2 Of The World's Smallest
Violins To Be Auctioned
To Raise Awareness And Funds For This Site
It was over 27 years ago, June 14, 1977, that the front page headline of The Seattle Times, Seattle's largest circulation newspaper, proclaimed: "At Making Miniatures, He's Become A Virtuoso". The article and accompanying photo took up better than 1/4 of the entire page. "Holy Cow!", I thought to myself, seeing a photo of my own face, and the tiny violin I had made, peering out from the window of the neighborhood newspaper box. I quickly bought several copies. The news hit the wire service and went national. A radio interview followed, which ran on NPR's "All Things Considered". Letters from around the country started flowing in. And in an instant I was the recipient of Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame.
Hi, I'm Eric Meissner, call me EJ, the webmaster of this site. That headline was referring to two miniature violins I had made in an attempt to break a Guinness Book World Record via a contest The National Enquirer was running.
Here is the story about how I came to build them, along with photos, newspaper articles and other clippings, correspondence from Guinness Book, the radio interview.....and a chance for you to own 2 of the World's smallest violins!
I didn't actually start out to break a record for the World's smallest violin. I grew up in a musical, as well as artsy, family. Some close friends of the family had just had their first child, and as they were a musical family as well, I thought it would be cool to make a "Suzuki" size violin for their child to learn on. So I started doing research on how violins were made, shopped around for the proper woods, and set about making one. I based the proportions on my own instrument.
The violin was coming along quite well, when someone pointed out that The National Enquirer was running a contest challenging anyone to try and break a Guinness Book World Record. Here's the National Enquirer article. As I was all set up to make violins already, having done the research, acquired the proper woods and nearly completed one, I decided to give it a shot.
I put the Suzuki violin aside, not knowing I would never return to finish it, and started researching for the new violin. I had been a fan of Guinness Book for many years, and had versions from several years. However, the most current one I had at the time was the 1973 Guinness Book. The smallest violin they listed was a 5 1/2" one. I thought, "OK, I'll make one 3 1/2" long. That should handily beat the record".
That's precisely what I did. I built a 3 1/2" violin and promptly sent off the photos and information to The Enquirer. A week or two later I got a reply back from them stating that 3 1/2" did not beat the record, as the smallest violin was now 1 31/32". Oops, I should have checked the latest edition.
Having invested all this time and effort in breaking a record, I decided the only thing to do was to make an even smaller violin. I set out to do just that. The violin I built turned out to measure 1 5/8". I re-submitted the new photos and information to The Enquirer. This time, the Guinness Book people replied to me, saying that I needed to verify the information.
So I made a call to the Seattle Times. A reporter called me back and interviewed me over the phone. He asked if I could come over to the Times building. I agreed, and we met to take photographs in the small park adjacent to their building. See the article.
I was anxious to see what they would print, expecting a small article, somewhere near the back of some obscure section. Oh, was I wrong! When the article appeared, I was stunned. There was my face, peering out from from the window of a nearby newspaper stand, and I was playing the little fiddle. Excellent! This surely would convince the Guinness people of the legitimacy of my record-beating feat.
I also approached my local neighborhood newspaper, The Queen Anne News, with the story. They also published an article, along with photos. See the article.
I don't remember the time sequence of this particular event, but one day I was entering a Radio Shack, for the purpose of buying an ear bud speaker - the small coil of fine wire inside being what I was using for the strings of the violins, as well as several small grand pianos I was working on - when I ran into a high school friend. We got to talking about what we had been up to. I told him about the violins. He told me that he was now taking broadcasting at the University, and would I like to do a radio interview? I did, and we did. He got the interview, including the sound of me playing the violin, on several radio network shows, including National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program.
All that remained was to send all of this material to the Guinness Book, which I did.
Sadly, I was to learn that the Guinness people had not included the catagory of World's smallest violin in their 17th edition, pending a review in the Spring, because they could no longer determine what constituted a "functional violin" at such small size. However, the good news was that Guinness Book admitted in a letter to me that my violin was indeed the smallest violin they had ever heard of.
I kept in correspondence with them until I finally recieved a letter from Norris McWhirter, the famous co-author and editor of the Guinness Book (his twin brother and co-author, Ross, had been killed by terrorists a few years earlier), stating that they had decided that the catagory of World's smallest violin, along with several other similar catagories, would be removed.
So that was that. I had the World's smallest functional violin, but it would likely never be seen within the hallowed pages of the World's authority on World records. I was disappointed to be sure, but I had such an extraordinary experience getting as far as I did.
So I carefully packed up the 2 mini-fiddles and stored them away, not to be seen again for decades...and that was that.
Thirty some odd years later, I find myself as the webmaster of a terrific website, with a loyal and rapidly growing base of fans, wondering what I can do to really make a splash, a hit. Something to really get the site into the public eye.
The most famous thing I had done, up to that point, was making the violins, and that recieved National attention at the time. Could the two violins be brought back from obscurity, resurrected like the Phoenix, and once again bring about fame? Not fame for myself this time, but for this humble website? And not seen just by a nation, but by the entire World??
We shall see!
In order to raise Funds and Awareness for this site, I will be auctioning the 2 Violins, all Correspondence from Guinness Book, the Newspaper Clippings, a copy of the Radio Interviews, a CD containing these special Web Pages, and a signed Certificate stating that these are the actual Violins created for the Guinness Book competition in 1977.
They will all be sold together as 1 Lot on eBay to the highest bidder of a 7-day auction, the date to be set soon. (Sorry I've had to keep delaying the auction!)
Notification of this auction will be sent to all major US newspapers, several Internationals, CNN and other media, approximately 1 week before the auction.
I really don't know what to expect from all of this, but it should be interesting, to say the least. So much has changed in the 30 years since I built the violins. The Internet has shrunk the World to where news and information is instantly available, 24 hours a day, from nearly anywhere in the World, to nearly anywhere in the World. The accessability is simply stunning. This site has had visitors from dozens of countries on nearly every continent already. (Over 1.33 Million visitors now) I can't even imagine what the viewership will look like as the auction day nears.
Be sure to check back here for any updates. This is sure to be an exciting event!
And while you're here, please check out the rest of the site! That is, after all, one of the reasons I'm doing all this...to raise awareness for the site. Feel free to bookmark any page, and please come back often!
A Seattle Neighborhood Web Portal