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For a century the Estey Organ Company in Brattleboro, Vermont was the largest Organ (music) manufacturer in the United States. In 1852 Jacob Estey founded the company and bought out another Brattleboro manufacturing business. At its peak, the company employed approximately 700 people, and sold its high-quality items as far away as Africa, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Estey built around 500,000 to 520,000 pump organs between 1846 and 1955. Estey also produced pianos, made by the Estey Piano Company in New York City.

Estey Organ
IndustryMusical instruments
FounderJacob Estey
Defunctc. 1961[1][2]
Area served
ProductsPump organs (Melodeon, American reed organ)
Pipe organs, Theatre organs, Electronic organs
SubsidiariesEstey Piano Co., Welte Mignon Corp., Welte Organ Co., North American Discount Co., Estey-Welte Securities Co., Eswell Realty Corp., Magna Electronics Co. (Magnatone)[1]


Jacob EsteyEdit

Jacob Estey

Jacob Estey, born 1814 in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, ran away from an orphanage to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he learned the plumbing trade. In 1835 he arrived in Brattleboro, Vermont at age 21 to work in a plumbing shop. He soon bought the shop, beginning a long career as a successful businessman. He died in 1890.

About 1850, Estey built a two-story shop in Brattleboro and rented it out to a small company that manufactured melodeons. When the renters ran short of cash, Estey took an interest in the business in lieu of rent, eventually becoming sole proprietor. Despite having no musical talent or skills as an inventor, Jacob Estey grew the company into a great success, giving up the plumbing business.[3] In 1855, Estey organized the first manufacturing company to bear his name, Estey & Greene—followed by Estey & Company, J. Estey & Company, Estey Organ Company—and finally, Estey Organ Corporation.

Jacob Estey saw the manufacturing and sale of these instruments, later known as American reed organs, as a new business opportunity.

Estey reed organs in the 19th centuryEdit

Estey Organ in the early 20th centuryEdit

Estey Piano Company Building
Welte Mignon's Philharmonic Organ

In 1926 the company used the name, Estey-Welte Corporation. That year, it acquired the Hall Organ Company of West Philadelphia and a new built six-floor building at 695 Fifth Avenue as showrooms and salesrooms. This became the company's home, and the offices of the Welte Mignon Studios and the other subsidiary companies—including the Estey Piano Company, the Welte Mignon Corporation, the Welte Organ Company, the North American Discount Company, the Estey-Welte Securities Company, and the Eswell Realty Corporation.[12] In 1926 Estey-Welte formed The Welte-Mignon Stuidos of Florida, Inc. in Palm Beach.[13]

Estey Residence Pipe Organ console (1922)
Estey pipe organ
opus 1111 (1913)

Over its more than one hundred years, Estey became the largest and best known manufacturer of reed organs in the world. It made more than 520,000 instruments, all labeled Brattleboro, Vt. USA. In 1901, Estey Organ Company began making pipe organs, and became one of the largest American pipe organ manufacturers. They built and sold more than 3200 pipe organs across the US and abroad. The company provided organs for many important locations, including New York City's Capital Theatre, the Sacramento, CA Municipal Auditorium, and Henry Ford's home in Dearborn, Michigan.

Also during the era of silent films, Estey made over 160 theatre organs.[14][failed verification][15]

Estey Organ after World War IIEdit

Following World War II, Estey developed and manufactured electronic organs, joining a limited number of companies that manufactured all three types of organs—reed, pipe, and electronic. In the 1950s, Harald Bode joined Estey. He had been a pioneer in the research and development of electronic musical instrument since the 1930s, and had developed the Bode Organ in 1951.[16] At Estey, he helped develop the Estey Electronic Organ model S and AS-1 (1954),[17][18] then served as a chief engineer and a vice-president of Estey during the late 1950s.[16]

Later historyEdit

Fletcher Music Centers purchased the Estey Organ company name in 1989, and subsequently produced several models of home organs. The models included a lifetime free lesson program. They sold these throughout the 1990s, exclusively through their chain of retail stores. Fletcher Music Centers and the Estey Organ Company corporate office is in Clearwater, Florida.

Estey Organ Company FactoryEdit

Estey Organ Company Factory
Old Estey Organ Factory (Brattleboro, Vermont)
LocationBirge St., Brattleboro, Vermont
Coordinates42°50′51″N 72°34′4″W / 42.84750°N 72.56778°W / 42.84750; -72.56778Coordinates: 42°50′51″N 72°34′4″W / 42.84750°N 72.56778°W / 42.84750; -72.56778
Area5 acres (2.0 ha)
Built1870 (1870)
NRHP reference #80000344[19] (original)
06001232 (increase)
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 17, 1980
Boundary increaseJanuary 9, 2007

The Estey Organ Company's main factory was located southwest of downtown Brattleboro, on the south side of Whetstone Brook between Birge and Organ Streets. At its height, the complex had more than 20 buildings, many of which were interconnected by raised walkways and covered bridges. Several of the buildings were built with distinctive slate siding, resulting in an architecturally unique collection of such structures in the state.[20] One of the buildings now houses the Estey Organ Museum; the entire surviving complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, both for its architecture, and as a major economic force in Brattleboro for many years.[19]

Social contributions by Estey familyEdit

Estey Hall of Shaw University, North Carolina

The Estey family had a long tradition of company leadership and community involvement, including residential development such as Esteyville; banking; town government; schools; fire protection; military units; churches; and Vermont state politics and government. Estey Hall on the campus of Shaw University is named after Estey, who contributed to the construction of the building. Fletcher Music Centers continued the tradition of community involvement by helping fund a music therapy wing at All Children's Hospital located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ahern, Douglas (2013). "Arnold Bernard and Estey". The History of the Magnatone Amplifier. ... In 1959, Estey acquired Magna Electronics and made [F. Roy] Chilton the president of the Estey Corporation. Headquarters moved from the east coast to the Torrance where a line organs would be added to what was already in production under the Magnatone name. Some vague words were spoken in regard to keeping the Brattleboro operation going, but it seemed unlikely. Within a year or two, the 100 year legacy of Estey organ manufacturing finally came to an end, and the doors were closed for good.
  2. ^ "Mason Buys Estey Organ Shop". North Adams Transcript. November 3, 1961.
  3. ^ Hall, Henry (1896). Americas Successful Men of Affairs (Volume II ed.). New York Tribune. pp. 287–289.
  4. ^ "A Brief Chronology of the Estey Organ Company". Brattleboro, Vermont: Estey Organ Museum. Below is a very brief chronology of the Estey Organ Company. For a comprehensive examination of the company, we recommend the book, Manufacturing the Muse by Dennis Waring. [Waring 2002]
  5. ^ 1867 Estey catalogue, J. Estey & Company, The Estey Perfect Melodeons", "Piano Style. / Nos. 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13. / Rosewood, Round Corners, Serpentine Mouldings.; also published as Figure 7 on Waring 2002, p. 24
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ 1890 Estey catalogue, Estey Organ Company, Boudoir Organ. -- Pipe Organ Top. / Rosewood, Round Corners, Serpentine Mouldings.; also published as Figure 9 on: Waring 2002, p. 26
  8. ^ 1881 Estey catalogue, Estey Organ Company, The J. Estey & Company “New Salon Organ”; also published as Figure 2 on: Waring 2002, p. 3
  9. ^ "The Phonorium Organ". The Estey Organ Virtual Museum.
  10. ^ 1890 Estey catalogue. Estey Organ Company. Estey Cathedral Organ (with pipe top) ...; also published as Figure 8 on: Waring 2002, p. 25
  11. ^ 1903 Estey catalogue, Estey Organ Company, Organ case design “17”; also published as Figure 11 on Waring 2002, p. 29
  12. ^ New York Times, Dec. 18, 1926, Organ Company absorbed
  13. ^ New York Times, January 15, 1927 Sales of organs rise
  14. ^ "Manufacturer: Estey". Opus List Database, The Theatre Organ Home Page ( Retrieved 2017-04-22. 167 items were found
  15. ^ "Search results: "Theatre Organ" on about 18 pages". Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  16. ^ a b Rhea, Tom (May 2004), "Harald Bode", Video History Project, Experimental Television Center, archived from the original on 2011-07-19 (also broken format page remains in here)
  17. ^ Harald's wonderful Instruments, Harald Bode News, 27 April 2010
  18. ^ Levin, John (March 6, 2010). Estey Electronic Organ model AS-1, designed by Harald Bode (photograph). Estey Organ Museum, Brattleboro.
  19. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  20. ^ "NRHP nomination for Estey Organ Company Factory". National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
Types of pump organs

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit