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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Who was John S. Allen?

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Jim - Posted - 12/23/2008:  08:43:59

The sticker inside my favorite fiddle says it was made by John S. Allen in 1896 in Boston. The sticker also bears the number 58, and says that Mr. Allen was a pupil of J. B. Squier. I get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from playing this instrument, and I would very much like to know more about the man who made it. Can anybody help?

I wasn't sure where to put this thread. Sorry if it's in the wrong place.

Jim Burke (free online fiddle lessons with slo-mo instruction videos)

[Moved from Playing Advice - Brad]

Edited by - BanjoBrad on 12/23/2008 13:42:57

OTJunky - Posted - 12/23/2008:  09:27:35

Here's another one like it - if you want a spare...

"I can barely fiddle on four strings. Why would I want five?"

ajisai - Posted - 12/23/2008:  10:15:48

My OTHER hobby is genealogical research. I'm on it and I'll let you know what I find out!


Jim - Posted - 12/23/2008:  10:48:30

Originally posted by OTJunky

Here's another one like it - if you want a spare...

"I can barely fiddle on four strings. Why would I want five?"

Thanks OTJ. This is seriously like mine. I could not be sure it wasn't a pic of mine until I looked really hard at the side view of the scroll. I don't think I can afford a spare one of these.

Jim Burke (free online fiddle lessons with slo-mo instruction videos)

coelhoe - Posted - 12/23/2008:  11:24:55

J. B. Squier was an original, and anyoe who apprenticed with him must have been good. Squier was known is his lifetime as "The American Stradivarius." He made several hundred instruments in the late 1800's in Boston.. I had one numbered 380, or near there, that I sold to a collector. A very nice fiddle, Guarnarius model. J.B.'s son Victor was also a fine craftsman, and his instruments sold to symphonic players for high prices.

Mr. Allen is not listed in Fairfield.


"Not being able to play very well is a good substitute for not having good taste." -Eddie Adcock

ajisai - Posted - 12/23/2008:  21:06:46

So far I haven’t been able to find John S. Allen in a census, but a search of Google books suggests that he was in Battle Creek, Michigan at some point in his career.

The Violin Makers of the United States: Biographical Documentation . . . by Thomas Wenberg seems to have an entry for him on page 5. The snippet reads “Allen, John; Battle Creek, MI. Violin maker. Studied under VC Squier c. 1894, and later worked for him.”

The Boston city directory for 1896 shows “John S. Allen, violin maker, 453 Washington, rms. 339 do.” 453 Washington seems to house some sort of business (or businesses) as many people are listed as working there (including a salesman and a piano finisher) but John appears to room with J B Squier. An entry under “Musical Instruments” reads “Squier, J B, 339 Washington (violins, etc.) At quick glance, I didn’t see John in the 1895 or 1897 Boston directories which might mean that he worked with JB Squier only a short time. says that “His son [JB's], V. C. Squier also became a prolific maker in Boston, Worcester, and Battle Creek, Michigan.” Could Mr. Allen have lived or worked in Worcester, too?

The question in my mind is this: If the violin made in 1896 is No. 58, how many years would Mr. Allen have been working? And does anyone know of any later violins made by Mr. Allen?

It seems as though he would have been crafting violins in 1900 (unless he had died by then) and I think locating him in that census would be a key to finding out more about him. But where was he in that year? Or perhaps the key is to locate him in Battle Creek directories to determine when he was there, hoping that the span covers a census year and provides an address. I’ve dug around in the Calhoun County census records for a number of years today but had no luck finding him. If he married and has descendants, someone must have heard stories of "grandpa" making violins . , , Perhaps a few posts on some genealogy message boards would yield a clue. Or perhaps VC Squier's company kept employee records . . . Or perhaps an obituary search of Battle Creek newspapers will mention him. We just need that one clue that will help us find him in a census so we can go from there.

I’ll keep thinking . . .


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