916.

    Spencer left American Pipe Organ Company in 1922. He started Spencer Organ Company of Pasadena, California.

  • For further information, see:
    Farrand & Votey
    Murray M. Harris Organ Co.
    American Photo Player Co.

Database Entries

There are 10 entries in the database that describe organs by Edwin A. Spencer.

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