George Gemünder Portrait

George Gemünder Portrait

George Gemünder


August and George Gemünder pioneered high-quality violin making and trading in the United States and were responsible for establishing violin making as a respected craft in the U.S. and also for facilitating the flow of classical violins into the country.


Although the first European bow instruments likely arrived in British North America during the early period of settlement, it was not until the late eighteenth century that professional bow instrument making began in the United States (with a few notable exceptions like that of John Antes, who built a violin in the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Colony, in 1759). Bow instruments such as fiddles, cellos, and violins were found throughout the United States by the post-Revolutionary era, but the vast majority of these instruments were imported from Europe and varied widely in quality. During the early decades of the nineteenth century, a growing demand for European-style musical performance resulted in the establishment of symphony orchestras in a number of cities, which required professional luthiers that worked according to European standards.[1] Immigrants August (born March 22, 1814 in Ingelfingen, Kingdom of Württemberg; died January 15, 1899, New York City, NY) and Georg Gemünder (born April 13, 1816 in Ingelfingen, Kingdom of Württemberg; died January 15, 1899, New York City, NY) stepped into this role as pioneers of high-quality violin making and trading in the United States.[2] The Gemünder brothers were responsible for establishing violin making as a respected craft in the U.S. and also for facilitating the flow of classical violins into the country, bringing a “European sophistication to what had previously been a folk art.”[3] In other words, the Gemünder brothers shifted American bow instrument making from the fiddle to the violin. Theirs is a story that begins in the community of Ingelfingen in the southern German kingdom of Württemberg, from whence the brothers August Martin, Georg, and Albert parted, pursuing different professional routes all of which eventually converged in New York City, the booming musical capital of the United States.[4]

Family and Ethnic Background

The Gemünder saga starts with Johann Georg Heinrich Gemünder (1782-1836), a small-time violin maker from Ingelfingen, the town that until 1805 had been the residence of the prince of Hohenlohe. That year, the court moved to the city of Öfringen due to dynastic reasons and the Napoleonic Wars. The relocation of court members and civil servants caused a significant economic downturn in Ingelfingen, so much so that in the following years many of its citizens emigrated to the United Kingdom and the United States.[5] We may thus assume that the Gemünders were familiarized with emigration from the region at an early age.

Despite the court’s transfer to Öfringen, Johann Gemünder remained in charge of maintaining and repairing the prince’s notable collection of bow instruments. It is not clear whether he worked for the prince only occasionally or indeed reached the distinction of “violin maker of the court,” as is frequently stated in reference sources. Neither do we know what his own instruments may have looked like, although it is quite likely that they were of a “conventional German or Saxon style, influenced by the [Jakob] Stainer design and rather primitive in comparison to what had been created in Cremona [in northern Italy] a century earlier.”[6] In later years, his son Georg claimed that his father lacked any artistic understanding of the craft.[7]

Johann Georg’s three sons—August Martin Ludwig, Johann Georg, and Albert—assisted him in his workshop until his death in 1835. In 1828, when August was fourteen years old, his father received from the Prince of Hohenlohe a quartet of string instruments made by Stradivari[8], which needed to be reviewed and adjusted. This provided an opportunity for August and his brothers to familiarize themselves with the details of the craftsmanship of the most outstanding Cremonese luthier.[9] Following their father’s death, August, as the oldest son, took over the family business. He maintained the business until 1839 when he established a shop of his own in Regensburg, Kingdom of Bavaria. In the meantime, Albert left the shop and became an organ builder. August’s new firm seems not to have been very successful, because he moved away from Regenburg and settled in a number of different German towns over the next few years. [10]

Georg, the second son of Johann Gemünder, was supposed to become a schoolmaster, but he quit the seminary after only three weeks. He then started to learn the craftsmanship of a bow instruments maker in his father’s firm.[11] After Johann Gemünder’s death in 1835, Georg’s journeyman travels took him to Pest, Presburg, Vienna, and Munich. Although in his autobiography he does not mention any employers by name, it is likely that Johann Baptist Schweitzer and Peter Teufelsdorfer, among others in Pest, and Johann Martin Stoss and Johann Georg Stauffer in Vienna, all noteworthy luthiers of this period, may have been among his teachers.[12] A short stay in Strasbourg, where he had erroneously accepted an offer to work at a manufacturer of musical instruments that turned out to produce no bow instruments at all, only brass ones, was the prelude to a three-year apprenticeship with Jean Batiste Vuillaume (1798-1875), one of the most influential luthiers of the nineteenth century.[13] Georg Gemünder was one of a small handful of Vuillaume’s craftsmen who were not French and the apprenticeship almost ended before it began when Vuillaume found out that, unlike he had expected, Gemünder spoke no French.[14] Georg was already an experienced craftsman when he began employment in Paris, but now he worked for a master he truly admired. While at Vuillaume’s in Paris, Gemünder had direct contact with the choicest Italian instruments and came to appreciate the tradition of Italian—mainly Cremonese—violin making. He adopted Vuillaume’s copying techniques for new instruments and also learned the finest restoration methods of the time.[15] Vuillaume’s influence on Georg Gemünder cannot be emphasized enough, as shown by the fact that the arching, fluting, f-holes, purfling, and edgework of his own instruments were to be defined as “the French interpretation of Stradivarius’ work at that time.”[16] Many years later, Gemünder would list “Pupil of Vuillaume of Paris” on his professional letterhead. In Gemünder’s view, the apprenticeship with Vuillaume (who had been a disciple of the famous luthier Nicolas Lupot) linked him with the famous Stradivari, as he considered Lupot to belong to the former’s school.[17] This was not very accurate, as Lupot, while he was considered “the French Stradivari” due to his skills at copying the Stradivari pattern, had never actually studied with Stradivari.[18] Nevertheless, Georg Gemünder did not hesitate to embellish reality if it produced good publicity for his own business activities.

While apprenticing with Vuillaume, Gemünder not only refined his aptitude as a violin maker and developed his skills at copying the old master’s instruments, he also used the opportunity to get to know many famous musicians who frequented Vuillaume’s Paris Shop, notably the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. The following anecdote regarding this encounter is frequently quoted, and was often repeated by Gemünder himself:

On the return of Ole Bull from America, in 1845, that distinguished performer brought his wonderful Caspar da Salo violin to Vuillaume to be repaired, and requested the latter to do the work himself, as it was something about which he was very particular; but Vuillaume answered that he had a German in his workshop who could do it better than he. Impelled by curiosity to become acquainted with this German, he asked to be shown to the place. After some conversations, Gemünder undertook the repairing of the violin and completed it in [a] masterly manner….[19]

Another relevant anecdote recalled by Gemünder about his time with Vuillaume is worth noting:

One day Vuillaume handed Gemünder a violin, with the remark that he wished him to do his best work in repairing it, for a gentleman from Russia had sent it. Vuillaume especially called Gemünder’s attention to a certain place in the back which was to be repaired, which was almost invisible, and he gave [Georg] Gemünder a magnifying glass for his assistance, but Gemünder returned it, saying that he could do better with his naked eyes, and when finished Vuillaume might examine it with the glass. When completed, the work proved to be all that Vuillaume had wished…[20]

The most important skill that Gemünder learned from Vuillaume, however, was the art of managing an extended violin shop system. Vuillaume presented “a rare combination of single-minded ambition, craftsmanship, intelligence, and entrepreneurial skill.”[21] In pure business terms, he probably was the most successful luthier in history, Stradivari not excepted, always working on imaginative and innovative ways of improving production.[22] First of all, Vuillaume always hired the most talented workers available, many of them from his native Mirecourt, a traditional center of luthiery.[23] Second, he organized them in such a way as to guarantee that they produced systemized, consistently high quality violins that were so homogenously finished and varnished as to appear to be the work of a single individual—Vuillaume himself—who, as master of the shop, labeled each instrument with his own name.[24] Third, he was known for his disposition to buy at nearly any price all the old wood—whatever its origin—that might be suitable for his instruments.[25] Forth, and most important, was his decision, from 1827 onward, to make instruments with an “antiqued finish” in imitation of the great Cremonese instruments—whose technical characteristics he had studied in depth—and which, due to a rapidly increasing demand, were quickly rising in price.[26] The results from conjoining these four factors were instruments of superb finish and quality.[27] Later, Georg Gemünder utilized exactly the same business strategy to build a successful violin making business in the United States.

Towards the end of 1847, when Georg was in the fourth year of his apprenticeship with Vuillaume, his two brothers August and Albert, who had both immigrated to the United States the previous year, invited him to join them there. Interest in European music was growing and they intended to benefit from this trend by giving concerts (Georg seems to have been a quite good musician).[28] It is not clear what might have pushed Georg to leave Vuillaume before the end of his apprenticeship—Gemünder himself cites the jealousy of his colleagues, although his difficult character and growing ego might also have been a factor, and other sources affirm that he was advised to do so by Ole Bull himself—but he accepted his brothers’ invitation and left Paris for the United States. [29] Vuillaume, who had foiled an earlier attempt by Gemünder to immigrate to the United States by arguing that it would be a pity to waste such a talent in the U.S., could not talk him out of leaving this time. They parted on excellent terms, and for the rest of his life Gemünder expressed admiration and respect for his former teacher.[30] He later hung a signed photograph of Vuillaume, inscribed “A son ami G. Gemünder, 27, Aout, 1866” in a prominent place in his Astoria, Queens, as well as a certificate of the first premium at the London Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 signed “[Prince] Albert.”[31]

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

On November 4, 1847, Georg (soon anglicized to George, although he would never drop the umlaut in his surname, even when he became a U.S. citizen in 1884) arrived at Springfield, Massachusetts, and joined his brothers August Martin and Albert.[32] Once reunited, their agent arranged several concerts, engaging an additional musician to form an instrumental quartet (consisting of a clarinet, a violin, a flute, and a bass guitar). If we believe Gemünder’s autobiography, the quartet seems to have caused a noticeable impact, the performance venues being mostly filled.[33] Yet, as none of the musicians received any of the proceeds from the concerts, the Gemünder brothers soon realized that they had trusted their agent too much and quit the job.[34] According to other sources, the trouble was due to the American audience, which failed to fully appreciate the Gemünder brother’s musical talent, so that the quartet proved unprofitable. At any rate, the quartet soon disbanded, and by 1848 August and Albert had resumed organ building, first in Springfield, later in Boston, earning widespread recognition for their instruments.[35]

After the quartet disbanded, George Gemünder, who spoke very little English, had no choice but to resume his career as a violin maker. With a starting capital of $25 (approximately $735 in 2011$) that he borrowed from a friend, he established himself in Boston, where he produced violins for $50 apiece (approximately $1,470 in 2011$) and made repairs at low prices.[36] Despite these inexpensive prices, George’s surviving violins from the period are excellently crafted, in keeping with the high standard he had learned with Vuillaume, and utilize the transparent varnish that would become one of his trademarks for the rest of his career.[37] Although it is likely that violin repairs were George Gemünder’s most important source of income at the time, he considered himself above all a luthier, as exemplified by the fact that he sent a quartet of bow instruments (in imitation of Stradivari) and two violins (one in a Joseph Guarneri pattern, another one build after Nicolas Amati) for examination to the Great Exhibition of 1851, Prince Albert’s international celebration of technology and design at the Crystal Palace in London.[38] At the same time, having reached the conclusion that Boston—despite being a wealthy city and an important point of entry for a constant stream of European immigrants —was too small a market, since his business was not proving sufficiently lucrative, George decided to move New York, a choice that would be crucial for his and his brother’s future careers. [39]

Business Development

By the time George arrived in New York, the city had become the musical capital of the U.S., due in large part to the significant number of German immigrants who had settled there. George established himself in Lower Manhattan, and likely achieved business success quickly, as New York had the only professional orchestra in the nation at the time, and thus attracted many professional soloists from inside and outside the country. As New York City and the Germans(1924) noted:

It is doubtful whether we should have had such musical organizations as we have in New York if it were not for the German love of music. The Philharmonic Society was founded in 1842 by Germans. As early as 1880 there were sixty Gesangsvereine in the city. Beethoven’s Fidelio was produced for the first time in 1856, Wagner as early as 1888. Most of the great orchestral and operatic conductors of the city—such as Alfred Hertz, Leopold Damrosch, Francis Ahrens, etc.—were Germans [as were] up to 1880 virtually all the musicians of the city….[40]

In addition, New York’s nouveau riche, much like their European counterparts, began to develop a taste for fine violins. Even more importantly, at the time there were no violin makers in town that could compete with Gemünder for quality and price.[41]

George’s arrival in New York was accompanied by some good news: the six instruments he had sent to the London Exhibition eighteen months earlier had won top honors (including a first prize) after having been examined by Louis Spohr, Sigismund Thalberg, Henri Vieuxtemps, and other eminent authorities.[42] George’s fame was boosted when he learned that he had received the maximum distinction, the first of many to come over the following years. He later received medals from the international exhibitions held in Paris (1867), New York (1870), Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876 “hors concours”), Amsterdam (1883), Nice (1883-1885), London (1884), New Orleans (1884-1885“hors concours”), and London (1885).[43] Out of all of the exhibitions he entered, It is worth commenting on an incident that occurred during the Vienna Exhibition of 1873 to which he sent six violins, among them the “Wilhelmj” (a large Stradivarian model varnished golden-red) and another—very outstanding—violin to compete for a prize bestowed to the best imitation. This violin, built after a Guarneri pattern, was called “Kaiser” (Emperor) and was, apparently, offered for sale by Gemünder for the incredible price of $10,000 (approximately $194,000 in 2011$)[44] The violin imitated the original so well that many judges considered it genuine, accusing Gemünder of having presented a real Guarnieri on which he had placed his own label, thus preventing him—although it did receive the highest recommendations—from obtaining the first prize![45] The jury argued that the violin lacked the “typical sound of a new violin, sounding instead warm and mellow.”[46] George’s continuous participation in major European exhibitions reveals two things: first, that the standard for quality violin making was still perceived to be in the Old World; and second, that he was highly ambitious and had a lifelong need for public affirmation, both from American and European experts.[47]

Returning to 1852, around the time Gemünder received his instruments back from the London Exposition, he learned that Ole Bull was in the city. As he knew him from Paris, Gemünder arranged a meeting in order to announce that he had established himself in New York and that he had won the prize of the London Exhibition:

Ole Bull was highly astonished at this news, as he said “Vuillaume is the best violin maker, and I have on one of my violins, the best specimen of his workmanship as a repairer.” He thereupon showed Gemünder his Gaspar da Salo. “Here” he said, “look at it, find the place where the repair was made”. But Gemünder replied: “Sir have you completely forgotten that when you went with your violin to Vuillaume, he made you acquainted with a German in his studio, whom he directed to repair this Gaspar da Salo violin, and that this German was myself?” Upon hearing this, a light seemed to break upon his mind, and he exclaimed, “Yes, yes I do remember. Now you shall become in America what Vuillaume is in Europe”.[48]

This appreciation was apparently shared by the famous violinist August Wilhelmj, who, in an obvious exaggeration, called Gemünder the “greatest violin maker of all times!”[49] It was during the 1850s and 1860s that George Gemünder’s business experienced its most rapid growth, gaining international fame and multiplying his fortune (as will be seen in the next section), with more and more musicians seeking his instruments. Among others, the aforementioned Ole Bull, Louis Spohr, and August Wilhelmj can be listed among his admirers.[50] Throughout the 1870s and1880s he cemented his reputation as an outstanding violin maker. During all these years (starting from the 1850s onward), he trained several apprentices, both American and German: the most significant included Anton Siebenhuber of Schonbach, during the 1870s; August Edward Saxter of Coblenz, from 1883 to 1888; and American F.E. Davenport, who assisted him during the 1890s and continued to assist George Jr. after his father died.[51]

One sign of George Gemünder’s success and self-confidence was his decision around 1873 to buy a farm in Astoria (now part of the Borough of Queens), then a relatively remote part of Long Island inhabited mainly by German immigrants.[52] He may have been influenced by the example set by another family of German instrument makers. The Steinway and Sons firm had moved its piano manufacturing facility to Astoria around 1870, founding a colony for its workers known as “Steinway Village”.[53]George seems to have been so convinced about his talent and craftsmanship that he believed his customers would travel willingly the distance between Manhattan and Astoria to visit his shop. He learned the hard way that his logic was wrong and that his shop was, in fact, nearly inaccessible for “normal” New Yorkers. Customers interested in his “top-end” instruments, however, would still willingly travel to Astoria—a distinction that acted as a sort of filter of his clientele, and converted him into the most highly considered luthier in the United States. At the same time, the move meant that he lost a huge part of his income due to the steep decline in the volume of simpler, mass market violins that he sold. Consequently, in 1892 he returned to the city and opened a New York branch in Union Square, which was run by George Jr.[54]

George Gemünder was the subject of several newspaper and journal reports during the 1880s, which is indicative of the attention he attracted due to his luthier skills. For example, in 1885 a correspondent from the New York Tribune visited Gemünder’s Astoria shop, providing a revealing firsthand account of the master:

A walk of half a mile through the sleepy and rather shabby little town brought him to the blind lane, which leads to the instrument’s maker’s house, a plaster covered, two story building, embowed in grape vines, and with a bit of primitive forest in the back. A ring at the door was answered by a blue-eyed young man, with fair hair combed back from his forehead. This is George Gemünder Jr. and he shows the visitor through a hall and into his father’s workshop, a small room, looking out upon the bit of primitive forest, whose leaves are heard to rustle, through the half open window. The shop is full of tools and of specimens of the master’s handiwork, in every step of construction…

The elder Gemünder, sitting at his work-table, with an unfinished instrument in his hands, as his son and visitor enter, is a striking figure. His features are evidently German, and the first words he speaks betray his nationality as plainly. His long grey hair is covered with a blue smoking-cap, and resting on his long beard is a black and glossy meerschaum pipe, with a long cherrywood stem. The instrument that he holds is formed and he is finishing it off with a scraping instrument, glancing it over with a critical eye, until an unfavorable feature strikes him, when he sets to work to remedy the defect…

Another vivid description of Gemünder’s appearance is given by a visitor who wrote for Der Deutsche Pionier:

The way he is sitting there, his shirt sleeved, bowed over his work, does not result very attractive, apparently, there is nothing uncommon in his appearance. But now he looks up. And in fact, the fine mound, pressed together, which tends to a roguishly smile; the think blond beard; the serious and vivid eyes; the high forehead: the whole aspect and the intelligent expression of the noble face, make it clear that we are in front of an unusual craftsman.[55]

In 1889, the Music Trade Review sent a reporter to write an extended article about George Gemünder—by then considered one of America’s leading bow instrument makers—that is worth quoting at length:

[I]n entering the front room one stumbles into a wonderland. Though the master is yet unseen, you are in the presence of the violin. The room is all but lined with show cases, these filled with violins and cellos. In one corner stands a quaint old writing desk and bookcase, strewn with papers and pamphlets. Overhead hangs an unfinished cello, somewhat ghostly in its unvarnished whiteness, Nearly all else is violin. But there is only time for a few hurried glances.

From the workroom beyond comes Gemünder, short and rotund, of greyish white beard and kindly, keen eye. On his head is an embroidered dark velvet skull cap; covering very nearly his whole person is a wooden apron of dark green. Just here there is a faint hint of the old-time workman. Physically, he is a jolly German to-day.

“Certainly”, he cried, with a broad sweep of the arm, when asked if he might be seen at work in his workroom, and he led the way there.

It was an admirably lighted room, but small, as was the cottage itself. The scattered shapes and parts of unfinished instruments made it seem delightfully picturesque and quaint. Gemünder sat down at his working bench and at a higher table adjoining stood or perched himself on stools two of his sons, who assist him in the work. Above the master’s head, on a string running from the top of one window to that of the wall at right angles to it, dangled by their necks some half dozen unfinished violins. On the wall at his back were rows of tools and a framework with strings of bridges. In a low cabinet, resting on the floor at his side, bottles of chemicals untold.…

Not the least interesting part of the work-room is the wood. There was a stick of spruce, cut in 1810, as a penciling on it showed. The most of it had been used for a top. What was left would come into play somewhere and at some time. Corners and shelves of the room were strewn with all sizes and shapes of pieces. Nothing whatever is wasted. The material is procured with too much difficulty and expense for that. In various places, both here and in Europe, are parties entrusted to “picking up” of suitable woods. Gemünder himself keeps a lookout for anything fit, and has the habit of “sounding” with his knuckle whatever wood he may come in contact with.[56]

The good quality of the wood used by Gemünder—who had experimented with all sorts of American woods since he had immigrated to the U.S.—can be considered one of his distinctive characteristics.[57] He combined American wood (which he had first known in Vuillaume’s atelier) that was appreciated for its prominent figuration with seasoned European wood (he obtained an excellent supply of it from his friend Louis Lowenthal).[58] It seems that the spruce he used for his tops came from the beams of an old Dutch church situated at the corner of Fulton and William Streets in Manhattan that had been demolished in 1865.[59] A story is told of Gemünder that, while one night in a nearby Astoria beer-garden, the table at which he was seated gave forth the desired sound. After much negotiation with the proprietor, who was very unwilling to sell, Gemünder finally managed to acquire it and, subsequently, to transform it into instruments. Gemünder’s excursions looking for adequate wood were even noted in the press:

An amateur violin maker of Portland, [Maine], has secured a prize in a spruce beam from an old house at North Yarmouth. The beam has been seasoning for more than one hundred years, and the little thin boards sawn from it give forth the clear mellow sound that is desired in violin stock. [George] Gemünder, the New York maker of violins, was in Portland recently and secured some of the wood.[60]

Another distinctive quality of George’s violins lies in the varnishes he applied. Of an exceptional transparency, it always perfectly matched the wood, enhancing its grain in a way that has to be considered, by any standard, superior.[61] Gemünder was also unusually successful in faithfully reproducing the particular characteristics of the varnishes of the old Italian masters, to the point, already noted, that his own instruments were often mistaken for genuine ones.

Despite his great efforts to locate exceptional wood and craft fine violins, it has to be noted that George Gemünder’s shop occasionally suffered irregularities in quality, producing both excellent instruments and also more flawed ones. It seems that this was the result of the business policy he adopted due to the unwillingness of many customers to pay the high price he demanded for his “fine violins,” which he considered to be among the best instruments available, equal to the one crafted by the Cremonese luthiers. To a friend in New York he declared his decision to “grade his work according to the price offered [as] that is all the ignoramuses deserve.”[62] The result was an extremely variable quality of instruments—reaching from the most superb violins to oversized, sloppy instruments without any distinction—adapted in each case to his customers’ willingness to pay: a perfect example of the “the more you pay, the more you get” principle.

Another issue often discussed by Gemünder’s contemporaries related to his preparation of the wood for his violins. Many believed he was employing techniques to artificially age the wood and that this was the “secret” behind the warm, powerful, silvery, full, and rich tonal quality of his instruments.[63] In fact, Vuillaume and other European luthiers of the time had tried to reach the sought-after tonal quality of the Cremonese violins by artificially aging the wood by chemical treatment.[64] Nevertheless, wood so treated soon lost its resonance, making the instrument worthless. Instead, Gemünder was able to obtain the same desired volume, power, equality, and quickness of tone of the best old masters not by chemical but strictly by physical means.[65]

A final relevant point of George Gemünder’s business strategy was self-publicity. Especially after he had won the first prize in the London Exhibition, he was not shy about advertising his craftsmanship, sometimes to a degree that reached arrogance and overestimation.[66] A good example of this is his 1881 English-language book George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making (of which a German edition had been published a year earlier), which, despite its worthy historical and technical content, was considered by many to be an “overloaded self advertising pamphlet,” and according to Heron-Allen, the celebrated author of Violin Making As It Was and Is (1884), a “cast-iron self-glorification [that] far surpasses the most eloquent lucubrations of the historic Pharisee.”[67] In his response to Heron-Allen’s criticism, Gemünder noted: “It would be better he should see me before he himself should be so conceited. There is no other violin maker who could beat me.”[68] Although Gemünder’s self-promotion was perfectly acceptable by U.S. standards—Joseph Borneman from Chicago was not shy in labeling his violins as “Joseph Borneman / The World Greatest / Musical Instrument Maker“—it was perceived negatively in Europe as “typical American publicity,” which among European musicians and instrument makers harmed Gemünder’s image more than it benefitted him.[69]

George was so convinced about the quality of his craftsmanship that he ignored the need to publicize himself in popular media such as newspapers and journals, preferring instead to rely on his own books and articles for exposure.[70] Conversely, his brother August opted for more thoughtful advertising campaigns and founded a number of professional journals such as the Violin World (which he ran from 1892 onward) and the Violinist (which he started editing in 1900), two publications that served to highlight—though in a more subtle way than his brother’s writings—August’s work and products.[71] The journals included notes on the national and international music world, general information regarding violin history and business, and, of course,specific advertising. These were early examples of corporate publishing that shaped the image of August’s firm and perfectly complemented his elegant catalogues.[72]

As has been previously mentioned, after George Gemünder moved to New York in 1851-1852, his brothers August Martin Ludwig and Albert opened an organ making shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. The business lasted until 1859 when the brothers followed George to New York. By that time George had acquired a solid reputation as a violin maker and August and Albert spent five years working for him in his shop. [73] In 1864 August left the family business and set up his own shop, while Albert apparently continued working with George until 1867, at which time he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he engaged in the manufacture of pipe organs. Few details are known about Albert’s professional life after he moved to Columbus. As an organ maker, he seems to have been held in high public esteem, having built a significant number of organs, notably a much praised example for the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition of New York (the counterpart to the London Exhibition of 1851), although information regarding his work is very scattered.[74] Albert seems to have been a creative and inventive individual, as indicated by the fact that he patented three different devices: one for an improved pipe organ (1852), one for a spring gun for use against wild animals (1858) and one for a propelling device for boats, based on a double-paddle system (1865).[75] It should also be noted that despite working with George, neither August nor Albert claimed to be violin makers. Albert was listed as an organ builder and, briefly, as a piano maker; August as an organ maker and piano tuner.[76] It is only from 1866 onward that August resumed violin making—though now in his own shop.

August was a very qualified craftsman, though to a lesser degree than George, and soon his bow instruments, mainly copies of Starivari and Guarneri, began to acquire a positive reputation. His work attracted the notice of many wealthy amateurs and virtuosi.[77] Several famous musicians used his instruments, although the most important one was likely the acclaimed Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, for whom he built a copy of his Amati that the artist declared to be equal to the original.[78] August was also considered—and by many still is—the best bass maker of the U.S.[79] August’s instruments were described as having a mellow, clear, far-reaching, and pure tone that “resembles as closely as anything [one] can think of the diapason of a great organ”—an astonishing description for someone who, in fact, declared himself to be an organ builder. [80]

Despite producing his own high-quality instruments, August also began dealing in old violins, a market that was booming at the time, thus offering his clients not only excellent copies of instruments by Italian luthiers, but originals as well (a policy also adopted by his brother’s firm). His firm had become one of the largest instrument dealers in New York by the time his children assumed control of it in 1890 (when the firm was renamed “August Gemünder and Sons”).[81] By then, the firm had specialized in so-called “Art Violins”, mostly German violins which were built after a pattern established by August Sr. The instruments were imported unvarnished (“in the white”), taken apart, reworked, and coated with the special “Vibrant” varnish developed by the firm. The simpler violins were labeled either as “Art Violins” and sold for between $200 and $500 (approximately $4,500-$11,000 in 2011$) or as “The Excelsior Violin” (bearing below the inscription: “Made in Germany – Inside construction by August Gemünder and Sons”), which simply meant that they were re-graduated and fitted with a bass bar in the Gemünder shop for an improved tone.[82] Although August Gemünder’s main reason for importing violins was to take advantage of lower production costs overseas, he marketed the line of instruments to the public by promoting them as “traditional” German-made violins improved by the “modern” American Gemünder brand. His higher quality imports (mostly of French origin) bore an “August Gemünder and Sons” label. The company also had the unusual policy of re-varnishing old instruments as they believed the “Vibrant” to be far superior to any other type of varnish.[83]

To a certain degree, August’s business success may have been due to the fact that he was often mistaken for his “famous” brother, a confusion that—reinforced by George’s move to Astoria—benefitted August greatly.[84] (Even today many sources confound biographical details of both brothers). This public confusion became so widespread that George had to advertise that his firm was related to no other firm using the Gemünder name, and that:

In view of the fact, however, that artists, amateurs and lovers of the violin in general, have in many instances been imposed upon by misinterpretations in reference to instruments purporting to be made by “the world renowned Gemünder,” we desire to emphasize that the only instruments to which the term… can justly be applied, are those of heretofore made by George Gemünder and Sons at 27 Union Square, New York City.”[85]

Common to both brothers was a combination of European craftsmanship and luthier techniques with American business strategies and organizational methods. Both Gemünder firms produced a range of instruments of varying quality under a unique brand. European violin makers, by contrast, usually worked in only one market segment. The brothers (and especially their children) also used modern print media to publicize their firms and utilized distribution channels to get their instruments in the hands of consumers. Finally, both reproduced (as well as adapted and improved upon) “classic” Italian—or, better said, French interpretations of classic Italian— bow instrument designs to satisfy the growing demand for this style of instruments in the United States (in addition to importing and reselling modern and vintage violins from Europe).

Social Status and Personality

In 1857 George Gemünder married Anna Maria Kieser (sometimes misspelled Kaiser), a young immigrant from Baden. The family soon began to grow, beginning with George Jr. (born 1858 or 1859), Herman[n] Ludwig (born 1859), Hilda (born ca. 1863), Hannah (born ca. 1865), Augusta (born 1868), Amanda (born 1869) and Otto (born 1871).[86] All of his sons became violin makers and participated in the family business. According to federal census returns, Georg Gemünder enjoyed great prosperity. In 1860 his personal property was valued at $1,000 (approximately $28,000 of 2011$); ten years later, it had risen to $4,000 (approximately $71,000 in 2011$).[87]This growing wealth was the result of the increasing success of his violin business and his growing stature as a craftsman. The price of his violins increased from between $50 and $75 in the 1850s (approximately $1,500-$2,200 in 2011$), to between $100 and $300 twenty years later (approximately $1,800-$5,300 in 2011$), and eventually reached $600 to $750 in the 1880s (approximately $13,600-$17,000 in 2011$)—amounts that amazed many of his visitors.[88] As already noted, during the 1870s he bought a farm in Astoria and commuted from this residence to the New York shop at 174 Ninth Street until 1874, when he also moved the shop to Astoria.[89] The Astoria house was described by a visitor as follows:

From the primitive Astoria Ferry House, a mile up a quiet village street brings one within a stone’s through of the Gemünder cottage. It is gabled, of a pearlish drab, with red shutters, high stooped, hardly to be seen in its mass of wide spreading trees. From within, the trees picturesquely frame the unattractive village.[90]

Despite his difficult personality, George soon became an important part of the New York musical scene.[91]

Like his brother, August married a German immigrant, Henrietta Hippel of Hesse, in 1861. Their first son, August Martin Jr. was born in 1862, followed in 1865 by Rudolph (Friederich), Magdalena Henrietta—known as “Lena”—( born 1867), Charles (born 1870), and Oscar (Henry) born in 1872.[92] All of his children—except Charles, who became a professional pianist—were involved in the family business. August Jr., Rudolph, and Oscar worked as violin makers and managers for the firm. Lena worked in the shop as an administrative assistant. August Sr. established stores in several different locations in New York, each change in location reflecting his increased wealth.[93] At the time of his death in 1895, August Sr. lived in comfort on the Upper East Side and his best violins were sold for around $500 (approximately $13,800 in 2011$). Albert, the youngest brother, married a woman named Lisette (maiden name unknown). The only known reference to his finances is that one of the organs he was commissioned to build had a budget of $25,000 (approximately $567,000 in 2011$), but it is unknown how much income he would have derived from this commission.[94]

The second American Gemünder generation attained great social recognition and became well integrated into New York society, though they achieved less business success and personal wealth than the members of their parents’ generation. Members of both generations participated in many different professional and cultural organizations such as the Harugari Männerchor in Erie, Pennsylvania (although due to their move to Astoria, the family of George seems to have been somewhat less involved in the New York social scene in later years).[95] For example, the Gemünders were frequently consulted as court experts.[96] Albert Jr. served as the secretary of the trustees of the Sinking Fund (1902) and was actively involved in the creation of the American Academy of Violin Makers, of which he became secretary and treasurer.[97] A notable performer, Albert Jr. was also highly regarded among New York’s musicians and his treatise What Constitutes Good Music? (published in 1899 under the pseudonym Martin A. Gemünder) and many related articles helped to fix the aesthetic criteria of the city’s still-forming musical taste.[98] His first wedding in 1890 was celebrated as a society event and was attended by many outstanding musicians and covered broadly by newspapers.[99]

Business continuity

By the 1890s, when George and August’s descendants took over the two family businesses, the market situation in the bow instrument trade had changed drastically from that encountered by the first American generation in New York. The next generation of the Gemünder family now had to compete with other violin makers such as Walter Colton (a pupil of George, to whom he had been recommended by Vuillaume).[100]

In 1889, George Gemünder suffered a severe stroke, which marked the beginning of the decline of both his business and his family. His grief after the death of his wife in 1894 further accelerated his decline.[101] Consequently, George Sr. did not participate actively in his business during the last ten years of his life. His sons George, Herman, and Otto, who had trained as competent violin makers in George’s workshop, continued operating the business in his absence. They had become partners in 1892 and the firm had been renamed George Gemünder and Sons. Although George Jr. was a talented craftsman and was appreciated for his skills as a violin maker, he lacked his father’s ability to command the market.[102] The firm’s decline in profits, together with the additional expenses required for George Sr.’s care, resulted in the family’s near bankruptcy at the time of the latter’s death in 1899.[103] George was the longest lived of the three Gemünder brothers; Albert had passed away in 1884 in Columbus and August had died in 1895 in New York.

Only two years after his father’s death, thirty-year-old Otto Gemünder died in the Brooklyn Home of Consumptives, a victim of tuberculosis.[104] He had been his father's closest companion, but due to his illness had ended his participation in the family trade shortly after his father’s death.[105] George Jr. carried on the violin manufacturing trade in Manhattan and Herman continued crafting instruments in Astoria. We know little about Herman (who had first worked as a pharmacist’s assistant), not even his exact date of death. He began making violins in 1880’s, but his activity as a luthier seems to have been, at best, modest, and there is no evidence of any instruments made by him after 1901. George Jr. continued running the business founded by his father, although with much less success due to increased competition from, among others, his cousins, some pupils of his father, and also new immigrants like the Wurlitzer brothers. Changing consumer habits and the declining artisanal skills of the third generation of the Gemünders family also hurt the business. After the death of George Jr. in 1915, George Gemünder and Sons was sold to another German immigrant.

August Gemünder and Sons met with a similar fate after August Martin Ludwig Sr.’s death in 1895.[106] The firm experienced a slower decline, though, due to the active role played by August Martin Jr., the most outstanding member of the second American Gemünder generation, in the firm’s operation. August Martin Jr. was born in 1862 and entered his father’s workshop in 1875. He made his first instrument in 1877. Working from patterns established by Maggini, Amati, and Stradivari, he made a quartet of instruments for the Columbia Exposition of 1883, which received the highest award.[107] In 1905 he created a scientific violin of his own design, the “Gemünder model—a compromise between the deep Guarneri and the lighter toned Stradivari, whose tone was characterized as “Gemünder tone”, brilliant and deep with some mellowness—which he took to Europe in 1906 and which was favorably judged by experts.[108] Like his uncle, George Sr., August Martin Jr. obtained wood for many of his high-quality violins from old buildings in New York, to which he applied the specially prepared “Vibrant” varnish that covered the wood without penetrating the pores, resulting in a bright, silvery, sonorous, brilliant, sometimes powerful tone.[109] Nevertheless, August Jr.’s violins were of inferior craftsmanship compared to those of his father and uncle.[110]

August Martin Jr. and his brothers successfully managed the firm until 1916, when a tragedy occurred. The second brother, Rudolph F. Gemünder, who had entered his father’s studio in 1880 and had assisted him during 1884-1885 with the instruments exhibited in the New Orleans and Columbian Exhibitions, died unexpectedly.[111] His widow, Edith Naomi Gemünder, unwilling to continue in the partnership, brought suit, asking the court to order the business sold and the assets distributed between her and the two surviving brothers.[112] The court ruled in her favor and the business was liquidated beginning in January 1917.[113] Although both the magazine and the shop were reestablished, the new firm never fully recovered from the disruption. A decade later, August Martin Jr. died suddenly in 1928 from a heart attack. He was survived by his widow, Emilie and by his brother Oscar, who took over the business.[114]

Oscar Gemünder, the youngest son of August, produced mainly Cremonese and Maggini models, all considered very well varnished, fine imitations. He also copied the “Gemünder art model,” using the same label as his father, but always signing it with his own name.[115] “August Gemünder and Sons” stayed in business until Oscar’s death in 1946, though it never recovered the prestige it had maintained under his father and brother.


The Gemünder’s violin-making business ceased exactly one hundred years after the arrival of the first Gemünders—August and Albert, later followed by George—in the United States. Although inspired by a desire to make money as musicians, they soon abandoned their original plan and returned to their core competence: handcrafted instrument making. Their business succeeded by combining European craftsmanship traditions with American production and marketing strategies—just as they combined European and American wood in a single instrument—conveniently adapting the quality and price of their instruments to the requirements demanded by the market. It was the right business plan at the right time and the right place. When George, and later his brothers, arrived in New York, then the country’s musical capital, they found few competitors. George Gemünder’s American instruments were capable of obtaining the highest distinctions and awards in European competitions, showing that the New World could continue the Italian, German, and French violin-making tradition perfectly, and George was soon considered by many as “America’s best violin maker.” At the same time, the Gemünder brothers—especially George—significantly changed the art of violin making in the United States, introducing more sophisticated luthiering techniques based not only on imitation but also improvement and further development of “classic” European instrument designs. However, once competitors began to emerge and the demand for high-quality violins began to change in the U.S., the businesses could no longer be continued with the same success by the second generation of Gemünders.

Finally, it should be noted that, if—at least—George’s better instruments are still sought after both by musicians and collectors at remarkably high prizes, it is because he had, in his métier, reached a degree not only of craft but also of art, according to Gemünder’s own belief that “many good violinist have the power of drawing out the sweetest sound of a violin—but only one [person] has the power to give it to it.”[116]


[1] Walter Kolneder, Das Buch der Violine (Zürich: Atlantis, 1972), 218.

[2] Frederic H. Martens, “August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931).

[3] Philip Kass, “The Gemunder Family of Violin Makers,” Journal of the Violin Society of America 6.3 (1983), 36-58, here 36.

[4] For a review of New York’s musical life from 1871 on see Walter Damrosch, My Musical Life (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926).

[5] Stadt Ingelfingen, “Geschichte,” (accessed April 2, 2012).

[6] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 36.

[7] Willibald Leo Freiherr von Lütgendorff, “Johann Georg Gemünder,” in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, nach den besten Quellen erarbeitert. Reprint of the 6th edition (Tutzing: Schneider, 1975).

[8] For an account of the life and times of Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737), see Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari (London: E. Hills & Sons, 1902).

[9] William Henley, “August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers (Brighton: Amati, 1950-1960).

[10] Lütgendorff, “August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher.

[11] Georg Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making. With Interesting Facts Concerning the Art and Its Critics in General (Astoria, NY: published by the author, 1881), here 4.

[12] Georg Eittinger, “Continental Shift,” The Strad, November (2009), 37-40.

[13] Kolneder, Das Buch der Violine, 211-213.

[14]George Gemunder, an American History, Hans Weisshaar, The Art of Violin Making. (accessed April 2, 2012), 6-7, here 6.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Eittinger, “Continental Shift,” 38.

[17] George Gemünder, Contradictions on the alleged discovery of the “lost secret” of the Cremona Violins (Orange, NY: Chronicle, 1885), 12.

[18] George Hart, The Violin. Its Famous Makers and their Imitators (London: Dilau and co., 1905), 244-247.

[19] Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making, 9-10.

[20] Ibid., 8-9.

[21] Roger Millant, J. B. Vuillaume: Sa Vie et son Oeuvre (London: W.E. Hill, 1972).

[22] James K, Buchanan, “Jean Bapiste Vuilaume, French Violin Maker.” (accessed April 2, 2012).

[23] Erin Shrader, “The History of Vuillaume’s Bows.” (accessed June 6, 2012).

[24] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 37. This process appears to be characteristic of works considered to have an “artistic” component, as “artistry” is generally related to a single individual. Some products, though produced in great number, such as paintings, watches or violins acquire their (artistic) values through the individual signature of the “master” (painter, watchmaker, or luthier) even if a great number of members of the workshop has been involved in the process.

[25] Franz Farga, Geigen und Geiger (Zürich: Alber Müller, 1940), 152.

[26] The same idea had occurred to the violin makers of the Fendt family in London. Farga, Geigen und Geiger, 152; Kolneder, Das Buch der Violine, 216.

[27] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 37.

[28] Otto Dresel, “Deutsch-Amerikanische Künstler: Georg Gemünder und Gemünder Geigen,” Der Deutsche Pionier, 9 (1877-1878), 84-89, here 85.

[29] Morris Steinert, The M. Steinert Collection of Keyed and Stringed Instruments (Yale: Yale University Press, 1895), 150.

[30] Georg Gemünder, “Violins and their Manufacture,” The Galaxy Miscellany, 10.2 (Aug. 1870), 264-268, here 266; Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 38.

[31] Music Trade Review, 1889-13-2-20.

[32] Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906. “George Gemunder” roll 093, index card G553. The witness that acted on the petition was Franz Krombholz. “August Gemünder,” in Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York: Appleton and co., 1886-1901).

[33] Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making, 11.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Nancy Groce: Musical Instrument Makers of New York: A Directory of the Eighteenth And Nineteenth Century Urban Craftsmen (Pendragon Pr., 1991), 60-61;“August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931); “August Gemünder,” in Encyclopedia Americana (Danbury: Crolier, 1911).

[36] All 2011 financial figures based on Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,” using the Consumer Price Index, MeasuringWorth, 2011. Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making, 11.

[37] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 38.

[38] Jones, A Handbook of American Music and Musicians (New York: Canaseraga, 1886), 61-62, here 61.

[39]The brothers Gemünder,” (accessed April 2, 2012).

[40] New York City and the Germans (1924), (accessed April 2, 2012).

[41] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 38.

[42] Jones, A Handbook, 61.

[43] “August Gemünder,” in Appleton’s Cyclopedia.

[44] Lütgendorff, “Georg Gemünder,” Die Geigen und Lautenmacher. As a comparison, in 1865 one of the most famous violins in history, the Stradivarius “Messiah” was offered for 10,000 French francs. See Toby Faber, Stradivarius (London: Pan Books, 2005), 146.

[45] Jones, A Handbook, 61; Dresel, “Deutsch-Amerikanische Künstler,” 89.

[46] Ibid., 88.

[47] “The brothers Gemünders.”

[48] Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making, 12-13.

[49] Ibid., 17.

[50] “A Great Violin Maker,” The Sun, January 29, 1899.

[51] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 39.

[52] Groce, Musical Instrument Makers of New York, 60-61.

[53] “The brothers Gemünder.”

[54] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 43.

[55] Dresel, “Deutsch-Amerikanische Künstler,” 84.

[56] The Music Trade Review, 1889-13-2-20.

[57] Gemünder, Contradictions, 15; Henley, “ George Gemünder (Senr),” in Universal Dictionary.

[58] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 42.

[59] Ibid.

[60] The Indian Chieftain, June 2, 1892.

[61] Henley, “George Gemünder (Senr),” in Universal Dictionary.

[62] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 42.

[63] Henley, “George Gemünder (Senr),” in Universal Dictionary.

[64] The question is repeatedly discussed in Gemünder, George Gemünder's Progress in Violin Making.

[65] Christine Merrick Ayars, Constitution of the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston 1640-1936 (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937), 198.

[66] Lütgendorff, “ Georg Gemünder,“ in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher.

[67] Kolneder, Das Buch der Violine, 218.

[68] The Music Trade Review, 1889-13-2-20.

[69] Lütgendorff, “ Georg Gemünder,“ in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher.

[70] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 43.

[71] According to William Bless McCourtie, Where and How to Sell Manuscripts. A Directory for Writers. (Springfield, Mass: Home Correspondence School, 1920), 210, Violin World published short stories and articles regarding violins and violin playing, paying $2.50 per page. René Vannes and Claude Lebet, Dictionaire universel des luthiers. Fifth edition (Brussels: Les Amis de la Musique, 1981), 125; Lütgendorff, “ Georg Gemünder,“ in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher.

[72] “The brothers Gemünder.”

[73] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 40.

[74] Dresel, “Deutsch-Amerikanische Künstler,” 84; Vera Brodsky et al., Strong on Music: Reverberations, 1850-1856 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1995), 345; Orphe Ochse, The History of the Organ in the United States (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1975).

[75] U.S. Patent Office, Nr. 9022; U.S. Patent Office, Nr. 19086; U.S. Patent office, Nr. 50574; Scientific American, 13 (1866), 297.

[76] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 40.

[77] Alberto Bachmann, “ August Martin Ludwig Gemunder,” in An Encyclopedia of the Violin. Reprint from the original 1925 edition. (New York: DaCapo Press); Henley, “George Gemünder (Senr),” in Universal Dictionary.

[78] Bachmann, “August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in An Encyclopedia of the Violin.

[79] Lütgendorff, “ Georg Gemünder,“ in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher; Vannes and Lebet, Dictionaire universel des luthiers, 124.

[80] “Pets among the Violins. Those of Today and those of Olden Time.” New York Times, December 16, 1888.

[81] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 40.

[82] Ibid.

[83] “The brothers Gemünder.”

[84] Ibid.

[85] “Gemunder’s Announcement,” The Music Trade Review, 1892-16-18, 375.

[86] Based on 1870 New York Census and the Manhattan Register of Births.

[87] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 39.

[88] Dresel, “Deutsch-Amerikanische Künstler,” 84.

[89] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 39.

[90] The Music Trade Review, 1889-13-2-20.

[91] Groce, Musical Instrument Makers, 61.

[92] Based on the 1880 New York Census.

[93] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 40.

[94] Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, 1881, 109.

[95] The Erie Maennerchor was established December 12, 1871 in Erie, Pennsylvania, but this German heritage club was a long time in the making. The lodge Harugari (in 1870) had a singing section, which was called Harugari Maennerchor. “At this time preparations were made to produce the operetta 'Fidelio.' Singers Eberle, Frank and Becker were the committee on management and the production was presented before an enthusiastic audience.” (accessed September 22, 2012).

[96] See, for example, “The Violin was a Fiddle,” New York Times, December 19, 1890.

[97] Proceedings of the Special Committee on Municipal Code (New York: F.J. Heer, 1903); The Music Trade Review, 1914-58-8-51; The Music Trade Review, 1914-58-1-51.

[98] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 43; Martin August Gemünder, What Constitutes Good Music? (New York, 1999); “The brothers Gemünder.”

[99] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 41.

[100] See for this Philip Kass “Pioneer Spirit,” The Strad, November 2008, 54-59, who, among other, studies the life and work of Walter Colton. Other notable violin makers that might have competed with the Gemünders were John Friedrichs, Henry Knopf, George Hamburg, Hans Tietgen, Oswald Schillbach, John Markert, and even—although briefly—Paul Bailly.

[101] The Music Trade Review, 1899-28-3-16.

[102] Lütgendorff, “ Georg Gemünder,“ in Die Geigen und Lautenmacher; Vannes and Lebet, Dictionaire universel des luthiers, 125.

[103] “Obituary notes,” The Sun, January 17, 1899, 2; “A great violin maker,” The Sun, January, 29, 1899, 7; “George Gemünder Dead,” New York Times, January 17, 1899.

[104] “Death of Otto Gemunder,” The Music Trade Review, 1901-32-24.

[105] “Otto Gemunder dead,” New York Times, June 13, 1901.

[106] “August Gemünder, who died in New York recently,” The Evening Times, September 19, 1895, The Music Trade Review, 1895-21-8-04. “August Gemünder. Obituary,” The New York Times, September 8, 1895.

[107] Henley, “August Martin Gemünder,” in Universal Dictionary.

[108] Bachmann, “August Martin Ludwig Gemünder,” in An Encyclopedia of the Violin.

[109] Henley, “August Martin Gemünder,” in Universal Dictionary.

[110] Ibid.

[111] “Rudolph F. Gemünder Dead,” New York Times, July 10, 1916; “Rudolph F. Gemünder Dead,” The Music Trade Review, 1916-63-3-51.

[112] “Violin Shop in Court,” New York Times, November 16, 1916.

[113] Kass, “The Gemunder Family,” 40.

[114] “August Gemunder Dead,” Presto-Times, March 31, 1928, 11; “August M. Gemünder, Head of Firm of Violin Makers Dies at the Age of 65,” New York Times, March 31, 1928; “August M. Gemunder Dies Suddenly of Heart Attack,” The Music Trade Review, 1928-86-13-17.

[115] Henley, “Oscar A. Gemünder,” in Universal Dictionary.

[116] Gemünder, “Violins and their Manufacture,” 264.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title George Gemünder
  • Coverage 1816-1899
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date July 17, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018