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Old 01-13-2011, 08:24 PM
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Default "Salvadore De Durro" / B&J New York

Hello everyone! Folks over at TalkBass directed me to this forum because of this specific thread on Czech shop/factory basses; looks like a fantastic place! I wanted to post some details about my early 20th c. Czech factory bass with two goals in mind:
  1. Provide details for others to compare their instruments and for general research
  2. See if forum members could provide me with additional info about my bass
The bass isn't for sale; I've owned it for nearly 20 years and I will probably keep it forever. It's a fully carved, round back bass with violin corners that underwent a complete restoration in 1998-2000. Here's a decent photo (details below the photo if you are still interested after seeing it):



Probable Origin
  • This bass was imported by Buegeleisen & Jacobson (B&J New York) in the late teens or early twenties of the 20th century. B&J was a music "jobber" with a mail order catalog for all kinds of instruments, including violin family instruments, guitars, banjos, ukes, etc.
  • Salvadore De Durro is a made-up name, not a real maker. It was the import brand of B&J, which sold all kinds of factory violin family instruments and strings under this label.
  • The bass was probably built in the Schönbach/Luby area on the border of modern-day Germany and the Czech Republic.
  • It was originally thought to date from 1911, but this cannot be correct. Because a label inside the bass says "Made in Czechoslovakia," it must post date the end of WWI, making its earliest date of manufacture 1918.
  • The mid-grade quality of the wood and the round back place it in the nicer-than-average category of "shop" or "factory" bass made for the American export market

Current Owner
  • I purchased this instrument during grad school from Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI in 1992
  • The bass was in playable yet deplorable shape when I bought it; several amateur refinishing/repair attempts had been made. The top was deeply sunken in the upper bout, and the bass bar was broken. Open cracks were filled with globs of boat epoxy; dark, botched varnish attempts were dripped all over the top. The thing was ugly, so I got it for a song
  • I played the bass in an old-time string band for several years while I saved up for a full restoration.
  • A complete top-off restoration was performed by White Bros. String Shop in 1998-2000. Ribs were shortened, fill wood was added, the top was re-arched, all rib and top cracks were properly repaired, and a new reddish brown varnish was applied. The restoration was high quality, yet not top quality, and I have been very pleased with the work
  • It's been a very stable bass since the restoration; stays in tune very well and does not behave much differently from season to season
  • The action is fairly high (I play mostly string band music, though I do love and aspire to jazz pizzicato playing). I am considering bridge adjusters and a fingerboard planing job by a local luthier if I continue to think about jazz playing
  • I love this bass. It has a rich, dark tone and is plenty loud. It's not a "fine" or "spectacular" instrument by a famous maker, but it's the perfect bass for me and how I play. I can't imagine that I would become a good enough player to warrant anything better.
So, that's it. Again, my hope is that some of the info I have gleaned about this bass over the years may help someone trying to identify their instrument. I would also love to hear from anyone on the forum that may have additional information about my bass, B&J, or general shape/design/style of the instrument. Perhaps you've seen others like it, perhaps you have some additional insight about its origin, etc. A few additional photos of the bass and a couple of images regarding B&J appear below.

Also, someone on TalkBass mentioned that this bass has a French cello outline. What does that mean?

Thanks in advance,

Steve

Additional Photos


The label inside the bass.


A 1915-1916 B&J Catalog


A 1907 B&J ad from the Music Trade Review


Purfling on the back


Moderate flame on the back and sides

Before Photos (UGLY--you have been warned)


Only shot I have of the thing that shows what it looked like when I bought it. You can see the shiny boat epoxy all over the thing. Yeeeuch! That Scottie dog really needs a haircut, too!


Varnish removal


The carved back was in fairly decent shape


Close up of a newspaper photo. Ouch! The boat epoxy/varnish was nearly 1/4 thick in places. I can't believe I played it that way for nearly 6 years!
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  #2  
Old 01-13-2011, 09:14 PM
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Lightbulb well..

I read this over on TB and you are right about the made in Czech. part but I doubt the day the war ended this bass was made and shipped. It might have taken a year or two to get things made, find customers like B&J and make new business arrangements. Also, the needed money to be in business and America was not in the best of Shape either.

A few of the other Importers then included The Juzeks in NY, Grossman co. in Cleveland and even Sears and Wurlitzer for basses. I am sure there are others. Juzek bough the basses from the Czech side of the German/Czech border near Schoenbach and Markneukirchin. Who actually made what and where? Your guess is as good as mine. The Wilfer Family made basses for several generations as did Dolling, Meyer, Saumer, Hoffmann, Neuner & Hornsteiner in the south, Hofner and Framus. I just got a bass by a maker named Wilhelm Uebel. If not for another member here posting an identical bass with his label as mind didn't have one, I would not have known who he was. The Uebel is an older Gamba shape (no violin corners) with a round back and dates from before 1900. My bass was previously sold as French by a big famous shop in NY. This was a careless mistake as the name of the maker was written on the underside of the Tailpiece from an old repair session decades ago. They just had to look.. lol.. Also, with outer linings and that varnish, it is 100% German. That bass is not yet on the site but it's twin was posted here not long ago.

For that German/French model/styling there are several basses posted in both German and French basses as to what they are. I brokered a bass not long ago to Phil Maneri that was sold it's last 2x as a French bass. Then I broke the news that it was German and probably from this same area or slightly north as I have even seen claims of basses from Berlin of this same style.

Here's Phil's bass before he bought it. The line around the top and back with or without the Purfling running with it or not. Most German basses of this style have a round/carved back as it was the nicer Vuillaume copy French model. Actually, I can't recall a single French model like this with a flat back from Germany.

Here is a real Vuillaume style French bass but this one with a flat back in a similar style. This maker however worked mostly in Belgium. In France these were made for over half a century and probably as many round backs as flat backs as this was a normal model for that country.

On the German, the outer linings give it away. On the French, the scroll, varnish and gears usually tell a story on their own.



On the back of these basses, that false button on the French bass is typical French whereas I have never seen the Germans bother with it in their copy.

That purfled design on your back is similar to many basses I have seen by Wilfer BUT, the black lines are much thicker so not Wilfer as far as the Juzek style basses.
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Old 01-14-2011, 12:23 AM
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Default Thanks!

Thanks so much, Ken, for all that great info! Yes, I don't imagine that the bass would have been made right after WWI--that's why I said the earliest it could have been made is in 1918, but probably later in the 20s. That said, I imagine the "Made in Czechoslovakia" label was put in by B&J in NYC, right? The label is in English after all. It's such a tiny piece of paper (and separate from the B&J label) that I had never seen it until this month! The guy who did my restoration was so sure it was from about 1911. I thought it was turning 100 this year until I found that damn label!

Thanks also for the info on purfling and shape. One thing I notice is the basses you show have the wider bouts that I have seen on other German/Czech factory basses. Mine is slimmer and always reminded me of the shape of the J. B. Gabrielli 1790 on page 94-95 of the Elgar book (I still have an old photocopy of that from the MSU library).



Not exactly the same geometry, but more similar. The Gabrielli is slimmer than mine by about an inch across all dimensions and the lower bout is much more round at the bottom. For posterity and the future utility of this post, here are my approx. measurements:

Upper Bout: 19 1/2"
Center Bout: 15"
Bottom Bout: 25 1/2"
Rib Depth: 8 1/4" (6 7/8" at Neck)
Belly Length: 43 1/2
String Length: 41" (bridge is high--should probably be 41 1/2")

So again, thanks a million! I hope uploading info about my bass adds to the collective info on this Czech bass thread. If anyone reading this now or in the future has had contact with a similar instrument, please post something here. Thanks!

Steve

P.S. I'm not sure if the tuning machines are of any help in dating/describing these basses, but mine are identical in every way to these (the photo, however, is from another bass).

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Old 01-14-2011, 01:38 AM
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Cool ok..

The Made In' was required for export in the language of the Country it was going to. USA was a huge consumer so they had the spelling figured out in advance!

The Tuners look good for between the wars as does the bass. Many 19th century Orchestra basses made in Germany have much wider lower bouts. Your bass is the later smaller design across the bottom.

It looks like a nice bass so enjoy it as you have in the past.
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Old 01-14-2011, 01:46 AM
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Wink address..

That place B & J was at 113-115 University Place. I lived for 17 years on 13th and University pl.. This place is between 12th and 13th street. It was right across the street from where Stromboli's pizza is now. It's less than 100 feet door to door from my old apartment building. Go figure.. lol
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Old 01-14-2011, 11:58 AM
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Default Buegeleisen & Jacobson

Thanks again, Ken! Yes, B&J were at that location as early as 1904; here's a clip I found from the Music Trade Review from that year announcing their "third complete catalogue to the trade." Elderly Instruments in Lansing, where I worked as a college student, has a reprint of the B&J 1915-1916 catalog for $12. Might be cool to have.

I love the bass and was just joking about the age. I don't care how old it is--it's perfect for me and I love it. To round out the discussion, here are some current mugshots of the front, back, and sides.

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Old 01-14-2011, 12:27 PM
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Cool great..

Also, one more difference between French and German of a similar model is the upper bout back bend. A French bass will bend from the corner block to the neck gradually. A German bass will bend steeply half way up with an angle cut, flat or round back. If it's not bent and has outer linings, it's German. I have seen so many Hawkes basses claiming to be French because the dealer over charged and called it French that were 100% typical German work and nothing at all like a French bass. Just nice grade German work so they sell it as French. Fraud in my book. Buyer beware!

So outer linings and/or angle bent back = German as opposed to French. Italian and English basses might have some of this too but they are usually obvious as not being German or French, usually.

Quote:
Elderly Instruments in Lansing, where I worked as a college student, has a reprint of the B&J 1915-1916 catalog for $12. Might be cool to have.
Oh, I should have this? I think you should as you have the bass, no?.. .. Hey, if one shows up in the mail as a gift, I will give it a good home!
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Old 01-14-2011, 01:38 PM
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
Oh, I should have this? I think you should as you have the bass, no?.. .. Hey, if one shows up in the mail as a gift, I will give it a good home!
Yeah, I meant me, but since you mention it... watch your mail.

Thanks again for all the info.

Steve
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Old 01-14-2011, 03:31 PM
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Robinson View Post
Yeah, I meant me, but since you mention it... watch your mail.

Thanks again for all the info.

Steve
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:39 PM
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Default music production during WWI

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
... I doubt the day the war ended this bass was made and shipped. It might have taken a year or two to get things made, find customers like B&J and make new business arrangements.
Ken--I thought of your comment above when I came across this quote by Samuel Buegeleisen (the B of B&J @ 113-115 University Place, NYC). I found this in a 1915 edition of the Music Trade Review:
"Even should the war end to-morrow, there is no question but that there will be a tremendous scarcity of musical merchandise this fall. When hostilities cease there will be a necessary readjustment of all conditions, due to the loss of so many workmen from the ranks of musical merchandise workers. In normal times, when a skilled employee forsakes the industry for personal reasons, it is extremely difficult to adequately replace him, and one can conjecture what the conditions will be after the war has ended and so many of the best mechanics who have fought at the front never return."
Samuel Bugeleisen, Music Trade Review 1915
I thought you'd get a kick out of just how correct you were, right from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The catalog he discusses later in the article is the one I'll be sending you. Here's a photo of Mr. B from that same publication.

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Old 01-15-2011, 05:05 PM
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Thumbs up also..

I was talking one day to Peter Eibert who worked just before and during the 2nd war for Heinrich Lang and moved in the 60s to NY and worked for Juzek. He told me that after the war (II) Robert Juzek (brother of John) made contracts directly will all the workers that had moved from Shoenbach(CZ) to Beubenruth(GR) to avoid Communist rule. In doing that, his brother John, still there in Czech I think was left out of the business for good. R.Juzek supported the workers of the Wilfer shop, sent them clothing, blue jeans and money to get back to life and business and make them some Basses. I don't know where the Violins thru Cellos came from but probably the same group of people but Wenzle B. Wilfer was the head of the Wilfer firm after the War and I only see his name on basses. I had seen older Basses and Cellos from the 30s by Anton Wilfer. So, yes, nothing rebuilds itself overnight. It takes some time.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:40 AM
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Default Music Trade Review 1903-1925 / quotes & images



from a 1903 edition of the Music Trade Review.

In the event some future reader of this thread discovers a "Salvadore De Durro" label, here is a long list of direct quotes from the trade publication Music Trade Review that I discovered recently. Samuel Buegeleisen was a regular contributor/subject of this publication, which contains a great deal of information about the marketing hype surrounding "Salvadore de Durro, the famous manufacturer of Liepzig, Germany." I'm no expert, but it's my guess that much of this is marketing hyperbole if not outright fiction. It is interesting, though, and gives a little window to the music marketing practices of the time. Early on, B&J had a contest for crafting a marketing message; another passage outlines how a real person in NYC named his son in honor of the "violin maker," who is also called the "Stradivarius of the twentieth century." Below the quotes are some interesting images, including one of the NYC building that housed B&J for many years (still standing and now the home of Amalgamated Lithographers of America). Enjoy if you're interested and ignore if you ain't.

Note: the MTR scans are available from The International Arcade Museum, and were scanned/digitized with support from NAMM.

Quotes that mention "Salvadore de Durro" from the Music Trade Review 1903-1925

Quote:
“See that the label bearing the fac-similie signature of Salvadore de Durro, etc., is on each violin; otherwise it is not the genuine article.” 1903

“Signor Savadore de Durro, through his representatives Buegeleisen & Jacobson, 16 East Seventeenth Street, New York, has adopted a novel way of securing an advertizing phrase to exploit his violins and strings--offering a $100 violin, the particulars of which appear on another page of The Review... Salvadore de Durro is spoken of by European artists as the Stradivarius of the twentieth century. His instruments are used in the leading conservatories throughout Europe, where the finest artists of the world receive their finishing studies. Artists of the type of Bakelik and other celebrities have graduated from these institutions.” 1903

“The accompanying portrait is that of Benhahan Durro Strasburger, two-year-old son of a very fine amateur violinist of New York, and who highly endorses the artistic excellence and musical possibilities of the Durro violin. The son here pictured was name in honor of Salvadore de Durro, the famous manufacturer, of Liepzig, Germany... As a matter of fact, many of the Durro violins are now in the possession of artists in the leading orchestras of the country, such as Victor Herbert's New York Orchestra, the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House, Theodore Thomas' Chicago Orchestra and others all of whom speak in the highest terms of the violins which seems destined to cut an influential figure in the musical merchandise business of America.” 1904

“The high art violins made by Salvadore de Durro need no introduction. These instruments are now and have been for a long time used in the leading conservatories throughout Europe and have wond high favor among the leading artists of this country.” 1905

“Buegeleisen & Jacobsen, New York, are just advised by Salvadore de Durro, so they state to The Review, that he has an order for a Durro from the violin instructor to the Archduke Antoine and Archduchess Assurta, children of the Archduke Leopold Salvator of Austria. The royal children are taking violin lessons, and their instructor, a notable Austrian virtuoso, said he was so much pleased with the pure tone of his own Durro violin that he wished to give the royal students the correct idea of tone at the outset. Royal families are quite partial to the Durro violins, they added, probably taking the cue from the eminent soloists who play before them.” 1907

“He writes his customer was explicit in demanding a Durro, as he had known the maker in the old country and felt sure anything turned out by Salvadore De Durro is the equal of any respectable old violin and far better than many... This gentleman claims he would rather have his Durro violin than most old violins parading around these days.” 1908

“Arrangements have been made to extend the Durro campaign to every nook and corner of the country, so that violinists, present and future, may know of what the firm describe as ‘the distinctive superiority of the master violins produced by Europe's leading violin craftsman, Salvadore de Durro.’” 1908

“Indeed, the demand for Durro violins, our leading violin line, has increased to an extent that has permitted the addition to the staff of Salvadore de Durro a number of violin craftsmen than whoe there are few equals among those pre-eminent in the art. The result of this acquisition is that Durro violins, while their superiority was always conceded, were never so good in tonal qualities, workmanship and finish as right now.” 1908

“Salvadore Durro for the last three years has given his personal attention to a study of the old masters, owning Strads, Klotz's and other famous makes. With these as models he has reproduced the superb tonal qualities of the original so that even expert musicians cannot tell the difference. In appearance, too, the difference is difficult to distinguish.” 1910

“Buegeleisen & Jacobson, of 5-7-9 Union square, New York, jobbers in the musical merchandise, have received a large shipment of the justly celebrated Durro master violins. These instruments are made and finished by that master craftsman, Salvadore de Durro, personally. The models are copied from genuine old instruments, following their originals to the minutest detail in every particular.” 1920

“There is much romancing, both in fiction and in science, about the soul of the violin. Sentimentalists are sure that some violins have a soul. Scientists test the wood, the varnish, the construction and the age, but artists throughout the world recognize that the great craftsman, Salvadore de Durro, has succeeded for years in capturing that mellow soul-stirring quality of the old Italian masters in the just celebrated Durro Violins.” 1921

“Artists throught the world recognize that the great craftsman, Salvadore de Durro, has succeeded for years in capturing that mellow, soul-stirring quality of the old Italian Masters--in the justly celebrated Durro Violins.” 1921

“DURRO VIOLINS made under the personal supervision of the Master Craftsman Salvadore de Durro, from the finest rare old woods, are exact copies of the instruments made by the old masters and artists throughout the world agree that they have the mellow soul-stirring quality found in the famous old violins.” 1925
Advertisements & Notable Images Concerning "Durro" Violins, Music Trade Review 1903-1925.









This is the portrait of Benhahan Durro Strasburger, mentioned in the 1904 quote above.


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Old 01-26-2011, 12:20 AM
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Default Dang!

Hey Ken... the catalog reprint I ordered for you arrived (I wanted a peek before I sent it on). The bad news is that it's only a partial reprint and does not contain any violin family instruments, let alone basses. My pals at Elderly put me in touch with their vendor, who is putting me in touch with the owner of the original catalog. I still hope to find out what B&J was putting in their catalog as available instruments.

I'd love to send you the reprint if you still want it, but it only has mandolins, guitars, and banjos in it. Still want it? It's yours if you do.

This place has some images from a slightly earlier B&J catalog, and one page has the Durro violin line. Man, I want to see what they were telling people about the available basses.

Steve

P.S. You mentioned you lived near the B&J building. It's still there; here's a shot of what it looked like then:

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Old 01-26-2011, 01:36 AM
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Thumbs up wow..

My building was diagonally across coming at you. That is the south east corner. I was on the north west corner. I think it's the same building but never looked up at it. My Apartment building was probably just dirt then.. lol

The Car you see is coming up University Place. The cross street is 13th looking eastward.

It's up to you. As you say, not much to look at. Save the stamps for now but thanks for the effort.
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Old 01-29-2011, 01:39 PM
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Default ...got it!

Found some additional information about the Czech basses imported by B&J; I'm posting it here because I thought you might find it useful or interesting. And special thanks to Ken for your history and help with identification. I hope I get to visit your shop one day and buy something from you.






--Steve

Last edited by Steve Robinson; 01-29-2011 at 07:40 PM.
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