Richard Peterson originally became involved in the church organ industry back in 1948 when his love for the pipe organ and his enthusiasm for electronics, which at the time was centered around vacuum tubes, led him to become a partner in founding the Haygren Organ Company. Haygren was a small company based in Chicago which ultimately would build about fifty electronic church organs through 1953. In the earliest days of a brand new technology called “solid state”, Dick Peterson recognized that transistors provided opportunities for the organ industry, not only for use in electronic sound generation circuits, but for improving the economics and reliability of the many control functions required in all organs.
In the early 1950s, Richard’s work with electronic organs captured the attention of the Gulbransen Piano Company, and a licensing arrangement was made whereby Gulbransen would enter the home electronic organ market with a high quality product based on the ongoing development of Peterson and his staff of engineers. For many years, Gulbransen organs were known for their technical superiority and had a special appeal among enthusiasts. The very first transistor organ in the world was developed by Dick Peterson for Gulbransen who brought it to market in 1957. Interestingly, the original prototype is still in good working order today.
The first devices to bear the name “Peterson Electro-Musical Products” were a line of electronic tuning instruments modeled after an experimental tuner designed and built by Dick Peterson for his own use in tuning organs. Over the years, the name Peterson has become widely known by organ and piano tuners, musical instrument manufacturers, professional musicians, and school band & choir directors as the manufacturer of the finest high precision electronic tuning equipment.
During the mid- to late- 1960s, Richard Peterson began shifting his firm’s development and manufacturing resources toward products for the pipe organ, beginning with the earliest “diode matrix” type solid state switching system. These innovative relay and coupler systems were soon followed by the introduction of a solid state combination action, a digital player system, and the first successful electronic swell shade operator . This was the beginning of a steady growth trend that continues even today. Peterson’s line now includes over fifty products for the pipe organ, including the various models of custom switching and combination action systems that are the choice of most organbuilders, both large and small, throughout the United States and abroad.
Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. currently employs about 70 people at its multi-building “campus” in Alsip, Illinois, located just southwest of Chicago. Visitors meet people with an intriguing variety of talents and skills including electronics manufacturing, cabling, electronics hardware and software engineering, mechanical design, drafting, technical support, woodworking, metalworking, office and administration, and manufacturing support. Several engineers are devoted to new product development while a number of other capable and highly experienced members of the staff are available to offer customers quotation, ordering, and technical assistance. Through a special long-term alliance with another firm, an additional 20 people located at a facility near Hoopeston, Illinois are devoted strictly to manufacturing selected Peterson circuit boards and electro-mechanical devices. Products for the pipe organ industry make up about 80 percent of the Peterson company’s total sales volume, with nearly all of the balance attributed to the tuner division.
Today, Richard Peterson’s son Scott is President of the firm. Scott Peterson credits the pride and ambition found throughout his entire “team” of people with the ongoing success of the company. Assemblers, technicians, and inspectors proudly identify each item they have worked on with their initials, and consistently reach the high quality standards that have been a part of the company’s culture for decades. Employees at all levels demonstrate a sincere interest in doing the best job they can. Representatives from each building or department are selected by their peers to meet regularly in groups to discuss ways to optimize product quality and manufacturing methods, promote workplace safety, and plan company sponsored social events. The people who work directly with customers are widely known for being helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. A large percentage of employees throughout the company have been with Peterson for over ten years, many for more than 25 years, reflecting a high degree of commitment and dedication to the company and its customers.
Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. is entirely owned by the Peterson family, which makes possible an uncompromised adherence to the basic business philosophy that they’ve had from the very beginning. Each year, profits are reinvested into the business to build financial security and to support continuing improvement. Business decisions are invariably geared toward long-term customer satisfaction and gradual, controlled growth. This stability has allowed Peterson to win and maintain the confidence of many very conservative pipe organ builders who might otherwise be concerned about future technical support and uniformity of the products used in their instruments.
Peterson engineers follow a design philosophy that is also very conservative. Much care is taken to assure that only well proven and widely used components are utilized so as to assure soundness of design and long term availability. Because of this practice, the company can provide repair or replacement parts for virtually everything they’ve ever made! The field experience gained from supplying systems for organs in thousands of locations around the world has allowed them to develop an unmatched level of technical understanding of organ control issues. Several years ago Peterson demonstrated its confidence in the reliability of its systems by being the first supplier to the pipe organ industry to offer a ten-year warranty that even includes extensive coverage against lightning damage!
The folks at Peterson realize that pipe organs are different from almost every other application for solid state equipment in several ways. Nearly every pipe organ is unique and may potentially need to have its specification changed at some time, so using limited function modules that can be fit together to meet any requirement makes sense. Pipe organs are expected to have a useful life of many decades, and all parts of each instrument must remain easily serviceable by organ service persons whose specialties are in areas other than working with electronic equipment. The Peterson company’s strength and longevity, along with their emphasis on sensible design and thorough documentation, squarely address these concerns. Here again, Peterson’s modular design concept shines because modules may be “swapped” in order to identify the source of any problem that may arise, and standardized spares may be kept on hand or sent out from the factory from stock inventory to facilitate quick and efficient repairs. The thoughtful and practical approach inherent in the design of all Peterson products is evident through and through!
The pipe organ building profession is rich with tradition, skill, and craftsmanship. The Peterson company’s extensive experience with the unique blending of modern technology and this age-old art is unrivaled. Please explore the rest of this web site to learn more about the specific products and services offered by Peterson, and don’t hesitate to call or email us if we can be of service to you in any way.