Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
Basil G. Austin Papers

Finding aid created by
Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: Basil G. Austin Papers
Creator: Austin, Basil G.
Inclusive dates: 1904, 1953, and Undated
Extent: .5 cubic foot (in 1 box)
Papers include consists of copies of Basil’s notes on his family, diaries from 1904, a bound version of Diary of a ninety-eighter, and the cover page and maps of Cumming’s book.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Acc# 2746

Access Restrictions:

Basil G. Austin Papers are open for research.


Copyright is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Basil G. Austin Papers, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


Arrangement is mostly alphabetical and chronological with family notes at the beginning of the box.



Basil G. Austin (1874-1958) was born in England on February 25, 1874. He was raised on a farm in Irchester, England, and completed his education to the equivalent of a high school or Junior College level.

In 1891 Basil’s older brother, John, went to the U.S. Basil followed him in 1893, joining John in Detroit. John was employed by Ferrand and Votey Company, a Detroit organ manufacturer. Soon Basil also found employment there. John patented a devise to help eliminate tedious work in adjusting an organ’s mechanisms. Eventually, both brothers contributed many improvements in the construction of pipe organs.

Because Farrand and Votey Company was not interested in John’s patent, he left the company, to work for another Detroit organ company, Clough and Warren Company. Meanwhile, Basil worked at the Detroit Lubricator Works. Basil soon returned to the pipe organ trade and helped John install organs in two churches. Basil then traveled to various states by himself to install organs. The company paid his travel expenses, so he was able to save money.

In 1897 Basil went to Alaska to find gold. He stayed there until July 1900. His diary describes his gold mining experiences.

In July 1900 the Clough and Warren plant was destroyed by fire. Basil and John decided to retire. John then established the Austin Organ Company in Hartford, Connecticut, and Basil joined him.

On October 19, 1904, Basil married Miss Clara L. Shea in Hartford.

The organ business peaked in 1927. The Depression sent the organ business, among others, into a decline. In 1935 the brothers retired and liquidated the firm. A smaller company was then founded with the brothers in charge. Basil was honored by the American Organist in 1933, which published his portrait and biography, listing his many inventions that substantially improved the organ.

Basil G. Austin died on April 6, 1958. (This information is from Diary of a ninety-eighter.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

There are three versions of Basil’s diary. The first version is the handwritten original, which he kept in Alaska, along with a more legible 1904 version. The second version is a typescript that closely follows the original, probably written after 1910. The third version was published by John Cumming as Diary of a ninety-eighter. (Copies of this book are separately cataloged in the CMU libraries.)

The diary described Basil’s trip, mining experiences, companions, Nels Seaver and Ed Burmeister, and Alaska in detail.

The collection consists of copies of Basil’s notes on his family, diaries from 1904, a bound version of Diary of a ninety-eighter, and the cover page and maps of Cumming’s book.

Subject Terms

    • Austin, Basil G., 1874-1958.
    • Cumming, John, 1915-2010.
    • Klondike River Valley (Yukon)--Gold discoveries.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Basil G. Austin Papers. [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    Notes on the Austin family (copy), 1953
    Box   1 F   2
    Log book volume 1, February 11, 1898-March 17, 1899, revised January 1904 (copy), 1904
    Box   1 F   3
    Log book volume 2, March 17, 1899-, revised January 1904 (copy), 1904
    Box   1 F   4
    Title page and maps from Diary of a ninety-eighter, printed by J. Cumming, [1968]