- Barbara Owen
American organ building firm. It was founded by John Turnell Austin (b Poddington, Beds., May 16, 1869; d Hartford, CT, Sept 17, 1948). The son of gentleman farmer and amateur organ builder Jonathan Austin, he emigrated to America in 1889. He first worked for Farrand & Votey of Detroit, rapidly advancing to become foreman. There he first conceived the idea of a radically different system of organ construction called the ‘universal wind-chest’ system; this consisted of an individual-valve chest, the lower portion of which was a walk-in air chamber with regulator. Pipe valves were operated by a thin wooden trace attached to a motor bellows for each note. Stop action was first achieved by sliders; later a pivoting fulcrum affecting the valves was used. Although Farrand & Votey allowed Austin to experiment, they showed no interest in his ideas, and in 1893 he left them for Clough & Warren of Detroit, who in the same year built their first small organ based on Austin’s system. In ...