Titanic Violins

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allan winchar

Guest
Hello, I am a new member and would like some information regarding the whereabouts of the violins that were onboard the Titanic. Does anyone know if any of the violins were recovered and also if any of the musicians possessed a Stradivarius violin? I am in possession of a violin that was purchased recently in a garage sale that was made in Austria, was supposedly given to a survivor of the Titanic, was told that it was extremely valuable, and has a Stradivarius label attached inside of it directly beneath the F-hole.
 
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John Meeks

Guest
If I had a violin - from a garage sale - that proved to be a 'Strad' - I wouldn't care which 'F' hole the label was beneath!

..so much for defeating the message board censors...!

However, and much more seriously - this is actually quite an interesting question.

The musicians were, of course, on the boat deck almost right up to the very end. Presumably, by habit if nothing else, they would have packed their instruments into their cases and held on to them right up to the very end.

The more you think about this - the more tragic it becomes doesn't it...!

Those instruments would have undoubtedly floated! Essentially, it's highly probable that, unlike their owners, they may have survived the sinking.

I would assume(!) that they may have been overlooked and/or ignored during the events following the tragedy - people had bigger things on their minds!

...but - you never know!

My advice would be to take your violin to a really top-notch appraiser - damn the expense - give him/her the story - and pray!

My caveat would be - "How come no-one has raised this before? How come this potentially very interesting instrument (a Stradivarius?) is being sold off in a garage sale?

- but, you never know...!!!

Best Regards,

John M
 
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John Meeks

Guest
P.S.

By the way, Allan...my apologies for not mentioning this...I see you're part of the Canadian contingent too!

Welcome to the board, eh!

John M
 
Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Member
Allan, I would rate your chances of having a real Strad at about the same as visiting Titanic by snorkel diving.

About 600 Strad violins survive and they are mostly accounted for, except for some that have been nicked. Many are held by institutions or by wealthy individuals who lend them to top-class players. Some consider that they are now so old that they are past their best.

It was common for makers to put Strad labels in their instruments to indicate that they were based on a Strad. Most did this honestly, but some were shady. The original buyer was generally not fooled, because he didn't pay a high price.

For some real Strad labels, go to http://www.bernardsboe.com/wams/academics/commtech/violins/stradviolins.htm

Wallace Hartley and friends would have played good, serviceable instruments, suitable for use on an un-airconditioned ship on the North Atlantic. They were held together with animal glue and would eventually have come apart. Sadly, they would have ended as unidentifiable drifting fragments. Certainly, none were recovered.
 
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Kris Muhvic

Member
If you have a copy of Eaton & Haas "Titanic - Triumph and Tragedy", there is a letter written by the father of John Law "Jock" Hume (violinist) regarding the credit due for two violins, uninsured and lost. One was purchaced for 200 pounds, the other for 125 pounds. The father's letter is most poignant because, not only dealing with his son's death, but having also to deal with the debt-collectors. He tried to clear it up with White Star; but I do not know the outcome.

Just a little bit about the violins that made me think of this-

Kris
 
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Linda Fitzhenry

Guest
Hi, everyone...

I am a violinist by profession as well as a die-hard Titanic buff, so please bear with me as I post my two-cents worth about the "Strad."

As Dave Gittins correctly stated, all Stradivarius violins are accounted for, with only a few sad exceptions. The only time I have ever had the opportunity to even touch such an instrument was while attending a master class. There are some Strads in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History, but they are kept behind bullet proof glass. This should indicate to even the most casual observer that these violins are extremely rare and valuable, and hardly the stuff of garage sales.

In the late 19th century, violin makers began to label their violins as "Strads." This was only to indicate that the instrument in question was a COPY of a particular Strad. In the 20th century, this practice was curtailed when the violin makers were forced to print the words "copy of" onto their labels. During my 30 years of performing and teaching violin, I have had many instruments proudly presented to me by new students and their parents, all of them thrilled to say they had discovered a "real" Strad in the attic or the basement or a garage sale. It is very difficult and somewhat painful to tell these poor souls that they have been deceived. Most of these instruments are of very poor construction, quality and tone. I usually suggest they take the instruments to a violin maker and have it appraised - this puts the onus of breaking the disappointing news on someone else's shoulders.

As for the attempts of Mr. Hume's father to deal with the debt collectors: The musicians of Titanic were not employees of White Star Lines. Instead, White Star booked their musicians through an agency service, a practice still used by most cruise lines today. White Star only paid the musicians through April 14, 1912. (Had they known this would happen, would they have stopped playing at midnight? I think not - they deeply felt their callings as musicians and would have continued to play - but I digress.) White Star then deducted the cost of the men's lost uniforms and music books, and charged the families for the losses. The charges exceeded the wages earned, and the families wound up OWING White Star Line for the privelege of losing their loved ones aboard Titanic.

Linda
 
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Linda Fitzhenry

Guest
Hello again...

This is just a quick addendum to my previous posting. I forgot to address the orignal question about Titanic's violins.

If these instruments were ever recovered - and I have not heard of any being found - they would not have been able to be restored to playable condition after floating in salt water for several hours. Their only value would have been historical, not musical. I doubt whether the poor crew of Mackay Bennett and other recovery vessels had the time or inclination to think about retrieving waterlogged musical instrumetns, given the overwhleming nature of the task they faced.

Linda
 
Shelley Dziedzic

Shelley Dziedzic

Member
35903
Marjorie Newell practicing at home in Lexington with sister at the piano. The whole family was musical. She lost her practice violin on Titanic and put in a claim. Later she would go on to help found the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Mary Payne/Marjorie Robb
 
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Geoff Whitfield

Member
According to his family, third class passenger Alfonzo Meo-Martinez was a violin maker and had made a special model for a wealthy American client who was so worried that it might be damaged in transit that he had Mr Meo-Martinez bring it over himself on the Titanic. Might have been safer in the mail!

Geoff
 
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Pat Winship

Member
Just a word on "Stradivarius" violins. Sears and Roebuck sold masses of factory-made violins with a reproduction Stradivari label. While they were copied from an actual Strad, they were cheaply made. They are quite plentiful, and a lot of people are disappointed daily!

Pat
 
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Linda Fitzhenry

Guest
Hi, Pat!

You have raised the very point I was trying to communicate: violins bearing a phony label identifying them as Strads are cheap and plentiful.

A word of caution to those who are considering the purchase of a violin: Take the instrument in question to a reputable violin maker and have it professionaly appraised. Caveat emptor!

Linda
 
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Jenn Medeiros

Member
Yes Wallace' s violin was recovered. But unfortunatly before Wallace' s body got sent back to England it disappeared.
 
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Jenn Medeiros

Member
you know what the name Marjorie Newell reminds me of, my english teacher, Marjorie Nowell. she is my chorus director' s mother. she is a truly and genuinely nice person and so isn't her son,(My Chorus Director) Mr. Nowell. I know that was random but I just had to say it.
 
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Roy Kristiansen

Member
>>Sears and Roebuck sold masses of factory-made violins with a reproduction Stradivari label.

My aunt had one of these - I looked inside!

Roy
 
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Roy Kristiansen

Member
I should add that, in most instances, if you decide to study the violin, your parents aren't going to go out in search of a Strad for you. No matter what the quality of the instrument you end up with, it's going to be at least two years of shear torture for them. '-)

Roy
 
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