(Photograph courtesy of Dana Johnson.)
This photograph of Louis M. Severson appeared in Presto (The American Music Trade Weekly in its
35th Year), Chicago, June 27, 1918, Page 15. It is probably a stock photograph used over and over again for various articles.
The Operators Piano Company was founded in 1909 by Louis M. Severson, C.R. Dibble, and Alfred Livingston of Chicago, Illinois, Louis Severson was born in Norway in 1882. His parents, along with young Louis relocated to Iowa, here in the U.S. in 1883. He later moved to Chicago in 1904, and at the age of 22 began repairing coin operated pianos for route operators doing business in the Chicago area. Circa 1913 the Operators Piano Company began building their own Coinola brand of automatic coin pianos. In 1916 the Reproduco line of piano organs was introduced. Production of both the Coinola and Reproduco brand continued through the 1020s, with the company closing its doors circa 1934.
According to the Cook Country, Illinois, census of April 2, 1930, for Oak Park Village, Louis M. Severson, age 48, was living with his wife, Jennie, age 46, and their children: Harold, age 22; Fred G., age 20; Lawrence, age 18; Charles, age 14; and Marion, age 9. Louis Severson is listed as retired. This suggests that although the Operators Piano Company may have still maintained some kind of presence, its once energetic leader was no longer intimately active in the day-to-day affairs of the company.
Oak Park Village was an upscale area with easy access to Chicago by rail or motorcar. Severson's home was valued at $40,000, according to the census document.
In the year of 1930 this kind of real estate valuation would have equated to the occupation of a very spacious and comfortable residence, certainly one befitting the President of a successful Chicago business establishment.