OPUS 217, 1867
Built by William A. Johnson Westfield, Massachusetts The
“tracker” organ has a valve for each of the organ’s 132 manual and pedal keys,
which allows air to flow to the sets of pipes which are activated by the various
draw knobs. Connecting the key to the valve is a simple mechanical linkage which
transfers the movement of the key to the valve some distance removed from the
console. These connecting links are long, thin strips of wood called trackers.
Thus the name, tracker organ, to distinguish it from electro-pneumatic and
direct- electric instruments where pipe valves are opened by magnet.
The Johnson tracker organ has had a fascinating history.
Names of individuals, prominent in Madison history, are recorded for posterity
on wooden pipes and framing members of the instrument. William A. Johnson’s name
is inscribed on the lowest wooden pipe on the west Bide of the instrument.
The Madison Courier of April 10, 1867 makes note of
the First public playing of the instrument. “The loud notes were not used,
but the trial was satisfactory -the splendid organ breathing out those sweet
strains which always fill the mind of the hearer with religious feelings, and
raise the thoughts of him whose spirit is attentive above all earthly
In 1883, the organ was moved from the small west room at
the front of the auditorium to its present location. It is likely that at this
time the instrument was changed from a hand pumped air supply to a hydraulic
motor system. It can be determined with certainty that the facade pipes were
redecorated -from a rich blue and stencil design to the deep red, gold and black
stenciling pattern that is seen today. All records indicate the instrument was
in service, with little interruption, from April 1867 unti11961. In June of
1984, restoration of the organ began and was completed during the Bummer of
From an historical point of view, the instrument is totally
intact with all original parts, components, fixtures and accessories. Daniel
Bickel, organ builder and restorer, considers William A. Johnson’s Opus 217 to be
in mint condition -truly “a rare find”.
For more information contact:
Historic Madison, Inc.
500 West Street Madison, Indiana 47250