08 July 2008

Fiddling Around at the Roadshow

A recent Antiques Roadshow segment featured an evaluation of a violin by M. Nebel, dated 1921. The appraiser, Clare Givens, stated that “… the books say he didn't come to the United States till 1927, but this violin is a clear indication that the book was wrong.”

You can see the segment at the Antiques Roadshow website on PBS.org.

(I don’t understand how other people can watch a piece like that and not scream at the TV, “Well, CHECK IT OUT, you dodos!” It’s like this compulsion that takes over. I can hardly sit and watch the rest of the show without dashing off to the computer. Anyone else have this affliction?)

Here is what I find when I finally check it out. In the 1930 census, where Martin lived in Philadelphia in the same household as his brother Hans, he said he first came to this country in 1923.

The April 27, 1923 passenger list of the SS Hannover includes Martin Nebel, violin maker aged 26, born in Mittenwald, joining his uncle Martin Nebel in New Jersey. He states that he has never been in the US before.

He appears to have traveled back to Germany in 1927, 1929, and 1932. Each time he returned he was asked if he had been in the US before. Each time he said he had first arrived in 1923.

Clare Givens was pleased when she heard about the records. She told me she had thought the label said 1924 but the producers (dodos!) convinced her it said 1921.

I love Antiques Roadshow, the historical insights I gain from it, and the curiosity it triggers. It does make my husband nervous to watch it with me, though, because of my occasional outbursts. But no such outbursts when he appeared with his Disneyland ticket book:

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