The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 6089

Builder Identification

Erie, Pennsylvania from 1945; Ceased building organs in 1973 but continued as service firm and sales representative until at least 2006

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North America Organ Builders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). Updated from other sources (listed below) --

    Established by Herman J. Tellers in Erie, PA, 1945; building organs until 1973, thereafter as a service firm and representative for Rodgers Instruments until 2006.

    Staff: Paul E. Fisher; Robert R. Miller.

    The Tellers family had been in the organ business since their arrival in the United States from Germany in 1881. Herman J. Tellers (born 1839) brought his sons Heinrich (Henry) and Ignatius with him and began work in New Orleans by 1884. In 1888, he moved north and settled in Wisconsin. He and his older son, Henry, both worked with the William Schuelke firm of Milwaukee. Henry and his brother Ignatius later moved to Erie PA and began working with A.B. Felgemaker. In 1906, the two brothers joined with another Felgemaker employee, William Sommerhoff, and began their own firm as Tellers-Sommerhoff of Erie, PA. When Sommerhoff left the firm in 1918, Albert Kent, the foreman from Felgemaker, joined them and the firm became Tellers-Kent. The firm acquired the assets of the Felgemaker firm that same year. Tellers-Kent became a well-known builder, providing organs across the Midwest and doing limited business nation-wide. The firm succumbed to the lean years of the Great Depression, declaring bankruptcy in 1933. The Tellers family continued doing service work for the next twelve years.

    In 1945, Herman J. Tellers, son of Henry, was able to incorporate the firm as Tellers Organ Company, and production of new organs resumed. Again, the firm built electro-pneumatic instruments, but now began following the American Classic style established by Aeolian-Skinner. Once again the firm fell victim to the economy, production slowed in the early 1970s, and the factory was sold to Lawrence Phelps in 1973. Henry C. Tellers retained the company name, and continued business as the representative for Rodgers Instruments, doing some service work on Tellers organs in the area. After Henry's death in 2006, his son, Aaron, closed the business, and became an apprentice with Fritz Noack.

  • From Elizabeth Towne Schmitt, "Tellers" in The Organ: An Encyclopedia edited by Douglas Bush & Richard Kassel (Utah and New York: Psychology Press, 2006, 561.) --

    Although Tellers Organs ceased building, it remained as a company doing business as Tellers Piano and Organ, selling pianos and electronic organs1, and acting as a representative of Rodgers Classic Church Organs. It was active until 2006.

    1. Per Paul Fisher, they also continued to do service work on local Tellers organs.
  • From a phone conversation with Paul Fischer, Sept 1, 2015 --

    Herman J. Tellers was son of Henry Tellers; (with Tellers-Kent firm of Erie, PA until firm went bankrupt in 1933);

    The Tellers firm ceased building organs in 1973, the organ at St Luke's Cathedral in Orlando, Florida was their last major job. (Cathedral Church of St Luke) The firm continued building a few more organs until the factory was closed, no contracts were left unfinished. Lawrence Phelps completed the last organ under construction, and delivered it with a Tellers name plate.

    Later in 1973, Lawrence Phelps purchased the Tellers factory and changed the name to Phelps and Associates. Paul Fischer, nephew of Herman Tellers remained with the new firm as plant superintendent under the direction of Phelps until the demise of the company in 1978. Organ Supply Industries (OSI) acquired the factory in 1980. Fischer then establish "Paul E. Fischer Pipe Organ Sales and Service, Inc." in Erie, which later became Fischer Organ Company. (Fischer Organ Company)

    After selling the factory, Henry C. Tellers set up shop in a nearby store and began doing business as Tellers Piano and Organ, selling pianos and electronic organs, acting as the midwest representative of Rodgers, selling and installing electronic and pipe/electronic combination organs. The continued doing service work on local Tellers organs.

  • From a phone conversation with Paul Fischer, Sept 1, 2015 --

    After Henry C. Tellers death in 2006, his son, Aaron, closed the business in 2007 and became an apprentice at Fritz Noack.

Database Entries

There are 81 entries in the database that describe organs by Tellers Organ Co.

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Builder's Nameplate. Photograph by Chad Boorsma

Builder's Nameplate. Photograph by Matthew J. Geda