Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Help needed-finding grandfathers violins


Recommended Posts

Good evening all, 

I have a needle in a haystack question that's probably 100% a shot in the dark. I'm also prefacing this with an apology, because I'm light on actual details and actual violin knowledge. Further apologies if this does not end up in the right category on the website. If there is a more appropriate or alternate location where my question may better fit, please let me know.

My great grandfather, John Frederick Hunte, used to make violins in Brooklyn in the mid 1900s. I know he immigrated to NY in 1917 and passed away in the 1980s, but can't pin down actual years where he was crafting. I hesitate to call him a professional luthier because, at this juncture, no one can confirm whether this was a hobby or a career as he also worked in one of shipyards doing either fine metal or woodworking. As a result, we do not know exactly how many violins he made but I know it was more than four though I have only physically seen two. (Yes, I know, not exactly helpful) According to the uncles, he won an award for craftsmanship or musical value somewhere in the 1940s and 1950s. 

With that being said, I'm trying to track down two things: 1) At least one of his violins. This has become a quarantine project at the request of an elderly uncle. However, Google literally has no information on him and general historical records of him fall off after 1945 until 1977 when he applied for SSI and his pension. As an explanation, my great grandfather was estranged from the family from 1917 to about 1970 when he reunited with my grandfather, so no one was thinking of these things while he was alive. 2) Any assistance on the name of any possible awards that could have been around in the 1940s to 1950s. 

I understand that this may be a rather large ask, but it was worth a shot. I would greatly appreciate any information that anyone could provide.

Thank you and stay safe, 
Carlyn 

Edited by Carly
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hallo Carlyn

the best reference I can offer is a paper 'violin makers of New York' written by a historian for the master degree. 

It is not published in any paper form but can be viewed on microfilm in the New York public library. While I was in New York I once looked it up at the library for some research and I remember very vaguely that the author (a woman whose name I can't recall right now) listed non professional violin makers as well. 

Otherwise Thomas Wenberg compiled a dictionary on American makers. (If needed I can look it up in my workshop on Monday.)

For the search of an existing instrument of your ancestor you might find one in the collection of David Bromberg in Wilmington, Delaware. However I heard that he wanted to sell the entire collection maybe 2-3 years ago and I don't know what happened in the meantime. 

Don't know if this helps, but good luck!

Stay safe and healthy, too!

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Put out as many feelers to violin shops as you can, especially around the NY area. Many dealers will probably quickly forget about a request for an obscure american maker, but you never know.

Check Ebay regularly. Most people on this board will strongly advise against Ebay and anything to do with violins, but this is where it can be very useful. I see a lot of violins by people who were probably just like your grandfather, there were lots of them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I checked the Wenberg book and there is no listing for him. Certainly the idea of contacting David Bromberg is a good one. Also, you might contact Christopher Germain in Philadelphia. He contributed to another book on American makers that is more detailed but not as broad as the Wenberg book. But Deans' advice to put out lots of feelers MAY eventually net a result. Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi George H,

Of the two that I know of, I own one and my cousin owns another. Both were given to my grandfather by my great grandfather right before he passed. According to the story I was told, there was a third that was damaged in the 1970s in transit. It was dropped off in a repair shop in Alabama to fix the fingerboard and neck and the repair person disappeared...The fourth would have been the one he won the obscure award for.

Hi everyone else,

Thank you so much. Y’all are wonderful. I really do appreciate the willingness to share and provide recommendations. I am so far out of my realm of knowledge that any and everything is helpful. We aren’t expecting much but quarantine has made the rest of the family nostalgic so research projects and family histories have become my life. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good luck, Carlyn!

I will occasionally buy a violin by an obscure American maker that is well-made, and then try to find the maker's decedents to see of they are interested in acquiring it. If they're not, then sometimes I will inquire at the local historical society to see if they are interested in it.

I am glad that you're interested in your great grandfather's work, and best of luck to you!

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

25 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

How do you go about that?

These are 20th century makers, so usually grandparents or great grandparents

Web search tools like https://www.advancedbackgroundchecks.com will give you addresses and previous addresses of people and ages, which are clues.

Family members often stay in the same area (at least for a while), and so once I get some clues, I can search on Facebook to contact or get email addresses directly from web searches.

BTW, you might recall a violin that you set-up on for me that had "For Dorothy" and a year branded under the button. I was able to contact the maker's granddaughter, but she was not in the least bit interested, nor did she know who "Dorothy" was. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's nice how often descendants of early 20th century makers find their way to Maestronet, sometimes seeking information like our OP, sometimes offering interesting background on makers who are almost entirely undocumented elsewhere.  A year or so ago we heard from a great-grandson and a granddaughter of the obscure Ohio maker of my violin.  No living family member had known the builder, and they had never seen one of his violins.  The contact resulted in the granddaughter managing to purchase one of his instruments, probably one of very few surviving violins.  So this kind of story can have a happy ending.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For those of you who are more web savvy......... I"m wondering if she put the makers name in the title of the post, it would come up more easily in the future for someone googling it?  Maybe they came across one of the violins, searched the name ...violin....  Is it more likely to come up in a search with the name in the title of the post, than in the body??

Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Good luck, Carlyn!

I will occasionally buy a violin by an obscure American maker that is well-made, and then try to find the maker's decedents to see of they are interested in acquiring it. If they're not, then sometimes I will inquire at the local historical society to see if they are interested in it.

I am glad that you're interested in your great grandfather's work, and best of luck to you!

I do that too!  Not only with violins but also jewelry and paintings.  I've returned a fiddle that was owned by Charlie Bowman in 1934 back to the family.  It got there 2 weeks after a fire had destroyed what they had left of his things, so they were very grateful.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...