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Thread: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

  1. #76
    Registered User verbs4us's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    A while ago I interviewer Fletcher Brock and the conversation rambled around a lot of topics. One interesting thing he said was (to paraphrase) "I'd really like to know more about all those people that worked at the Gibson factory when Orville was there. I mean, the guys who cut the wood, shaped the necks, drew the bead of glue, who actually built the instruments."

  2. #77

    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Quote Originally Posted by verbs4us View Post
    A while ago I interviewer Fletcher Brock and the conversation rambled around a lot of topics. One interesting thing he said was (to paraphrase) "I'd really like to know more about all those people that worked at the Gibson factory when Orville was there. I mean, the guys who cut the wood, shaped the necks, drew the bead of glue, who actually built the instruments."
    In the chapter that covers the very start of the company, I researched as many first employees as I could. I found about seven between 1903 and 1907. In the next chapter I have the entire list of employees in 1909/10...from the board of directors all the way down to the shipping clerk and night watchman.

    In an October 1909 city council meeting, George Laurian talks about moving into the new Harrison Court factory and states that they have 25 employees. Since my list covers 1909 and 1910, I have more than 25. So I'm guessing that some employees on the list may have replaced other employees on the list, or they may have added more during 1910.

    Most of them were just plain folk looking for a job. I know of two who brought their teenage sons in as "helpers." Some stayed a year and some a lifetime.

    Maybe I should write a magazine article about them. What do you think?
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

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  4. #78
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Great blog site!. I was fascinated by the information about J.F. Barrows and the Waldo mandolins. Paul Ruppa in Milwaukee (and a Cafe member) is the Waldo expert and the information I had from him suggested that in 1895 Barrows was looking for a production manager to start manufacturing Waldo instruments. He eventually hired a Swedish craftsman Rudolf Lorang and I am wondering if perhaps Orville tried out for the position and it did not work out for whatever reason.

    Cheers

  5. #79
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Joyce, my wife's great grandfather worked at the company until 1919 (possibly a year or two later). John Fred or his brother Fred John Miller. Name memory is sketchy. I have a mandolin banjo which he built for his wife Helen engraved with 1919. It, sadly, went back to the company prior to my introduction to my wife (only by about two years!) and was subjected to some heavy handed "restoration" at the time. I really wish I had known at the time, FB was replaced by the mid '70 stuff and original "personal" one was lost to someone's lunchbox. It's still cool but, doggone it!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  6. #80

    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    Great blog site!. I was fascinated by the information about J.F. Barrows and the Waldo mandolins. Paul Ruppa in Milwaukee (and a Cafe member) is the Waldo expert and the information I had from him suggested that in 1895 Barrows was looking for a production manager to start manufacturing Waldo instruments. He eventually hired a Swedish craftsman Rudolf Lorang and I am wondering if perhaps Orville tried out for the position and it did not work out for whatever reason.

    Cheers
    Interesting...Barrows also hired O. L. Fraser, an experienced violin maker, in October 1895. Mr. Fraser set up his entire luthier shop inside the Barrows factory.

    I agree. It appears that Orville's contact with Barrows at this point in time was not coincidental. John McLouth may well have been the messenger. He had played a concert in Saginaw in May 1895. More pieces of the puzzle. Very cool.
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

  7. #81

    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    Joyce, my wife's great grandfather worked at the company until 1919 (possibly a year or two later). John Fred or his brother Fred John Miller. Name memory is sketchy. I have a mandolin banjo which he built for his wife Helen engraved with 1919.
    I have a Fred Martin Miller, b. 1885 in Germany, married to Anna Wiessies. Their marriage license of June 1909 states that he is an "instrument maker." The city directory says "finisher" for Gibson. I have tracked him from 1909 to 1926 with the company. He left to start an automobile painting business and ended up doing that work for the local Chevy dealership.

    Also, I have a Fred J. Miller, b. 1894 in what would become Czechoslovakia after WWI, married to Julia Kovac in 1917. He became a fireman at Gibson around 1919. Since he's outside of the time parameters for my book, I didn't pursue the extent of his employment.

    They don't appear to be related, but I can't say for sure.
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

  8. #82

    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    I have a mandolin banjo which he built for his wife Helen engraved with 1919. It, sadly, went back to the company prior to my introduction to my wife (only by about two years!) and was subjected to some heavy handed "restoration" at the time. I really wish I had known at the time, FB was replaced by the mid '70 stuff and original "personal" one was lost to someone's lunchbox. It's still cool but, doggone it!
    I agree, it's still cool. Not everything is or can be retained in original condition. I'm sure all involved were well-meaning. All this becomes part it's history, both for Gibson and your family. It's an important piece for those reasons. Please refer to the statement below by Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray...
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

  9. #83
    Registered User verbs4us's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Singing of the unsung heroes might be interesting. Average people doing remarkable things. I've toured the Martin factory a few times and I think a big part of their success is their ability to break down tasks into small bits that can be mastered by mere mortals. I remember seeing the guy who mated necks to bodies--he had 30 years of experience, so the critical tasks went to craftsmen with experience and high skill.

  10. #84

    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    I've been asked for an update on when my book will be published. The working title is "Orville H. Gibson: A Peculiar Excellency."

    UPDATE - I've recently changed publishers and am now working with the University of Tennessee Press at Knoxville. Unfortunately, it meant starting over, but I'm very happy with their direction. In general, they like the book, but want quite a bit more documentation. This is not difficult, it's just time consuming.

    They also want more explanation on a few topics which means rewriting certain sections. Not to mention that I'm continually finding new info that fills in some gaps.

    The manuscript also has to be peer reviewed because they are a university press.

    These are all good things that are making the book better. It just means several more weeks of work before it is ready to go to print.
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

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  12. #85
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    It has been a few years since Joyce posted anything here about her biography of Orville Gibson while she has been trying to find a publisher, but I recently came across a link to a GoFundMe page where she is raising the money to have the book professionally edited and then print some copies. In light of Roger Siminoff's recent publication of his bio of Lloyd Loar, I thought it might be worthwhile to post a link to Joyce's work as well.

    https://gofund.me/f40e23b0

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  14. #86
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Orville H. Gibson research and biography

    Very informative Wordpress site Joyce mentions at her gofundme. Thanks for sharing this bit of news, Graham.
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