The Curtis Organ

Curtis Organ pipes

Photo credit: University Archives

No, the gentlemen at right aren’t unloading missiles from that truck. The photo actually shows workers posing with pipes from Penn’s massive Curtis Organ as it was being installed at Irvine Auditorium in 1928. Originally built in 1926 by the Austin Organ Company for the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, it was later purchased by Saturday Evening Post publisher Cyrus H.K. Curtis, who in turn donated it to Penn, so that it could be installed in Irvine. The organ has remained there ever since, even surviving a 1984 renovation plan that would have had seen it dismantled. Good thing, too: Just four years later, the Organ Historic Society of America recognized the instrument as a historically significant pipe organ. Then, in 1997, Austin Organs Inc. returned to tune up the organ, as well as repair damage to some of those massive pipes.

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at

Originally published on September 6, 2007