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The Archivist: Violin's story intertwined with a Civil War's sad one

Mary Phillips: Newspaper traces ancient instrument's link to Oklahoma.
BY MARY PHILLIPS Published: March 11, 2013

A sad, little story appeared in The Oklahoman on Nov. 3, 1912.

Captain W.W. Mayne, a survivor of the Civil War, died April 15, 1912, in Claremore, and a public auction of his possessions was held later that year in November on the streets of Claremore.

The story began: “At a public auction sale on the streets of this city recently one of the most famous violins in America was sold and one of the saddest stories of human life — full of romance and disappointments — was brought to light.”

Mayne, impoverished after searching unsuccessfully nearly 18 years for the wife who had deserted him in 1894 and taken their children, left an estate of only a few trinkets and four violins.

He had arrived in Claremore six years before in poor health resulting from war injuries aggravated by his search.

Claremore's famous artesian water known as Radium water worked its cure and Mayne regained his health for a time.

Of the four violins, three sold for less than $20 each. But the fourth was a special one and sold for $145.50 to local attorney John T. Ezzard.

After the Civil War, Mayne became “a famous violinist and a noted orchestra leader, standing at the head of his profession in Chicago for a number of years. While there, a friend who had secured one of the Maggini violins was about to lose the instrument by foreclosure of a mortgage when Mayne secured the instrument on the payment of $760, the original mortgage being $1,760. The instrument, owing to the death of the mortgagee, was never redeemed and remained in the possession of Captain Mayne for over thirty years.”

Giovani Paolo Maggini lived in 17th century Italy and crafted violins. While not as well-known as Stradivarius or Guarneri, his violins are still quite respected in violin circles.

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