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United States Pipe Organ Company Records

 Collection
Identifier: AOIAL-ATOC-RG0004
This collection consists of the records of the United States Pipe Organ Company from 1923-1982. The records document the company's presence as a manufacturer of pipe organs for theatres and churches in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area.  The records include correspondence with churches, theatres, and suppliers, financial records, project proposals, organ specifications, blueprints of church and theatre chambers and stage layouts, company advertisements, and the original patent and blueprints of Gustav H. Kloehs' "Cipherless" device. The correspondence includes manuscript and printed letters to and from clients and business partners, particularly during the company's early years in the 1920s. It documents solicitation to organizations potentially interested in purchasing an instrument, orders to suppliers, and demands for payment. The majority of the correspondence is from 1923 to 1929, with a small remainder documenting the years between 1950 and 1975. The small photographs are of consoles the company maintained or installed. Finally, the projects series includes organ proposals to churches and theatres, inventories of materials needed and their costs, and correspondence to each entity detailing the scheduling of work to be done.

Dates

  • circa 1923-1975
  • Majority of material found in 1923-1929

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access:

Due to the extremely fragile nature of the materials, this collection is not available for physical handling by the public. Interested researchers may inquire about access by contacting the AOIAL staff.

Extent

10.00 cubic feet

Administrative History:

The United States Pipe Organ Company was a theatre organ manufacturing company founded in 1923 by Gustav H. Kloehs and business partner A.R. Payne. The original plant was located in Crum Lynne, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Throughout its years of operation, the company is estimated to have built 200 theatre pipe organs, most of which were installed in New England theatres. However, the advent of talking pictures resulted in the rapid decline in demand for theatre organs, and the company soon found itself with a surplus of organ parts and no interested buyers. Kloehs attempted to save the company by selling sound equipment for a time.  However, this strategy proved unsuccessful, and he left the company in 1929. The firm's succeeding manager, Conrad C. Boyer, managed to keep it afloat through maintenance contracts. He also sold repossessed theatre organs to churches, which contributed to the company's less-than-stellar reputation since the theatre organ's tonal characteristics clashed with those churches sought.

A notable patent by Kloehs was the "Cipherless Device," an individual-rank ventil system which used an additional set of tabs inside the console to shut off air to a rank in the event that a pipe would start ciphering. The device was a misnomer, since it did not prevent ciphers but instead deactivated the entire rank in the event of one. Many organists were confused by this system and devices were later deactivated. Among other mechanical idiosyncrasies, Kloehs and Payne were reportedly resistant to the practice of soldering the wiring of the electrical connections. All electrical connections produced by the company were mechanical, which partially contributed to the organs' unreliable reputation.

In 1981, the United States Pipe Organ Company was renamed the R.G. Lent Pipe Organ Service Inc. when the company assets were sold to Robert G. Lent, an employee who worked as an organ mechanic from 1968-1971 and as general manager of the company from 1978-1981. As a relatively new employee in 1969, Lent risked his life to save the papers in this collection from a fire in the company's old abandoned factory, sustaining severe burns in the process. The R.G. Lent Pipe Organ Service Inc. operations was moved to Bayville, New Jersey and operated until it was sold to another organization in 1986.
Title
Guide to the United States Pipe Organ Company Records AOIAL.ATOC.RG0004

Repository Details

Part of the The American Organ Institute Archives and Library Repository

Contact:
2101 W. Tecumseh Rd
Suite C
Norman Oklahoma 73069 United States
405-325-7829