The OHS Pipe Organ Database

BuilderID 373

Builder Identification

Beverly, Massachusetts, 1921-c.1932; Boston, Massachusetts c.1932 - 1945; Reading, Massachusetts, 1946–1959; Oakland, Florida, 1959–1976.

Additional Notes

  • From the OHS PC Database, Builders Listing editor. —

    Carl Gordon Bassett (1908-1978) was the long time foreman of Ernest M. Skinner at both Aeolian-Skinner and at Skinner's subsequent businesses after Skinner left Aeolian-Skinner. When Skinner retired from his last business venture at the urging of his family, Basset purchased the company and rights to the name from him. Basset operated the firm as Ernest M. Skinner Inc. of Reading, Massachusetts from 1949 until 1959 when he relocated the company to Oakland, Florida. He continued business in Florida until 1968 when he sold the company to John Bolten as his health was failing. Bolten relocated the business to Boston, Massachusetts, Bassett continued working part-time as he was able under his own name doing service work on the instruments he had built in Florida and Georgia until his death in 1978.

    § — §

    Carl Bassett started working at the Laws Organ company circa 1921 at age 13. In the early 1930s, he went to work for Ernest Skinner. He rapidly advanced there to the position of Shop Foreman, and was leading the builds on many of the organs produced during Skinner's height at Aeolian-Skinner, among them, St. John the Divine, Brick Presbyterian, and St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, all in New York City; and Oberlin College, Ohio. According to his son, he considered the building and installation of the organ at the Washington National Cathedral the high-point of his career with Skinner—he personally hand-burnished the massive pipework in the Chancel area. Bassett and Skinner had a close, personal relationship in the continually improvement and development of the electro-pneumatic action and Pittman wind chests, as well as the development and voicing of such stops as the Erzahler and many specialized reeds. Bassett worked closely with several organists of the day, including Clarence Dickerson, T. Tertius Noble, and Virgil Fox, working out details during installation.

    At the beginning of World War II, after an unsuccessful attempt to enlist in the army due to a previous motorcycle accident , he briefly left Skinner to serve his country at the Boston Naval Shipyard, supervising the fabrication of Heavy Battle Cruisers. His first passion remained the construction of fine instruments from start to finish, after the war, he rejoined E. M. Skinner's firm in Reading. In the first years following the War (1946-1949), when it was apparent that due to poor financial management skills that the company would soon be bankrupt, Bassett offered to buy the rights to the Skinner name and incorporate it, so that the business and its traditions could continue. His offer was accepted by Ernest Skinner, and he assumed Skinner's company debts and started the business now called Ernest M. Skinner, Inc. He acquired an old multipurpose building in Reading, Massachusetts, called Lyceum Hall. The hall had once been the home of the White Organ Company, but Frederick White's firm was last listed in 1932, more than twenty years before Bassett purchased the building: Basset did not purchase the White Company. Later, in the late 1950's, to accommodate his rapidly growing business, Basset bought a larger building in Reading, Massachusetts on Lowell Street.

    In 1959, Bassett moved the entire company and staff to Oakland, Florida, a rural community west of Orlando. There he built a new, modern factory especially designed for organ manufacturing, and a home for his family. The move was prompted by two factors: Taxes and proximity. The tax structure in Massachusetts was unfriendly to small companies, while Florida was encouraging new businesses. Much of the firm's work in the late fifties seemed to be coming from the Southeast, where many churches were replacing theater-style organs, or small older mechanical action instruments with new larger instruments in the American Classic style. Whether they had an inadequate instrument or no organ at all, these churches desired a traditional church instrument, fitted with combination action and warm, but clear voicing.

    Bassett continued working from the Oakland factory into the 1970's. and after constructing many instruments, decided at the age of 68 to sell the company name to John Bolten, who consequently moved the new Ernest M. Skinner Company back to its original home in Boston. In the few remaining years of his life, until no longer physically able due to pancreatic cancer, he continued to service the Florida and Georgia organs (approximately 35) he had built during the Florida years, and constructing wind chests for smaller builders. In 1978, Carl Bassett died at the age of 70 of pancreatic cancer, in Leesburg, Florida.

    Sources:

    • Series of emails exchanged between the Rev. Carl Bassett, son of organ builder Carl G. Bassett and the editor, over the period from December, 2015 to April 2016.
    • David H. Fox, "Carl Bassett" A Guide to North American Organbuilders (OHS Press, revised ed. 1997), 64.
    •  

  • For further information see E.M. Skinner Co., Inc.

Database Entries

There is one entry in the database that describes an organ by Carl Bassett.


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