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B.F. Phillips (Pittsburgh) Violin ID - "reconstructed"?


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Hi All -

I have a violin that was given to me by my Great Aunt, in 1980. I played it until 1995, and then unfortunately it was "lost". It has been found and now I'm interested in learning more about it. I'm wondering if anyone here has some ideas of it's origins.

I know we can't always rely on tags, but the tag inside says "Reconstructed by B.F. Phillips & Sons. Cameo Bldg, 5th Floor. Pgh, PA. Aug 1936. E.S.P."

B.F. (Benjamin Franklin) Phillips was from Warsaw, Poland. His father and grandfather (last name Filipiak) both were violin makers. BF came to the US around 1905 (name changed to Phillips) and set up shop in Pittsburgh. My research indicates he made approximately 150 violins and he was known for making them from woods recycled from old churches or buildings. BF passed away in 1977, in Pittsburgh.

I believe the initials E.S.P. on the tag are that of BF's son Edwin Stanley Phillips. I have not found a lot of information on Edwin, but I did see that BF's other son, Eugene Walter Phillips played with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for more than 40 years.

I would assume that if this violin were originally constructed by B.F. then the tag would say "made by" rather than "reconstructed". However, I don't know what might be underneath the tag and I won't attempt to look. Assuming the violin was reconstructed by BF's son, I'm wondering about the origins of the violin.

The only other information I have: I grew up in the Pittsburgh area. My Great Aunt was active in Pittsburgh orchestras, as was her husband. My aunt was from the Pittsburgh area. She married a man who had recently arrived from Greece. He and his adult siblings came to the US together and all were musicians. I don't know if the violin may have belonged to his family.  The violin was given to me with a "Tourte" stamped bow. I KNOW it's not a genuine Torte.  I'd love to learn more about it also and can upload pictures too.

I have additional photos of the violin also or I can upload pictures of specific areas, if anyone has questions. Thanks so much!
















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29 minutes ago, Jkg4395 said:

 I played it until 1995, and then unfortunately it was "lost". It has been found 

You mean one of your sisters claimed it and gave it back later - it happens sometimes.

This particular fiddle could have a neck, belly, back and ribs all from different sources, imo.  It could be a few other things too including being a cheaper piece of work than what a "Markie" is.

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Apparently B.F. Phillips was a pretty good maker.  In 1940 Jascha Heifetz tried about 100 American violins and selected the best four one of which was a Philips violin for comparison with a bunch Strads.

Attached is a 1946 paper by F. A. Saunders which describes the testing. 

Saunders The Mechanical Action of Instruments of the Violin Family JASA 1946 copy.pdf

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I've seen a few Phillips violins. Obviously this is not one of them. They are pretty decent. One was played at one point by Todd Phillips who is a good violinist who plays around NYC (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra). He is the grandson of the violin maker. He and Danny Phillips are in the Orion Quartet. I think Danny plays a Strad. I always remember Todd's because it had a painted bridge with a horse or something on it. The son of the violin maker played for many years in the Pittsburgh Symphony. I think he also played a Phillips violin.

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