The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 211

Builder Identification

New York 1892-1910; California 1923; New Jersey 1924-1925.

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders, rev. ed. by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1997). —

    Born September 6, 1838, Scotland, immigrated to the United States, 1892; died 21 June 1925 in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Architect, Organ designer; Author of books on decorative art, architecture, and organ building.

    Sources:

    • Building News (London, 7 Mar. 1890) 336.
    • Diapason, July 1925, 1.
    •  

  • From the OHS PC Database Builders Listing editor, Mar 14, 2016 —

    Audsley apprenticed with architects A. & W. Reid of Elgin, Scotland; He worked with architect John Weightman, Borough Surveyor of Liverpool, England, 1856; and with architect John Cunningham of Liverpool, England. He became partner with his brother William J. Audsley in W.J. & G.A. Audsley, Architects, of Liverpool, England, c. 1862. The two brothers immigrated to the U.S. in 1892, and continued their firm in New York City, NY, until approximately 1910. Audsley continued to practice architecture until about 1923. 1

    The Art Organ Company first appeared as the Los Angeles Art Organ Company on January 7, 1904, succeeding the Murray M. Harris Organ Co. of Los Angeles.2 Harris had over extended his resources in building the enourmous organ for the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. The organ, built to the design of George Ashdown Audsley , was the largest instrument ever built up to that time.3 Stockholders ousted Murray, and Colorado mining magnate Eben Smith took the reins as the major new investor. 4 The firm managed to complete the organ, it appeared at the fair, but the planned permanent home in Kansas City never materialized. The organ sat in storage for years until it was purchased by John Wanamaker for his department store in Philadelphia. It became the nucleus of the famed Wanamaker Organ.5

    Eben Smith moved the company east to Hoboken, New Jersey, where it became the Art Organ Company, which then was reorganized as the Electrolian firm.6 At the same time, the name Art Organ Company name was used for a corporation in New York City that would design and sell the instruments under that name regardless of who did the actual construction.7The New York firm was headed by Audsley with interior designer J. Burr Tiffany as partner and case / facade designer. Philipp Wirsching of Salem, Ohio provided the actual organs to Audsley's design8 while William Flemming was setting up factory operations in Hoboken. It proved to be a short lived venture, Eben Smith died of complications from appendicitis in November of 1906;9 and despite best efforts by all involved, Electrolian went bankrupt by mid 1907.10 The New York showroom turned again to Philipp Wirsching of Salem, Ohio to complete its remaining orders.11 Faced with the stiff competition of Aeolian which had a near monopoly on residence organs that even Ernest Skinner could not break,12 the New York office closed shortly thereafter, bringing the curtain down on Art Organ Company.13

    Audsley returned to writing his theoretical treatise on organ building, The Temple of Tone. He died before completing it.14

    Sources:

    1. Dictionary of Scottish Architects on-line database maintained by Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, Edinburgh College of Art, 2014. Accessed Nov 16, 2015.
    2. James Lewis, The Los Angeles Art Organ Company: Its Short and Troubled Life (Richmond VA, OHS Press, 2012)
    3. Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website, http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/about.php.
    4. Edward Hopkins, "Organ Building in the Southwest" American Organist
    5. Friends, ibid.
    6. Lewis, ibid.
    7. James M. Stark, "The Art Organ Company of New York," The Tracker 49:2, Spring 2005.
    8. Stark, ibid.
    9. "Death of Eben Smith" Wray Rattler, November 16, 1906
    10. Stark, ibid.
    11. Stark, ibid.
    12. Jonathan Ambrosino, "Player Pipe Organ" The Organ: An Encyclopedia edited by Douglas Bush and Richard Kassel (Psychology Press, 2006) p. 419.
    13. David Fox, George Ashdown Audsley (unpublished, 1995) p.151. Available as a PDF from Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.
    14. Fox, ibid.
  • From the OHS PC Database Builders Listing editor, Mar 14, 2016 —

    "George having become interested in organ building at St George's Hall in Liverpool, probably during his period with Weightman, to the extent of having a large and elaborate organ in his London house for musical evenings. In the USA he became the principal advocate of the concert organ, an instrument of such wide range that it could function as a full orchestra, his ideas on the subject being embodied in 'The Art of Organ Building', published in 1905. In his later New York years, George retired from architecture to devote his time wholly to organ building and publications...."

    Source:
    Dictionary of Scottish Architects on-line database maintained by Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, Edinburgh College of Art, 2014. Accessed Nov 16, 2015.

  • Database Entries

    There is one entry in the database that describes an organ by George Ashdown Audsley.


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