A Charlestown Fiddle-box

A couple weeks ago, I bought a collection of old violins and violin bows. Only one violin was in a case. Inside the case I found a handwritten note stating the case was made by George S. Bond of Charlestown, New Hampshire.

It’s a wooden violin case typical of the many cases made in this country in the late 1800s. When I turned the case over I noticed a maker’s brand on the bottom. It’s a circular brand with the conjoined letters, ‘GSB’ in the center. Surrounding this brand is, ‘Original’ and ‘Improved.’ Below this is ‘Trademark.’

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George S. Bond violin case or what was known as a fiddlebox. Photo by Ron Patch.

Wanting to know more I contacted the Charlestown Historical Society. I went over on Friday the 13th and met with Marge Reed. Marge knew Bond’s history and was happy to provide me with information. I found additional information online. Below is some of what I learned about George S. Bond.

George Bond was born in Charlestown on March 2, 1837. George Bond’s ancestors settled in Charlestown about 1765. He was educated in the district schools of Charlestown. When he was seven years old his father died. At about nine years old he went to Fall River, Massachusetts, where he worked for a couple years. He returned to Charlestown and worked five years on area farms in Charlestown and Acworth.

Next he went to Brockton, Massachusetts where he learned the shoe finishing business, remaining there until he was eighteen years old. George next went to Syracuse, N.Y., where he worked at this trade for another two years. Returning to Charlestown in 1856 he began the tinsmith trade. He then went to Putney, Vermont, where he worked for four years as a tinsmith. In 1865 he bought out the tin shop of W. B. Downer and ran this business for fifteen years.

 

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George Bondmark letterhead trademark. Photo provided by Charlestown Historical Society.

Next he purchased the violin case factory already established in Charlestown. There wasn’t much work at first just enough for one employee but the business rapidly grew under his management. As a result he found it necessary to enlarge the factory. In 1893 he had forty employees and was using a fifty horsepower steam engine to power his factory. When the factory burned in 1893 he immediately rebuilt it.

Eleven weeks later George’s new factory was up and running. This new factory had a sixty horsepower steam engine. This factory was said to be the best equipped factory of its kind in the world. Bond produced twenty-four dozen violin cases per day. These numbers were previously unheard of.

One item I found interesting is from the 1904 Charlestown Chronicle: “A few years ago, a soldier returning from the Philippines brought with him a violin case that he purchased there, and on examination it proved to have been made in this shop. Mr. Bond immediately purchased it, and retains it as a ‘valued possession.”

I’ll keep my eyes open for this valued possession. If it still exists it would have some sort of identification as to it being the Philippine violin case, probably a handwritten note.

In 1876, Bond was on the Board of Trustees and a member of the Finance Committee of the Connecticut River Savings Bank; in 1891 he was chosen as Director of the Connecticut River National Bank; and in 1896 was elected President. He served on the School Board for several years and was a delegate to Concord in the Constitutional Convention in 1889.

Because of the vast numbers of violin cases Bond produced they are plentiful today and very inexpensive. Next time you see a violin case at a tag sale or antiques shop, turn it over and look for his maker’s mark on the bottom. Buy local.

 

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George Bond Fiddle-box Factory. Photo provided by Charlestown Historical Society.

The Charlestown Historical Society has a new home in the historic brick Bakery Building on Main Street. They are open year round on Mondays and Fridays from 9 am until noon. This was my first visit to the new location. It’s very well organized with a nice display. Stop by and check it out. The volunteers are very friendly and knowledgeable.

The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Wednesday, July 25 at 7 p.m. at the Academy Building on Main Street in Chester. Note the date change.

The monthly slide show will be about 30 slides of potential photos for the 2019 CHS calendar. This is where members select photos to be included in the calendar. It’s a lot of fun. All are welcome.

 

  This week’s old saying my mother used when drastic action was required. “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

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