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Guide to the San Diego Theater Organ Group and Fox Theatre Collection MS 100
MS 100  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquistion
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Biographical / Historical Notes

  • Title: San Diego Theater Organ Group and Fox Theatre Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 100
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 2.75 Linear feet (4 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1909-1997
    Abstract: This collection pertains to the San Diego Theater Organ Group and their restoration and revival of the Robert Morton Theater Organ at the Fox Theatre in San Diego.
    creator: San Diego Theater Organ Group.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of items pertaining to the San Diego Theater Organ Group, who performed all organ restoration work and subsequent organ concert administration of the Robert Morton organ at the Fox Theatre in San Diego. The collection includes information on the Group and Theatre, organ repair information, promotional documents, business items, correspondence, and artist information. Highlights include photographs of the organ and its repair, repair notes, official group documents, news releases, performance flyers (from the Fox and other theaters), correspondence from organ fans, and organ-related publications. There is also a scrapbook containing photographs of artist performances at the Fox, as well as autographed performance flyers. Also included are reel-to-reel recordings and a vinyl record of various artists, most of whom performed at the Fox Theatre (not all recordings are from the Fox Theatre).


    Items in the collection are arranged into four series:
    Series I: San Diego Theater Organ Group
    Series II: Fox Theatre Organ Artists and Performances
    Series III: Scrapbooks
    Series IV: Photographs and Audio Recordings
    Items in Series I are arranged by subject. Items in Series II and IV are arranged alphabetically by artist name.

    Preferred Citation

    San Diego Theater Organ Group and the Fox Theatre Collection, MS 100, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Jennifer Ho on August 24, 2011.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Immediate Source of Acquistion

    Accession number 2002.102 and 840117B.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Scrapbook pages are brittle. (August 24, 2011)

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    The Fox Theatre opened in San Diego on November 8, 1929, one week after the stock market crash of “Black Friday.” The 3,000 seat theater was the third largest on the Pacific coast, and brought glamour along with silent films to San Diego. Four downtown blocks had to be roped off in order to accommodate the approximately 100,000 people who attended its opening. The films were accompanied by the $50,000 4-manual/32-rank Robert Morton Theater Organ, which contained 3,000 pipes. Its primary organist was Edith Ducker Steele, who played accompanying music while comedy, chases, drama and romance filled the screen. When “talking pictures” established their dominance in 1936, the organ was moved to the back of the stage and forgotten. It was rediscovered by theater manager William Mauck thirty years later, blanketed in dust and inhabited by mice. In August 1967, seven men came together, all amateur organists and industrial engineers, to form the San Diego Organ Enthusiasts Guild, later known as the San Diego Theater Organ Group, Inc. For the next two years, they would be dedicated to restoring the organ at no cost to the Fox Theatre. These men were Carter “Bob” Lewis, D.P. Snowden, Irving Pinkerton, Paul Cawthorn, Wayne Guthrie, Archie Ellsworth and Bob Wright. After the restoration was finally complete, Edith Ducker Steele, the original organist, tested the instrument and declared it “good as new.”
    After the restoration work was done, the San Diego Theater Organ Group brought renowned organist Gaylord Carter to play the premiere concert on the newly-restored organ. For the next several years, the group continued to bring many locally- and nationally-known organists to perform on the Morton, including Helen Dell, Bob Ralston and Korla Pandit. Concertgoers were charged only $1 or $2, all of which went to the continued maintenance of the organ. The Fox Theatre became the city's second official civic theater. In 1984, the Theatre was acquired by the San Diego Symphony, and years later after a major renovation became Copley Symphony Hall.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Alder, Bob
    Alexander, Mildred
    American Association of Theatre Organ Enthusiasts.
    Baker, Don, 1903-1989
    Carter, Gaylord
    Castillo, Del
    Cawthorn, Paul
    Copley Symphony Hall.
    Creel, Cheryl
    Dell, Helen
    Ellsworth, Archie
    Erwin, Lee
    Fox Theatre.
    Fox, Virgil, 1912-1980
    Guthrie, Wayne
    Hazelton, Tom
    James, Dennis, 1950-
    James, Heidi, 1950-
    Kann, Stan, organist
    Koury, Rex
    Kumagai, Maria
    Larsen, Lyn
    Leaf, Ann
    Lewis, Carter
    Lights, Pablo
    Mauck, William
    Nordwall, Jonas
    Pandit, Korla
    Pinkerton, Irving
    Ralston, Bob
    Rhode, Ron
    Roseveare, Jim
    San Diego Theater Organ Group.
    Seppala, Wayne
    Shepherd, David
    Snowden, D.P.
    Steele, Edith Ducker
    Thompson, Don
    Thomson, Bill, organist
    Wolf, Ralph
    Wright, Bob
    Organ (Musical instrument)
    Organ music
    San Diego (Calif.)
    Theater organ
    Theatre Organ Bombarde