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Mail Order Music: the Hinners Organ Company in the Dakotas, 1879-1936

Description: Founded in 1879 by John L. Hinners, the Hinners Organ Company developed a number of stock models of small mechanical-action instruments that were advertised throughout the Midwest. Operating without outside salesmen, the company was one of the first to conduct all of its affairs by mail, including the financial arrangements, selection of the basic design, and custom alterations where required. Buyers first met a company representative when he arrived by train to set up the crated instrument that had been shipped ahead of him. Tracker organs with hand-operated bellows were easily repaired by local craftsmen, and were suited to an area that, for the most part, lacked electricity. In all, the company constructed nearly three thousand pipe organs during its sixty years of operation. Rapid decline of the firm began in the decade prior to 1936 during which the company sold fewer than one hundred instruments, and closed in that year when John's son Arthur found himself without sufficient financial resources to weather the lengthy depression. The studies of the original-condition Hinners organs in the Dakotas include extensive photographs and measurements, and provide an excellent cross section of the smaller instruments produced by the company. They are loud, excellently crafted, functionally attractive, tonally typical of the early twentieth-century American Romantic organ, and utilize designs and materials typical of this era. Only recently has it been acknowledged that these Hinners organs represent a "meat and potatoes" class of instrument, as it were, an honest meal without the pretense of delicate appetizers, vintage wine, and gourmet dessert. In this way the company offered churches a serviceable and respectable musical alternative to grandeur, and was able to fulfill the needs and meet the budget of a small congregation without the expense of a custom instrument.
Date: August 1997
Creator: Alcorn-Oppedahl, Allison A. (Allison Ann)
Partner: UNT Libraries