Magazine article The Tracker

Historic Photographs of Aeolian Organs Scanned and Catalogued

Magazine article The Tracker

Historic Photographs of Aeolian Organs Scanned and Catalogued

Article excerpt

The organ historical society's library and archives has been the depository over the last 15 or so years of several sets of photographs of installations of Aeolian organs. These 3" by 5" photographs were originally arranged in sets, usually in photo albums, and were often loaned to prospective purchasers of residence organs in order to visualize the options available to them for placing an organ in their home. The photographs, glued at the corners, were arranged four to a page. Each had a small paper strip underneath that identified the organ by its owner, with city and state (or country, in the case of foreign installations). As the Aeolian Company prospered and sold more organs, more photos were glued on the blank reverse pages. As might be expected, these images depict the interiors of some of the most sumptuous homes in America and, in many cases, are the only surviving images of the interiors of these homes.

Three incomplete sets of photographs were still glued to the black pages of the albums, and after a hundred years not only were they uncatalogued-no one actually knew the extent of the collection-but they were still subject to abuse: over time, the pictures rubbed against one another and were scratched; some edges caught on those on facing pages and ripped; edges were bent, corners were torn off. Photos of some of the more well-known organs had been removed in order to be copied and then reglued or scotch-taped back into place. Some photos had become detached, thus losing their identification-fortunately, made possible by comparison with one in another set-and many photos disappeared, especially those of organs belonging to famous people. Miraculously, little damage was done by either the glue or the black paper on which the photographs had been mounted, although many suffer from some degree of fading.

There are 327 different images: a console in front of an organ case, giving the optimum presentation of the residence organ; the organ case; the console (two shown open and closed); the "Aeolienne" (the Aeolian Company's "console" with only stops and controls for the roll player, but no manuals or pedalboard); a few of the player mechanisms; a roll cabinet, open and closed; and finally, images of rooms, large and small, formal and informal, many so over-crowded with furniture and what-nots that the last addition they needed was an organ console.

The collection is now preserved in acid-free, plastic sleeves, according to opus number. A complete catalogue of the collection is available, arranged by both opus number and the name of owner. …

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