Murray M. Harris - Harris Organs

Harris Organs

At the turn of the century California was experiencing an incredible growth in population due, in large part, to the discovery of oil there. The growing population meant the need for more churches and, in turn, for more organs. By 1899 there were 154 churches in Los Angeles. This meant that there was a large demand for organs there and Harris intended to meet this demand. Consequently, many of the organs produced went to area churches. One of the most notable organs produced is the one produced in 1901 for the Stanford University Memorial Church. The organ there is still in use and has been recently restored. Perhaps Harris's most important historical contribution, however, comes in the building of the organ for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair which, after the fair, became the core of the famed Wanamaker Grand Court Organ (see Wanamaker Grand Court Organ for more information about the instrument). With around 10,000 pipes, it was, at the time, the world's largest organ. Harris is quoted as saying, "It will be the largest in the world. Positively the largest." The organ was so large (and expensive), in fact, that it wound up causing Harris significant financial trouble. Nonetheless the organ was completed and at the fair it brought down the house (literally during one concert where vibrations from the bass pipes in the organ brought down part of Festival Hall's plaster ceiling) winning a gold medal.

Angered by Harris's careless planning, heavy spending and speculative indiscretions, the company ousted him and reorganized as the Los Angeles Art Organ Company under new majority stockholder Eben Smith. Harris re-entered organ building under his own name in 1906. By 1913 Harris's new company experienced financial difficulties and came under the umbrella of the Johnston Piano and Organ Co. For a time Harris became a car salesman. Harris then ran his own brokerage firm in Los Angeles until his death in 1922. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Cal.

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