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William Moennig & Son has closed its doors for business

January 11, 2010 at 3:39 AM

I am stunned...William Moennig & Son has closed its doors for business after 100 years. William Moennig & Son, Ltd. was one of America's oldest and most respected violin makers, restorers, experts and appraisers of fine classic stringed instruments.

My first personal experience was the purchase of a Bernard Millant violin bow  in 1967; my last was the restoration of a Franz Winkler violin bow and a J. Jacques Millant violin bow (Bernard's cousin) in November 2008... IRONIC. I was always warmly welcomed when I visited the shop. Just breathing the air made me a better musician.

This article is from the December AFVBM (American Federation of Violin and Bow
Makers) newsletter. It is written by AFVBM member Pam Anderson, who worked at
Moennigs for many years.
Penny Brill,PSO delegate

William Moennig & Son closes after 100 year run

The shop of William Moennig & Son, Ltd. closed its doors on Friday December 11, 2009 after serving musicians for over 100 years in Philadelphia. It was one of the most prominent string-instrument shops in the country, frequented by soloists such as Jascha Heifetz, Isaac
Stern, Itzhak Perlman and other famous musicians, as well as prominent orchestra members from around the United States, Europe, and Asia.

On the shop's walls were photographs portraying major string soloists of the last 70 years  Fritz Kreisler, Mischa Elman, Efram Zimbalist, Greggor Piatigorsky, and others  bearing affectionate expressions of gratiitude for the care and workmanship given to their instruments.

Started by William Heinrich Moennig Sr., the shop was a Philadelphia institution since about 1909. William H. Moennig (1883-1962), had arrived in Philadelphia from Markneukirchen, Germany at the end of the last century. He worked for his brother-in-law, the violin maker Julius Guetter, before opening his own business. His son, William Herman Moennig Jr. (1905-1986), worked in the family business before leaving for Germany, where he studied under Leo
Auschauer in Mittenwald and for Paul Dörfel and Paul Knorr in Markneukirchen. He subsequently earned the diploma of Master violin maker, the first American-born violin maker to be so honored. The Moennigs rapidly gained the respect and confidence of musicians and artists in the United States, and their skills were much in demand among the members of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the faculty and students of The Curtis Institute of Music. After the Second World War, the Moennigs began to import to the United States many of the finest classic masterpieces of the Italian, French, English, and German schools of violin and bow making, and earned a well-deserved reputation for connoisseurship, honesty, and fairness in the trade of fine violins and bows.

Bill Jr. was the first American-born member of the Entente Internationale des Maitres Luthiers et Archetiers; his son Bill Moennig 3rd (1930-2004) followed him into that organization shortly thereafter. They were also instrumental in the founding of The American Society for the  advancement of Violin Making  the group known today as The Violin Society of America. Biill Moennig 3rd entered the business in the late 1940s, subsequently studying violin making
under Leo Aschauer in Mittenwald and Amédée Dieudonné in Mirecourt, and connoisseurship under Pierre Vidoudez, Max Möller, and William Beare. He worked as a restorer and directed the business after his father's retirement in 1975. After Bill 3rd's death in 2004, William Moennig 4th took over the business. In 1948 the Moennigs began to publish the periodical newsletter, The String Player. About a year later, the name was changed to The World of Strings, under which title it was published until 1999. It served as a forum for fine instruments available through the shop.

Pamela Anderson has about forty-five names of people who worked at Moennig & Son over the years, including that of Sergio Peresson and Johannes Finkel. When the Wurlitzer shop  losed, some workers came to Moennig and Son, including Robert Cauer and Ken Jacobs. Dario D'Attili also helped after hours to share knowledge of instrument identification. Several
AFVBM Members had long term careers there: Burritt Miller (1972-2001), Rick Riggall (1980-2008), and Richard Donovan (1972-present). Pamela Anderson worked there on and off from 1979. Other members who have been part of the firm are Rafael Carrabba and Tim Jansma. Philip Kass, known today as an instrument expert, gained experience there from 1977-2002. These extraordinary circumstances provided a fertile environment for the benefit of all who passed through this world-renowned shop.

This closure marks the end of an era.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Yikes!  It was not clear from the article why it closed, although I can imagine some reasons.

Posted on January 11, 2010 at 5:07 PM

From the information I have thus far gathered, I get the impression that the decision was not so much financial but more that the current generation of family was just not that interested in the business and wanted out.

From E. Smith
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 12:45 AM

 I've been curious for about a month about the closure-- this is the first article I've seen. There was no notice in the local papers, strangely. 

From Scott Cole
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 1:27 AM

 I'm shocked. My first decent instrument, the one that saw me through school, was a Bill Moennig Jr. from 1949. I'm now playing a modern Italian my father had bought there in 1975. 

I wonder if those tailpieces with the gold emblems will become collector's items....

Posted on January 12, 2010 at 7:23 AM


No doubt...those tailpieces were the subtle "tell tale" sign of many an instrument from their shop. I am very glad that I never sold my Richard Grunke bow which is also branded "made especially for William Moennig & Son"...I have many of the copies of "World of Strings" as well as the wonderful  Holiday cards sent...heck, their certificates are quite worthy of framing as art also. Sometimes being a pack rat is good :)

This has really affected me...Patelson's last year; what's next???

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