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TimRobinson

Fraser of Saginaw

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Not sure if there's a connection between CC Fraser, whose book was published in Saginaw Canada, and OL Fraser of Saqinaw Michigan, who appears to be a known maker in the US, though not listed in Wrona's List Of Makers.

Judging by the photos on eBay, OL Fraser was an amateur maker! His label states no. 3592 - that's some bizarre numbering system .....

Martin Swan Violins

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Chelsea Fraser, who originally wrote that little book, was the son of Oliver Fraser. They both hailed from Saginaw, but worked in other locations, too. Chelsea learned his trade from his father, who in turn had studied his craft in Scotland. The Wenberg book includes both bios. I had an OL Fraser violin some time ago. It definitely showed a trained hand. My recollection from the Henley book (or maybe the appendix to it) is that Oliver sold his instruments in the 1930s for something like $200 -- quite a high price. I also recall reading various tidbits back then that suggested that Chelsea was more into repairs and that the father's instruments are more highly regarded -- but I could be way off on that recollection.

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why be afraid to bid on a violin in oz, youd bid on one in canada? or europe, its only 80au shipping to us

ps jacob what might be an amateur maker in europe amounts to a professional maker in usa, at least when this was made

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ps jacob what might be an amateur maker in europe amounts to a professional maker in usa, at least when this was made

Dear Lyndon, (if you mean me, and not some other „Jacob“)

There was always quite an amateur vm scene over here too, particularly in northern England and Scotland, but also in Austria. My own uncle John (an architect) made violins that looked about like this one. I complained to him, because he stamped them “J.N. Saunders”, all over (he was John Norman, I am Jacob Neill), but he said that he was J.N. Saunders before I was, which I had to admit was a good point.

I think if I came from or lived in Saginaw, and thought that this fiddle was genuinely by this “Fraser”, I might be interested in the fiddle for local history interest reasons, particularly if it stays reasonably cheap.

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Hi Lyndon, I think you got Jacob and me confused - it was me wot accused this fiddle of looking "amateur".

As Jacob confirms, there was a big scene in the UK, particularly Scotland. We tend to refer to these instruments as "Heron-Allens", since this publication inspired thousands of hobby violin makers. I take your point about American professional makers being less obsessed with details, but I'd say this instrument is early to mid 20th century, not 19th as the listing claims.

I do buy quite a lot of amateur-made violins - they tend to be made with beautiful and unusual wood, the varnish is always oil, and often the concept is great even if the execution is a a bit tatty. If this "Fraser" violin was by a maker from the Scottish Borders I would certainly buy it!

But there's a definite upper price limit for this type of violin, at the moment about £1000 if it has a really good sound. They often do, though invariably on the dark side of the spectrum - this violin may not be one of them! If I came from Saginaw I still wouldn't bid more than £300 unless I'd played it and loved it....

Martin Swan Violins

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Martin, since you're from Scotland, may I ask if you are familiar with a Glasgow maker named Archie Sinclair? Wenberg reports that Oliver Fraser studied under Sinclair for three years, but I can't find any references to a maker of that name. Maybe he was just a shop owner.

BTW, Wenberg also reports that Fraser produced over 600 violins in his lifetime. That level of experience is more consistent with the quality of the Fraser violin that I had than with this ebay instrument. There are a number of very good makers who seem to be forgotten by the violin world. Because their instruments rarely show up in auctions or retail settings, it's hard to know what's real and what's not when the names do show up. Someday, I would like to see a list of missing masters, perhaps starting with John Hornstainer of Chicago.

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Hi, I haven't come across Archie Sinclair but I'll have a look in a couple of books!

What you say confirms in my mind the suspicion that this violin probably isn't an OL Fraser from the 1920s or 30s. I think the label concept is far too modern, and I really can't see that a maker with that kind of output would be making such a mess of buttons, scroll backs, purfling and edgework!

What was yours like?

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Hi, I haven't come across Archie Sinclair but I'll have a look in a couple of books!

What you say confirms in my mind the suspicion that this violin probably isn't an OL Fraser from the 1920s or 30s. I think the label concept is far too modern, and I really can't see that a maker with that kind of output would be making such a mess of buttons, scroll backs, purfling and edgework!

What was yours like?

Inside the "cloud" of the label it seems to be written "1919" or "1915"...

Maybe he counted built and repaired violins to reach that number...or maybe he started from #3000 :D

Cheers,

T.

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Inside the "cloud" of the label it seems to be written "1919" or "1915"...

Maybe he counted built and repaired violins to reach that number...or maybe he started from #3000 :D

Cheers,

T.

Went for AU$787. Not a bad price for the seller I think. I wonder what it sounds like?... if someone from MN bought it can they let us know please?

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