Organs such as this one were a common fixture in Victorian homes around the United States. A tasteful parlor wasn't complete without one, but such refinement came with a price.
Organs often cost more than any other single furnishing in middle-class homes. Mail order catalogs of the 19th century offered the instruments at prices varying from $45 to $60. Organs sold by Montgomery Wards and Sears were fairly inexpensive, though, because they were mass-produced in factories.
The model pictured on this page probably cost at least twice as much because it was hand-made by employees of the Kansas Organ Company. Organized in Leavenworth in 1882, the company employed as many as 60 men in its factory and store by 1884. It was located at the southwest corner of Shawnee and Main.
Carl Hoffman, the company's founder, received a musical education in his native Germany. He came to Leavenworth in 1869, first establishing the Kansas Music Emporium to manufacture and sell musical merchandise. Hoffman later organized the Kansas Organ Company (possibly a subsidiary) which produced parlor and chapel reed organs exclusively. The company was in production only until around 1887.
Quotes from a Kansas Organ Company catalog lauded its instruments for their "Elegant Design, Superior Finish and Durability and Unsurpassed Musical Capacity." Potential buyers were encouraged to "examine the work in process, and the materials, from the lumber in the dry-house to the perfect organ in the ware-room."
The parlor organ pictured on this screen is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Parlor Organ
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: October 2001
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.