The OHS Pipe Organ Database

Organbuilders in the OHS Database: An Introduction

When the OHS Pipe Organ Database was put online in 2005, it included a table of organbuilders drawn from David Fox's Guide to North American Organbuilders, which he completed in 1991. (A revised and enlarged version of the book was published in 1997 by OHS and is now available in PDF format through the OHS catalog.) This table was never made available to site visitors through the web site, but it was used by Database Editors for internal consistency in presenting builder names on all pages.

Now after after nearly two years of work, the listing has been added to the website in a revised and greatly expanded form. With over 8,000 articles, the work is still in progress, but we invite you to look at how far we have come. If you would like to help with this project, contact the the Organbuilder Editor via e-mail at Database.Builders@pipeorgandatabase.org.

Content of the List

The database builders table has been enlarged repeatedly since it was established in 2004, and now contains more than 8,000 entries. The full content of that list of organbuilders is now accessible to site visitors either through a short listing of builders or via a search form. Those two pages are accessible through links both from the home page and at the right of this page. Because of its origin in Fox's book and the ongoing revisions, that table includes the following types of entries:

  • Organbuilders. Individuals or firms whose primary occupation is building new pipe organs. These names are typically found on nameplates or console nameboards.
  • Organ maintenance/service personnel. Individuals or firms whose primary occupation is maintaining and preserving pipe organs, but who may be involved in building new organs or preserving existing pipe organs. These names may not be found on builder nameplates, even though they may be responsible for the current state of altered pipe organs.
  • Organ suppliers. These are companies or individuals whose primary occupation is manufacturing components that are essential to the construction or operation of pipe organs. They are in fact rarely, if ever, solely responsible for the construction or modification of pipe organs, and their names are typically not found on existing nameplates.
  • Individual contractors/artisans. These are individuals who are primarily employees of organbuilding firms or freelance specialists, and who typically possess specific skills, such as pipe-making or voicing, design, or chest construction. We also include independent scholars and consultants in this category. In some cases, their names will appear on secondary or auxiliary nameplates, G. Donald Harrison being a notable example.
  • Corporate executives. These are individuals whose activities are essential to company operations, but whose activities do not include hands-on building, maintenance, or repair of pipe organs. This category covers people like CEOs and Comptrollers.
  • Auxiliary business. These are companies whose primary business is not pipe organs, but whose products are used in the pipe organ business. Such companies include those that produce any type of component used in equipment other than pipe organs as well as pipe organs themselves.
  • Professional organizations. These are organizations of organbuilders and suppliers, whose members may be individuals or firms. Members are held to standards of quality in their work and professional behavior in their business. These organizations generally hold annual conferences with opportunities to attend seminars on specific topics.

Goals and Ambitions

Our ultimate goal for this portion of the OHS Database is to provide an encyclopedic listing of all organbuilders who have worked in Canada, Mexico, or the United States of America, or whose instruments have been installed in North America . That being said, this listing is an ongoing project whose parameters may change, or whose all-too-human caretakers might occasionally make an error.

It is not the goal of this listing to promote one builder above another or to provide references about a builder in any form. We invite all currently active artisans and companies whose work fits in one of the categories above to participate with us in this endeavor by providing accurate and complete information about their work.

Revisions to Our Builder List

As is the case with other information accessible through the OHS Database, all entries on specific builders are dynamic and can be freely modified at any time. We ask for your help in keeping our information up to date by sending us new entries or corrections to existing ones as you are able. Please keep these points in mind:

  • In the case of specific builders, corporate or individual, our protocol requires a separate entry for each form of the name that was or is currently in use by the builder on nameplates or nameboards.
  • If you look at our quick list of organbuilders, please click on a name to see what other entries we have in the database for that individual or company. Entries on related builders are hyperlinked, and some of the information might be spread throughout the related entries as appropriate.
  • A few of the more complex groups of related organbuilders have introductory articles. This allows you to get an overview of the family and any firms they have operated. The Pilcher Family Overview (Builder ID 8032) is an example.
  • The best way for you to send new or corrected information about our list of builders is to send a message to our Organbuilder Editor via e-mail to Database.Builders@pipeorgandatabase.org. If you use the general Database e-mail address, our response may be delayed.

We are dependent on the goodwill of the entire pipe organ community to maintain an up-to-date and accurate catalog of organbuilders. We value your contributions and are grateful for your assistance.

General Note Regarding the Editing Process

The following changes were made for the articles derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David Fox: (1) Postal Codes for states and provinces were replaced by the name of the state or province, and the abbreviation "U.S." was replaced by "United States"; (2) 1991 and 1997 editions were compared, and any new material in the 1997 revised edition was added; (3) Sources were added from the 1997 edition; and (4) cross-references were hyperlinked to other entries; (this process is ongoing, and not all references are linked yet). Additionally, some attempt has been made to convert phrases into complete sentences, but this procedure has usually been reserved for major articles.

Acknowledgments

As mentioned at the beginning of this introduction, the nucleus of the Builders Listing is taken from David Fox's monumental work, A Guide to North American Organbuilders. Approximately 6,500 of the entries started with information from his 1991 book. The editor made use of Fox's 1997 revision to add sources to the entries and to make additions, updates, or corrections as given in that revision. Without Fox's massive undertaking, this listing would either be much smaller and far less comprehensive, or might not exist at all.

Historians of American organs do not make a large group. Many names are to be found repeatedly in the sources. Three names appear at the top of that list: Dr. Orpha Ochse, author of The History of the Organ in the United States; Barbara Owen, one of the founders and the first president of the Organ Historical Society, and author of The Organ in New England; and the late Elizabeth Towne Schmitt, former chair of the Organ Database Committee, and prolific researcher. Other persons whose names appear frequently in the sources for expanded entries are Jonathan Ambrosino, voicer, writer, historian, and consultant; Dr. James Huestis Cook, retired professor at Birmingham-Southern College and former chair and recently retired webmaster for the OHS Organ Database Committee; and Bynum Petty, archivist of the Organ Historical Society. Douglas Bush and Richard Kassel, co-editors of The Organ: An Encyclopedia (Psychology Press, 2006) round out the list.

Other individuals were particularly helpful with specific articles: Jeffrey Dexter for the Schantz family, Edward Odell for the Odell family and firms, and James Stark for the Art Organ Company. Rev. Carl Bassett provided firsthand information on his father, organbuilder Carl Bassett. Paul E. Fischer supplied a wealth of information on the last years of the Tellers Organ Company.

Finally, I have saved the place of honor for Charles Eberline, fellow member of the Organ Historical Society, and editor/proofreader without peer. Charles has had the unenviable task of cleaning up after an enthusiastic but not always well-organized Builders Listing editor. The credit for the polished and professional look of so many of the articles must go to him. He has also gone above and beyond his charter by tracking down many an obscure reference, and by double-checking facts for me. I cannot thank him enough, he has been a true godsend.

Stephen Hall
Builders Listing Editor
January 18, 2017