A Brief History
Written by: Echo Becker
The Becker family has a long history that begins in the early 1800s. Making and musicianship have been an intricate part of our past, while experience and tradition have made our violins what they are today.
Herman Macklett (1834 – 1884), in a sense, is the true father of the Becker family. He was the first to show an interest in making violins and worked on them from about the 1860s through the 1880s. They are hard to come by, and we currently have a few of his violins in our collection.
Macklett’s daughter, Adeline Macklett(1865 – 1959) was a pianist. She married Carl J. Becker (1858 – 1921) who was a well-known violinist, teacher, and the concertmaster in a Chicago orchestra.
Their son, Carl G. Becker (1887 – 1975) was captured by the passion of violin making. His first violin was completed in 1900 as an apprentice at W. T. Lane. In 1901 Carl G. began working at Lyon & Healy with John Hornsteiner, and thus began a 22 year-long relationship working together in various shops until Hornsteiner’s death in 1924. Carl G. then began working for William Lewis & Son, creating the legacy and reputation that exists today. Carl G. Married Elsa Toenniges, a talented cello player. Elsa's brother, Paul Toenniges, opened his own violin shop, which is currently Benning Violins: Studio City Music in California.
Soon after Carl F. Becker’s birth in 1919, Carl G. purchased land in the solitude of Wisconsin. His desire was to purchase land that would provide a peaceful setting for violin crafting, and the perfect location for fishing. During the summer months, Carl G. made about 12-15 violins. At the age of 16, Carl F. joined his father on the bench at William Lewis & Son and in Wisconsin. They began a partnership that was unlike any other makers of the time.
In 1948, the first collaborative “Carl Becker & Son” labeled violin appeared and the making continued. In 1968, Carl F. and Carl G. opened the violin shop we all know today--Carl Becker and Son, Ltd.
Carl F.'s daughter, Jennifer Becker, also joined the family business and currently makes violins in Minnesota. Paul C. Becker joined his father (Carl F.) and grandfather (Carl G.) at the bench when he was 14. Paul finished his first violin with the help of Carl G. Becker, which is now played by Paul's eldest daughter, Echo. Paul's youngest daughter, Vada, is also musically inclined and plays the piano. Paul briefly left Carl Becker & Son, Ltd. to begin his own woodworking company specializing in custom furniture. Although he returned to the family business, he continues to make custom furniture and wood crafts for his home. Unfortunately, after Carl G.’s death in 1975, the tradition of making instruments during the summer ceased, and few instruments have been made since.
In 2004, Paul opened his own violin shop in Taipei, Taiwan with Jarvis Tseng. Paul restarted the summer tradition in 2006. Currently, 5 of his violins are close to completion, along with 3 additional violins made as a collaborative effort between him and Michael Reis. Carl F. is also in the process of finishing 5 violins while up in Wisconsin. In addition, Carl F., Paul and Jenny are collaborating and completing a cello and violin together.
With the spirit of violin making back in the air, Paul Becker and Carl Becker and Son, Ltd. (Including Michael Reis!) are almost ready to present their instruments to the rest of the world.
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