HistoryWired About the Program Help Comments Smithsonian Institution
Americans and Music

Americans have always shown a need for music in their daily lives for worship, for cultural enrichment, for entertainment. At various times, this need could be satisfied by touring concert artists, local bands and choirs, traveling minstrel shows, and the piano tin the parlor. But when talent was lacking and the touring musicians had moved on, Americans turned increasingly to machines for their music. The alliance of music and science has brought about revolutionary changes in the performance, reproduction, and dissemination of music in America. With the development of the phonograph, player piano, radio, movie, and tape recorder, music not only became immediately available to a world audience but also could be recorded for later study and enjoyment. Electronic instruments have provided an unlimited source of new sounds.


Patent Application

Date of Application, 4th May 1899

Complete Specification Left, 31st Jan., 1900- Accepted, 24th Mar., 1900

Provisional Specification
Improvements in Violins and other Stringed Instruments

I, John Matthias Augustus Stroh, electrical Engineer, of 98, Haverstock Hill, in the County of London, do herby declare the nature of this invention to be as follows:

In the new instrument the body of the violin with its sounding boards is omitted, and the head, neck and bridge, tail-piece and strings of the violin are mounted on a suitable frame made of aluminum, wood or other suitable material.

The bridge is not directly attached to the said supporting frame, but rests on a rocking lever adapted to turn on knife edges, the bearings of which are rigidly fixed to the supporting frame, which had preferably the shape of a tube parallel with the strings of the violin.

On the underside of this supporting frame and rigidly attached thereto is a circular frame of drum head containing a diaphragm of wood, glass, metal or other ridged material, or a stretched membrane of parchment or other flexible material. The center of the diaphragm or membrane is mechanically connected with one end of the said rocking lever by means of a rod or link, so that the vibrations of the violin strings, when bowed, will be finally transmitted to the diaphragm. The latter is open to view on one (the upper) side, while the other (the lower) side is enclosed by a cover having in the center an opening against which is attached a trumpet-shaped resonator or tube, to augment or distribute the sounds emitted by the diaphragm.

The connection between the long arm of the rocking lever and the centre of the diaphragm may be made as follows;

The extremity of the rocking lever is placed axially above the center of the diaphragm, and a tubular stay having rounded ends is interposed between the two so as to abut with one end perpendicularly against the center of the diaphragm and with the other end perpendicularly against he rocking lever. A piece of gut or other suitable cord passes through the center of the diaphragm, through the stay and through end of the lever, and is attached at one end to the said lever through the intermediary of an adjustable helical spring, while the other end is secured to the diaphragm by means of a knot and a washer. The said spring is so adjusted, as to keep the cord always at the required tension and prevent any slackness between the rocking lever and the diaphragm.

In some cases it may be advantageous, to transmit and distribute the vibrations from the connecting rod or stay to the diaphragm through the intermediary of a conical base resting with its edges on the said diaphragm, instead of transmitting them directly to the diaphragm, in which case the said stay is made shorter and rests with the lower end upon the apex of the cone, while the cord passes through the apex of the cone and through the diaphragm.

With this modification the vibrations pass through the apex of the cone to the base or edge of the same, and thence into the diaphragm.


American Violins

Several 19th-century American inventors sought to improve the power and tone of the violin. Genre painter William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) invented and received a patent in 1852 for a violin with a concave shape and a short soundpost, which, he believed, resulted in a fuller, richer, more powerful tone. Other inventors tried to incorporate new materials available from the new technology of the day rather than redesigning the shape of the instrument. Sewall Short of New London, Connecticut, fit a metallic horn or trumpet to the hollow wooden neck of a normal violin to increase the vibrations and thereby the instrument's tone and power. He received his patent in 1854.


Related Images

A Stroh violin is played in the right foreground in this image of Rosario Bourdon conducting the Victor Salon Orchestra in an acoustic-recording session at Victor.
A Stroh violin is played in the right foreground in this image of Rosario Bourdon conducting the Victor Salon Orchestra in an acoustic-recording session at Victor.
Stroh violin
Stroh violin
The Stroh violin
The Stroh violin

Start HistoryWired | About the Program | Help | Comments

Smithsonian Institution | Terms of Use | Privacy