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antique fiddle case and what's in it


D.H.Parker
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This is a question for fictional purposes, but it does concern a stringed instrument so I hope it's ok to put it in this part of the forum.

My character has found an old fiddle in the attic. Not the cliched hidden treasure, just something that a farm laborer loved and used in the 1890s. My questions are: What might the case look like? (Can you recommend any web sites where I could see one?) What might a pack-rat kind of person from this era stash in his fiddle case with the fiddle?

Thanks!

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The case would be a 'coffin case'...probably painted black, ovoid, larger at one end. Instead of having a handle on the side as we have today, the handle would be on top. It might have the name of the person painted on it. Probably lined with felt (tattered by now).

Inside, besides the decaying fiddle and a hairless bow, would be string packets, rosin (crumbling), perhaps a 5 cent instruction booklet. Maybe a picture of a popular old musician. And, because violins are often used by romantics, you might find trinkets of the players romantic interest...pictures, locks of hair, etc.

That should get you started...

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The case shape might resemble a modern "dart" shape, like you'd see on Shar's website, but with a lid of more violin-like contour. These cases were often black, and lined with something that looked like wallpaper. Some old cases were varnished, had a thin, almost wire-like brass handle surrounding a tiny keyhole (with exquisite key), delicate hook fasteners for closing, and tiny hinges. They were (and are) very beautiful to look at. I imagine these were designed to stay home, since a much-carried case would need heavier hardware and a tougher finish. (If any of you experts knows the exact vintage of the varnished case I'm describing, please let me know.)

I'd bet on lots of spare A, D, and G strings made of pure gut. Don't know when the wire E entered the scene. At one time, there were silk E strings. Old yellowed string envelopes are interesting, as are various wooden mutes. An old cake of rosin would be very brittle and likely cracked. The most dramatic thing would be the sheaf of worm-severed bow hair that would be lying all over the top of the fiddle. And don't forget that moldy smell. Good luck with your story.

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I once owned a case that was in the family for many years. It had belonged to my great-great uncle (a farm laborer, amongst other things). The case very crude, looking homemade, and made of unfinished wood, in the coffin style. There was nothing fancy about it and no lining inside. I don't recall what kind of hardware was on it. I last saw it 30-some years ago.

Yankee Fiddler

[This message has been edited by Yankee Fiddler (edited 03-30-2001).]

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http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?V...item=1419051382

Picture of an old wooden case of the type being described, courtesy of our infamous EBay. Black, coffin shaped, brass fittings.

http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?V...item=1419671586

Another one, complete with old Strad copy violin.

[This message has been edited by 2Violet (edited 03-30-2001).]

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Don't forget the Rattlesnake Rattle, commonly found inside fiddles and in the case compartments.Mostly in fiddles owned by people in rural areas...

Some say that the old timers put the rattles in the fiddles to make them sound better, but, like most legends that were born from practical reasons, they kept the mice from making nests in the fiddle, and chewing out the ff holes. These fiddles were hung out in the barn, not allowed in the house, being the devil's instrument.The mice detected the scent of the rattle, and stayed away.

Bob

[This message has been edited by bob kogut (edited 03-30-2001).]

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There was some posting some time ago about fiddles with inlaid backs. It was thought (by someone far more knowledgable than myself), that the backs would generally be thicker. At least with the complicated celtic designs that are inlaid 1mm or more. This would problably effect the overall tone, but this would probably depend on the individual fiddle. Hows that for a world class wishie-washie answer?

-Randy

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quote:

Originally posted by D.H.Parker:

I had thought about the Celtic knot design, not for the first fiddle, but for another one which figures in the story. Have you ever come across a fiddle with inlays of different woods or would that change the sound too much?

I've heard of fiddles with inlaid pearl in the backs of them.

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