Knopf school violin bow, circa 1900
The illustrious Knopf family of luthiers includes many prominent instrument makers over five generations. The patriarch of the family, Christian Wilhelm Knopf (1767-1837) contributed toward the development of the screw and eyelet system in the frog and trained his sons Karl Wilhelm Knopf (1803-1860) and Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Knopf (1815-1897) in the family workshop based in Markneukirchen, Germany. The business was passed to Karl Wilhelm's son, (Carl) Heinrich Knopf (1839-1875), under whose direction the workshop produced bows of the highest quality for discerning clients, most notably Nikolai Kittel. After the death of Nikolai Kittel in 1868, Heinrich's brother, Johann Wilhelm, stayed in Markneukirchen while Heinrich moved to Dresden for a short time before landing in Berlin, where he worked until his untimely death in 1875.
Heinrich's son, Heinrich "Henry" Richard Knopf (1860-1939), excelled in both violin and bow making. Henry learned the art of bow making with his father and uncle, and he furthered his training as an apprentice in violin making and restoration with G. Christian Adam. In 1879, he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City, where he established one of the very first violin workshops in the country in 1880. With assistance from his sons Eugene and Richard Knopf, the business of H. R. Knopf and Sons Violins, located on West 45th Street, grew to become one of the most successful American violin firms of the early 20th century.