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Companies / makers supplying Sears & Roebuck


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I looked at some low-end early 20th century violins over the weekend, and I suggested to the owner that these instruments, based on her story, might have been purchased by a distant relative mail order from Sears or Montgomery Wards (most likely Sears). That got me thinking, though. I know that Sears bought lowest-cost-available fiddles from a variety of European workshops, but at the peak of the violin craze in the early 20th century, they also carried a few lines of respectable quality violins. Who were some of the makers / workshops that supplied them? I've tried a bit of internet research, but I can't seem to find much beyond the usual disparaging remarks about cheap Sears fiddles.

I distantly recall that this topic may have come up on Maestronet some years ago, and I'd also welcome a pointer to any old threads that cover this ground.

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By the way, I've now looked at the old threads on this topic, which don't really provide a whole lot of answers to this question. It's pretty apparent, though, that a number of folks have had the same passing question I'm having, though. :-)

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The 'Curatoli' fiddles sold by Sears in the 1930's (purported to be made at the E Reinhold Schmidt shop), and those labeled Hermann Geipel (whether a real person, I don't know) are very nice. The better Geipels now sell for several thousand dollars.

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I remember seeing a Roth in David Saunders' shop in Seattle in the late '70s that I think he said was sold by Monkey Ward's (he may have said Sears) in the early 1900s. Very nice instrument. Had a 5-pointed star inlay around the end pin.

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Montgomery Ward's 1895 catalog indicated they carried the Lowendall line. The lower priced models ($3.75-14.10) came in different model - Strad, Maggini, Stainer. The upper level Lowendall models ranged in price from $18.80 - $47.00. This included the Lowendall Conservatory, Imperial and Artists ("intended for the soloist"). These prices included case and bow and a 5 day trial.

Wards also offered another "Artist" violin made by Henry Eichheimer of Berlin for $23.50.

Sears 1897 catalog carried more violins but seemed to use the same manfacturers (or distributors) -- Lowendall and Eichheimer. Sear's models included Hopf, Maggini, Vuilaume, Strad, Guarnerius, Stainer. Sears also offered a cheaper line that shows a label of Bowers' Violin, Chicago, Ill, Lyon and Healy.

Both Sears and Montgomery Ward also carried Double Bass Viols, and Violoncellos.

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