Berkeley, California c. 1912–1925, corporate offices in San Francisco area, production moved to Van Nuys, California 1925–1929.
Active in Berkeley, California, c. 1912–1918; began church organ manufacture, 1915; locations in San Francisco, California, and New York City, New York; associated with the Wicks Organ Co. of Highland, Illinois, 1917–1923; acquired California Organ Co. of Van Nuys, California, 1917 as Robert-Morton Co.; reorganized as a subsidiary of the J. D. Wheelan Pipe Organ Co. of Dallas, Texas, on 1 July 1919. [- Disputed, see editor's note below.] reorganized 1923 as the Photo Player Co.; reorganized as the Robert Morton Organ Co., [no hyphen] 1925.
Editor's Note: The firm re-organized in 1917 when it acquired the California Organ Co. (which became Robert-Morton) and again in 1923 after being forced into receivership. Fox's note is the only mention of a reorganization in 1919, and Harold J. Werner was definitely president of the firm from its inception until he was forced out in 1923. It is more likely that Wheelan became a local agent for Photo Player; selling, installing, and servicing the instruments in the mid-Texas area. There is a full page ad in the June 7, 1919 issue of The Music Trades1 seeking dealers to carry the FotoPlayer theater organ, Wheelan is listed as one of the existing dealers. 1. The Music Trades (June 7, 1919), 5; available on-line at Google Books, accessed January 22, 2016.
American Photo Player Co. was an early manufacture of theater organs. Based in Berkeley, California , the firm began manufacturing FotoPlayer brand theater organs circa 1912. The firm acquired the California Organ Company of Van Nuys, California in 1917, which became the Robert-Morton Co, a wholly owned subsidiary. In addition to theater organs, the larger Van Nuys facility also built church organs and several instruments for high schools under the Robert-Morton brand. American Photo Player had sales locations in San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and New York City, New York.
President Harold J. Werner, eager to enlarge his manufacturing capabilities acquired the California Organ Co. of Van Nuys, California in 1917. The owners of the California Organ Company were happy to be rid of it, the company had been the Murray Harris firm of Los Angeles. It was relocated to Van Nuys because of an offer by group of real estate developers. When Harris left the organ business, E.S. Johnson purchased majority interest and operated it as Johnston Organ & Piano Manufacturing Company. Suburban Homes supported the company initially with generous capital contributions, but grew tired of the lax financial practices of the firm. In 1914 it took over the firm which was renamed the California Organ Company. Because the company's executive's interest was in real estate and not pipe organs, they sought a buyer. Werner found them and the match was made. The firm underwent another name change, it was now Robert-Morton Co. The new joint company had two manufacturing locations: Photo-Player continued to build FotoPlayer unit organs in Berkeley while the Van Nuys plant built the larger instruments under the Robert-Morton name.
The joint companies had plenty of orders, but were under capitalized, and were frequently forced to shut down when they were unable to make payroll. During this period, Werner sub-contracted some orders to the Wicks firm of Highland Illinois. Wicks built the instruments and shipped them to California where the Robert-Morton nameplate was attached. Despite the shut downs, the staff remained loyal to the company, making do with other work and returning each time the plant reopened. Stockholders grew tired of the company's financial practices and filed suit; the company was forced into receivership in 1923, and Werner was forced out. He was accused of selling organs in the East and then using the funds to build orders for customers in the West. Werner was eventually cleared of all charges but had already lost the joint companies he had built.
The company was reorganized as the Photo Player Company with financial backing from San Francisco banker and businessman Mortimer Fleishacker, with James A. G. Schiller as general manager and Leo F. Schoenstein Sr. as superintendent of the Van Nuys plant. It continued building organs under the two previous brand names. The Berkeley plant closed in 1925, and the FotoPlayer models were built at the Van Nuys plant, while the corporate office remained in the Bay Area. In 1925, the final corporate title became the Robert Morton Organ Company [no hyphen]. The firm closed in 1929, a victim of the double blow of films with sound and the Great Depression. Former superintendent Carl Sartwell purchased the remaining assets in 1933.
There are 4 entries in the database that describe organs by American Photo Player Co.
We are always interested in adding to our information about builders and correcting any errors that our Database may contain. If you can provide us with corrections or additions to the information presented here, please click the Update button and use the online form to send us details.
Your cooperation and support are greatly appreciated.
This page was opened in a secondary window or tab. To return to the list of builders, simply close this tab.
At present we have no photographs that should be displayed on this page, though we may well have photographs under a related entry with a different form of the name. We would very much like to have photographs of all builders, nameplates, and other appropriate images in our database. If you can assist us with this project, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our photo editor will be happy to assist you.