Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c.1925, active in 2015.
Classification: Organ Supplier
From Organ Database Builders editor Stephen Hall, April 28, 2019. Article derived from Elizabeth Towne Schmitt. "Pipe Making - A Family Tradition", The Tracker, 23:2 (Richmond, Va.; Organ Historical Society, 1979), 18-25. —
Jerome B. Meyer was born on January 26, 1872 in Ammerschwihr, Alsace-Lorraine, France (a German-speaking area which was under German control from 1871 to 1918). His father, Frank Antoine Meyer was a vintner. Although Jerome worked in his father's vineyards daily, he often found time to visit the J. Rinkenbach organ factory in his hometown. His older brother, Frank Antoine Meyer, Jr. (born April 9, 1858) worked there as a pipemaker.2, 3, 4
In about 1883 or 1884 Frank came to the United States and settled in Salem, Ohio. He found employment with Carl Barckhoff who had come to Salem from Pennsylvania shortly before this. As at Rinkenbach's, he was a pipemaker here. At Frank's urging Jerome, then 16, left Europe to avoid military training. He arrived in Salem, Ohio, on September 15, 1888. Like his brother, he undertook to learn the pipe-making aspect of the organ business.5
Jerome Meyer is not listed in the early directories. He is first listed in the 1892 directory as a cabinet maker (spelled Myers) living at 84 W. Day St. with Antonio Myers, a pipe maker. Presumably he does not show up earlier since he was a minor living with his older brother. Family records and his obituary in The Diapason9 indicate that Jerome worked first for the Wirsching Organ Company, then two years later for Carl Barckhoff.
About 1897 Jerome went to Lyon & Healy as a pipe shop foreman at their plant in Chicago. While there, he supervised the manufacture of the metal pipes for one of Lyon & Healy's larger installations. This was the four manual electro-pneumatic Thomas Orchestra Organ installed in Orchestra Hall in Chicago in 1904. In 1906, Lyon & Healy looked for a location for a new plant. After considering some property near their Chicago plant, their attention was drawn to Battle Creek, Michigan.11 There the Compensating Pipe Organ Company had declared bankruptcy in March.12 Jerome Meyer moved to Battle Creek with this shop as its pipe shop foreman.
The move to Battle Creek proved not to be a successful one. The plant operated for only a little over a year. On January 21, 1908, the Battle Creek plant was sold to John F. Corl Piano Co.14 The machinery was shipped to their Chicago factory.15 Jerome Meyer then bought the remaining organ parts and materials from Lyon & Healy and started his own business. He is said to have built or rebuilt several organs for churches in and around the Battle Creek area either himself or in partnership with a Reinisch.
On March 9, 1909, Meyer billed Butzen and Eichman Organ Builders of Chicago for 49 Open Diapason 16' pipes and 22 Violin Cello 8' pedal pipes. The name used here was "J.B. Meyer, Organ Pipe Manf., Battle Creek, Mich."21
On March 31, 1909, the Hann-Wangerin-Weickhardt Co. of Milwaukee wrote Meyers and asked him what terms he would consider to take charge of their metal pipe shop. On May 17, 1909, an agreement was signed by Jerome B. Meyer and Adolph Wangerin, Secretary of Hann-Wangerin-Weickhardt. In this agreement Jerome was to make pipes for the company under contract. Meyer was to pay a rental of $8.00 per month for use of the Hann-Wangerin-Weickhardt metal shop and an additional $15.00 per year for use of the equipment in the shop. The agreement was to take effect on June 1, 1909.22
For several years Meyer worked in their building making pipes. A letterhead from this period reads "Jerome B. Meyer, Manufacturer of Church and Residence Organ Pipes. Factory: 115 Austin Street."23 A pricelist showing this address offers both metal flue and reed pipes with voicing as an extra charge.
In 1913 Meyer built a shop for himself on the lot next door to the Wangerin-Weickhardt plant (Hann had died in the intervening period). Wangerin-Weickhardt was still a major purchaser of Meyer's pipes. Jerome's sign on the window of the shop door read "J.B. Meyer & Sons, Prop. Organ Pipes." This shop at 125 Austin (2339 South Austin since the streets were renumbered) continues as the location of the firm today. Meyer continued to supply metal pipes for Wangerin and began to supply other builders throughout the country. Some of the earlier firms supplied by the Meyer company were Schuelke (both Max and the younger William), Schaefer, Barton, Seeburg, Operators, Kilgen, Vottler-Holtkamp and many others. Some of these, of course, had their own pipe shops and bought only a portion of their pipes, especially case pipes.24 The case pipes (nonspeaking) for the 1923 E.M. Skinner organ at the University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.) were supplied by the firm.25
In his earliest period of making pipes in Milwaukee, Meyer made unvoiced pipes for Wangerin-Weickhardt. They had their own voicers. Later when Meyer expanded and began selling pipes to the trade, he found he had to supply voiced pipes. When Philipp Wirsching came to Milwaukee about 1919 after his own firm failed, he helped Meyer get a voicing machine set up and coached him in voicing.26 (However, the 1909 bill to Butzen and Eichman for pipes referred to earlier included a charge for voicing.)
In 1920, Jerome was joined in the business by his son Charles. On October 25, 1925, the business was incorporated with a capitalization of $25,000. The shareholders were listed as Jerome B. Meyer, president and treasurer; his wife Anna Mary, vice president; and Charles his son, as secretary.27
In 1927 the factory was enlarged to accommodate the growing business. An addition on the front of the building contained a voicing room and an experiment room.29 This addition brought the building to its present size. The building contains a furnace (for melting the pipe metal) and casting table on the lower level. Here also the tin and lead, which are melted to cast pipe metal, and the rolls of pipe metal are stored. The pipes themselves are cut, shaped, and soldered on the main floor in the older part of the building. The addition contains the voicing room and office.
The firm survived the difficult years of the Depression with a reduced staff. When business fell off, Charles Meyer left the firm and went to Boston as a pipemaker for the Skinner Organ Co. from 1935 to 1937, and then to Wicks in Highland, Illinois from 1937 to Thanksgiving 1940. He then returned to Milwaukee and rejoined his father's firm where he has been since.
World War II brought a new set of problems. When materials for pipe making were restricted, Jerome and his son Charles began buying old church and theater organs. They sold parts and repaired pipes for small builders throughout the country. For several years they also did repairing and tuning. When the materials restrictions were lifted at the end of the war, they returned to the exclusive manufacture of organ pipes. Jerome remained as head of the firm until his death on September 17, 1949.
Charles Meyer's son, Gordon Meyers followed his grandfather and father as president of the firm. Gordon's son, Anders, joined the firm in the 1970s.30 Anders Myers is the present head of the firm.
Note: This article was derived from an article in The Tracker by Elizabeth Towne Schmitt dealing with the Meyers family. The skips in the sources reference numbering is caused by ommission of parts of the article. The entire article is available on-line at the Organ Historical Society website at "https://organhistoricalsociety.org/publications/tracker/" by selecting "1979-22-2" from the PDF list of 1956-1999 issues.
From the OHS Database Builders Listing editor, September 4, 2016. -
Listed as established 1909, incorporated 1925. Still active in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2015 with Anders Meyer as owner.
From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders, by David H. Fox (Richmond, Va.: Organ Historical Society, 1991). -
Established by Jerome B. Meyer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pipemakers; incorporated, 1925; active 1982.