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William Sidney Mount

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) is best known as an important American genre painter. Mount's portraits, landscapes, and scenes documented daily American life of his native Long Island, NY. Mount possessed a keen curiosity which led him to explore a variety of interests. He invented a steamboat paddle wheel, a two-hulled sailboat, a painting studio on wheels and this hollow back violin, named the "Cradle of Harmony." Admired for his talent as a country fiddler, Mount assembled a large volume of dance tunes such as waltzes, polkas, jigs, and schottisches adapted for fiddling. The desire for a more powerful sound in a dance hall probably led him to invent a new instrument. In his 1852 patent, Mount claims to "have invented a new and improved mode of constructing violins and other stringed musical instruments by which a greater strength of the parts is secured with a greater lightness of the material composing the instrument, and at the same time a superior quality and greater quantity of tone and sound are obtained." He believed that a concave shape and a short soundpost would result in a fuller, richer, more powerful tone.

Mount first wrote to the United States Patent Office on January 2, 1852. Informed that he needed to include a model of his patent, this instrument was delivered on February 23. Upon receipt of his papers, model, and a payment of thirty dollars to the United States Treasury, he was granted patent No. 8981 dated June 1, 1852. The patent document protected his exclusive manufacturing and vending rights of this improved violin for 14 years.

William S. Mount displayed his instruments in the 1853 New York World's Fair at the Crystal Palace, and demonstrated the hollow back model there himself. He sought endorsements of his violin from contemporary musicians, but the manufacture of his invention never reached a level of mass production.


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, CT, 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

Back side of violin
Back side of violin

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