mystery of a old family violin

Edited: March 13, 2020, 11:05 PM · Wasn't v sure what category to put this under.I have a mystery that I don't think will ever be solved but I will always wonder what happened and why.
My great grandfather bought a violin in 1855 that was made in 1835.he was playing it in a saloon on a break in Oklahoma when someone came bursting in yelling Jessy James just robbed the Glendale train.In the commotion it was dropped and damaged a f hole so he hand csrved a piece carefuly and glued it in place.this made distint mark.it went around to family members and my grandmother found it in kids toy box and was mad and demanded it.she brought it home and took it to violin maker and restorer. Originally red it took almost 6 years 5 coats and year cure between costs.when they got it back it was no longer red.he started red was no good at that time and he wanted it to last so he did natural.inside is sticker refinished by and his name under it is sticker says made in Czechoslovakia.this is where things get strange.it could not of been made in 1835 and played when Glendale train was robbed so at some point it was switched.why would someone take the time to forge a violin to look like it by making what appears to be same repair to f hole.if it wasn't the refinished why didn't he say hay why spend so much to restore something not worth much.puzzled by this.I know that the date original violin made and came into family is correct.don't know how to find much more about it.I'm the last living family member alive

Replies (11)

March 13, 2020, 2:35 PM · "it could not of been made in 1835 and played when Glendale train was robbed"

Why not? The train was robbed in 1879.

March 13, 2020, 2:43 PM · Because Czechoslovakia didn't exist in 1835.
March 13, 2020, 3:15 PM · It’s not the same violin then....
March 13, 2020, 4:15 PM · I'll bet the Czechoslovakia part is accurate. The rest is probably rubbish.

You got the category right, by the way.

March 13, 2020, 4:34 PM · Joe,

As the guardian of a "Family Fiddle" myself the actual legends often contradict the facts. Like others I put way too much money into the instrument getting it restored, even had the plates tuned when plate tuning was a new idea. I still pay it daily and love it.

All we know is that my wife's Great Grandfather brought it with him from Sweden in the late 1800's. It has one of the Mittenwald Strad labels inside which generally means it is a copy of a 1700's Strad. Actually has pretty decent workmanship with a lot of intarsia on the back. I did have to replace the fingerboard and fittings as they were very bad (kept the originals in a plastic bag just because).

He loves to sing and I love to play on the instrument. I've even made arrangements for the next guardian to take over when I can no longer play.

It isn't "Joe's Violin" but it is a piece of family history and lore. My mother-in-law spoke of her grandfather playing at family gatherings, in church, et cetera.

The value is in the playing and knowing that you have a piece of family lore and legend even if the details are sketchy.

March 13, 2020, 5:25 PM · Family heirlooms probably aren't all that uncommon. I have such a violin that has been in my family since 1850, its acquisition being attested by a note in the family bible at that time - so it was deemed important. Since then it has come down the generations to me, the 5th generation. My luthier reckons it is late-18th century German copy of a Strad, possibly by Mittenwald. An interesting confirmation, which I spotted quite recently, that it is indeed a copy of a Strad is that the otherwise convincing (to the non-expert) Stradivarius label gives its date as 1738, whereas Stradivarius died in 1737. It is a little unusual in being a larger-than-normal violin with a 14-1/4" back length (the normal is 14"), bout widths and rib height also being larger than normal. This gives it a deeper tone. It is my preferred violin for orchestral playing.

As with George Wells, I am also arranging for it to be passed on to the next generation in my family.

March 13, 2020, 6:16 PM · Purely from a date perspective, Oklahoma wasn't a State until 1907. Prior to that, it was identified as Indian Territory.
March 13, 2020, 11:15 PM · What I know for sure is it was in fact made in 1835.it came into to family when he bought it in 1855.I know its not a strat.that's not my question.knowing that the Glendale trane was robbed before Czechoslovakia existed.no question it was switched but why.why would someone go to great lengths to replicate a repair on a Czechoslovakia violin.guess I will never know
March 13, 2020, 11:54 PM · Well, it's definitely not a strat. Them Fender things got six strings.
March 16, 2020, 4:37 AM · I had a call from a friend who was all excited at finding her grandfather's old violin. "It's marked Stradivarius, what do you think?" I asked if it was dated 1721. "Yes! How did you know?" I explained that Stradivari made thousands of violins in 1721, especially when he was on holiday in Czechoslovakia. He even had to have the date printed. I suggested she checked with an expert, though..
March 16, 2020, 5:47 PM · Maybe the original 1835 violin was more valuable than expected, and the luthier was a liar and fraudster. These things happen, and I definitely know at least one individuum that has done similar things before. I could not see any other reason. And hey, even the color changed...


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