Ira J. White violin, Boston 1865
Ira Johnson White was born in Barre, Massachusetts in 1813 and died in Melrose in 1895. He was a farmer and furniture maker who became inspired to build violins after making repairs to a violin used in his uncle's dance band. Ira moved to Boston to open his first violin shop on Court Street, working for a short time with his brother, Asa W. White, before moving into the Old Tremont Temple building. After having the good fortune to study the Stradivari violin owned by Belgian violinist Alexander Artot, who visited Ira's shop after performing in Boston in 1843, he became one of the first makers in America to build violins based on an actual Stradivari. His subsequent violins are outstanding and were very popular in his lifetime, selling for as much as $150 (top dollar for a non-Italian violin in the late 19th century). They were praised by other prominent violinists including Ole Bull, Vieuxtemps, and Sivori. Ira was also the first violin maker to make wound strings in Boston. He eventually moved to Malden and later Melrose and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett.