American bass viol

about 1800
Benjamin Crehore (American, 1765–1831)

Object Place: Milton, Massachusetts, United States

Catalogue Raisonné



Length 121.5 cm, width 42.4 cm (Length 47 13/16 in., width 16 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Maple, pine, ebony

Not On View


Americas, Musical Instruments



One-piece back of slab-cut maple. Ribs and neck similar. Back of pegbox finished flat with incised pattern of half circles at lower edge. Two-piece belly of wide-grain pine. Painted purfling. Shield-shaped tuning pegs of oak or ash stained dark brown, with cone-shaped ivory buttons at ends. Later fingerboard, tailpiece, and saddle of ebony; the tailpiece with inlaid mother-of-pearl shield. Later nut of ivory. Later metal endpin with rosewood collar. Old maple bridge of unusual design, with one diamond and one triangle-shaped cut-out in the central portion. Later soundpost. Red-brown varnish. Interior construction: Footed neck, shaped to a point and with a hole for a screw (?), on platform carved from back. Wide lower block with chamfered corners. Rectangular liners and corner blocks. Wide bassbar.


Printed label: Baseviols / MADE AND SOLD BY / Benjamin Crehore, / IN MILTON; manuscript label: First / American Maker / about 1785; manuscript label: Repaired and par- / tially restored by / Joel R. van Lennep / Boston 1975


Before 1925, Mr. W. Ropes; 1925, sold by Ropes to Charles L. Crehore (b. 1867) (great-grandnephew of the maker), Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, who purchased the instrument under the advisement of Henry F. Schultz, a former employee of Elias Howe and Company, Boston. After 1925, Lucy Clarendon Crehore (b. 1871), sister of Charles L.; before 1976, by inheritance to her great-nephew, Charles Crehore Cunningham, Sr., Williamstown, Massachusetts; 1976, gift of Cunningham to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 14, 1976)

Credit Line

Gift of Charles Crehore Cunningham, Sr.