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The American Violin Manufacturing Company of Manistee, Michigan


Woodland
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While the Jackson Guldan company is recognized as perhaps one of the few (if not the only) American violin "factory", the American Violin Manufacturing Company appears to have fallen into relative obscurity. While the company president, Peter Christian Paulsen, had worked as a violin maker in Chicago for a number of firms, he became president of the company in 1919 and died in 1920. The company was based in Wheaton, IL and established the factory in the Lake Michigan port city of Manistee. The output was reported to be 40 instruments per week, and apparently only lasted 4 years due to sluggish sales. I'm not sure what kind of output constitutes a violin factory vs. a workshop, but 40 violins a week would be substantial in my book.

What I'm curious to know as to where the wood was being obtained from. The lower Michigan north woods was definitely timber country, and red maple would be readily available in the area, I'm not sure if there would be any suitable spruce from the Great Lakes region, perhaps white spruce? I suppose the spruce could have come from anywhere, but given Manistee being a timber producing region, I would think that may have been a deciding factor in choosing it's location, or perhaps the ability to ship the instruments to Chicago for sale by rail or ship.

https://www.manisteenews.com/local-history/article/The-American-Violin-Manufacturing-Company-14243275.php

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It is near or in a national forest. I have been through there many times. It is on the road from my childhood home in Niles, Michigan to my much beloved school at Interlochen, Michigan. The climax forest in that area is Beech and maple as far as I know. The conifers are red and white pine. They might have been good enough for factory violins. This area of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin had lots of instrument manufacturing going on in that era. I’m not at all sure that this is useful information but it is my neck of the woods so to speak. One of our teachers and my dorm supervisor for three years grew up in Manistee. He is turning 90 this year. He might know something.

DLB

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Interesting!  I’ve been paying attention to violins in Michigan for 50 years and haven’t heard of this company.  I wonder if the were sold under a different name by firms in Chicago.

I have relatives were involved with commercial logging in Michigan during the 20s and 30s.

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Apparently they were sold by firms (catalog houses?) in Chicago. I read somewhere that the manufacturing equipment was made in Wheaton (west of Chicago), as it was something of a mechanized process. An example from the factory is on display at a museum in Manistee, I'll have to check it out when I'm up there this summer. My wife and I are looking to settle there over time.

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Update: I just returned from a trip to Manistee, and I had an opportunity to visit the Manistee County Historical Museum. One of the staff was kind enough to remove the Paulsen violin from storage and assist me any way he could. The violin in their collection is labeled as a Peter Christian Paulsen Master Model, apparently not one of the more common grade production models. It appeared to be of decent workmanship, and I've attached photos below (forgive the iPhone pictures taken in poor lighting). The maples didn't strike me as American red maple, and I'm guessing the local timber had little or nothing to do with Manistee being chosen as the location of the factory. I mentioned to the staff member I was curious as to why Manistee was chosen, he said it was likely because Manistee was heavily promoting itself as a manufacturing town at the time. Nice little historical museum, by the way. Much of Manistee's history is tied to Great Lakes manufacturing and shipping (freighters). The staff member is also going to be forwarding additional scanned paperwork tied to the factory in the future, I'll be sure and pass along what I find out.

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It would be important to provide pictures as in the pinned thread at the top of the page, since from your inadequate pictures, it seems most likely to be a lower grade of Markneukirchen “trade violin” which wouldn’t have impinged on any American virgin forest in the slightest way

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