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Violin's story intertwined with Civil War's sad one

Mary Phillips Published: April 8, 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.

Mayne’s Maggini violin resurfaced in The Oklahoman on Jan. 27, 1936, in a story about a man who had spent 20 years trying to prove he had a 300-year-old violin.

According to the story, shortly after buying the violin in the 1912 auction, attorney Ezzard sold it to Carl Nuccols (Nuckolls) also of Claremore.

“‘I could tell the first time I played it. I had something,’ said Nuccols, employed in the aviation trade at 325 Northwest Second Street.”

“‘But I wanted to find the man whose name was inscribed on the bow which came with the violin and see what he knew.’ ”

“Encased with the instrument was a bow bearing this inscription: ‘Presented to Capt. W.W. Mayne by Roy Young, Violin Virtuoso.’ ”

Nuccols would move to Oklahoma City in 1933 in search of a job, and a chance meeting would lead him to Young’s brother, Fred.

After owning the violin for nearly 24 years, Nuccols was able to track down Roy Young, professor of violin, who had formerly taught at the University of Oklahoma.

Young wrote, “Yes, it is a genuine Italian-made violin, made by the son of Paolo Maggini in 1640. The instrument has a value of $3,000 or more. The bow isn’t so valuable.”

“The Maggini instrument’s untold ‘past’ is almost as obscure as it is far-reaching. In 1880, Captain Mayne bought the violin from a man then living in Chicago, now unknown. Beyond that, who can tell but the old violin, itself?”

Carl Nuckolls died in 1968.

The violin’s whereabouts is unknown.


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