George Jardine & Son Tracker Organ

Historic 1896 George Jardine & Son Tracker Organ.

The organ at the United Methodist Church at New Brunswick was built by George Jardine and Sons, an organ-building firm located in New York City, in the fall of 1896.  When the firm closed its doors in 1899, it had built approximately 1300 organs in the United States and Mexico. Currently, there are less than 100 left in the world. Our organ is identified as number 1230.  The Organ Historical Society web page about the organ has a stoplist and additional information.

An excerpt from the 1976 pamphlet entitled The United Methodist Church at New Brunswickabout the organ reads:

“The organ has 1450 speaking tubes or pipes including 45 visible above the body of the organ, was originally operated by water pressure (now powered by an electric driven air turbine), and took 2 weeks to install with builders working each day until 1 a.m. at a cost of $4250.  On Thanksgiving night in 1896 a great concert was given by William C. Carl, a famous organist of New York City, with 1500 people in attendance.  For many years Mr. Lee Smith, a member of the congregation kept the organ in Tune and repair, in spite of being deaf.  In the early 1950’s, during a major sanctuary renovation, the organ was rebuilt by Mr. Louis Mohr, a son of the original builder.”

The overall tonal design of the instrument is reflective of American organ building of the 19th century.  The great division includes a well-voiced 16’ principal, and a 4’ Harmonic Flute, typical of instruments from the Jardine firm.  As such, the principals have wide scales, giving the organ a marvelously warm and enveloping quality.  Two 2’ stops and a 4-rank mixture add clarity and brilliance to the ensemble.

Among the more famous organs built by the company were the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York; St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York; Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York; Brooklyn Tabernacle; St. Agnes Church, Brooklyn; Pittsburgh Cathedral (Trinity Episcopal Church); Trinity Church, San Francisco; Mobile Cathedral; and Christ Church, New Orleans.  For a more complete list of organs built by the Jardine company visit the George Jardine & Son web page at the Organ Historical Society.


Tracker Organ:

The instrument has a completely mechanical action which is known as a “tracker” organ. In a tracker organ, the organist presses keys and pulls stops which control the organ’s pipes and couplers through a complex matrix of levers and valves. In a tracker organ, the valve, which admits air to the pipe in order to produce the sound, is directly controlled by the force of the organist’s finger on the key.

The organist must overcome the wind pressure resistance on each valve in order to open it and play the pipe. When one rank is combined with another rank as a tracker organ is played, the keys generally become more difficult to depress. Another limitation of the tracker organ is that the console must remain relatively close to the pipes and wind chests. This is why most tracker organs have the console built as an integral part of the organ’s case. There are a few exceptions, but generally, the console must be no more than a few feet from the pipes.

George Jardine & Sons:

George Jardine (1800-1882) was a British barrel organ maker who immigrated to the United States in the early 1830s and established his shop in New York City.  His firm met with great success in constructing church and concert hall organs.  It is said that George Jardine was greatly influenced by his contemporary French counterparts, among them Aristide Cavaille-Cole.  The firm became the second largest organ-building house in the city behind his competitor, Henry Erban.

In 1855, George’s son, Edward, joined the firm and apprenticed under his father.    Edward took control of the firm in 1871.  George Jardine retired completely from the business in 1880.  It was under Edward’s direction and guidance we believe that the United Methodist Church of New Brunswick’s organ was built and installed.