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Once he held his belly suspended over the strings some seconds after these had ceased to vibrate. Bending his head to them as though listening. An old lady who sat near me whispered to him maybe he can hear sounds we others cannot hear. Mr Bohne laughed merrily when I repeated this to him but he had produced precisely the impression he desired. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Material for this series was drawn from the files and papers of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin today. Only bull the Viking fiddler and I. Only bull was born in 1810 at Bury going to Norway for the next
70 years. His ability ship and personality combined to make him one of the most beloved personalities of his time. He has been remembered in countless anecdotes and thousands of columns of eulogy and memoirs. He lived through years of triumph and adulation. He was received and honored by kings and emperors and Kaiser's and presidents. He associated with the most renowned artists of his time in all lands he played his violin before the most brilliant of court audiences on Rome's most historic hill in the depths of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave on the top of Egypt's pyramids. And in the mining camps of California he launched great projects. He experienced many narrow escapes many perils of fire and flood sickness shipwrecks and revolution. He buried a wife and son in one world and remarried in another. He was in short an unconventional man even to the manner in which he held his violin
hero in the country of his birth. Acclaimed in Europe he became a household word in America. In 1843 when only came to the United States for the first time he was already established in Europe as one of the foremost violinists of his day and the first few weeks of his tour of the new world he received that fantastic sort of a claim that has come to be characterized as peculiarly American parents name their children after him. The inimitable promoter Phineas T Barnum rechristened one of his child performers only bull Jr. and a brother of Julia Ward Howe promptly dubbed the male of his magnificent Arish are heard only books newspapers like The New York Herald were lush in their praise of his performances. Those who wrote what then passed for musical criticism unloosed the full
force of super lives. We cannot describe old labels playing it's beyond the power of language. It's effects on others may be indicated. Some of his own earthly his heavenly passages work on the feelings on the Hard to till the very tears flow. Others it makes Severus mad in terrible in their applause at the close of some of his wondrous cadences. The very musicians in the orchestra flung down their instruments and stamped and applauded like Mad Men. This extraordinary being this all of bull will produce an excitement throughout the Republican unlike anything that ever took place in our day. He is young tall and elegantly formed as beautiful as the Apollo with an affectionate simplicity of manner that wins all hearts and souls. He's the most extraordinary being the most perfect genius in his art that ever yet crossed the broad Atlantic and rose upon the bright horizon of the new world.
Even with their exaggerated praise the newspaper men were quick to realize that it was not his virtuosity alone to which his audiences reacted. His showmanship struck a responsive chord in Yankee audiences after one of those early concerts he stepped forward holding his violin before him pointing his bow at his heart and said they didn't gentleman my violin and my heart after such a reception from America are forever at your service. Then he launched into Yankee doodle while the audience went wild with cheery off the platform he made similar heroic gestures when one of the newspaper men asked him what Master he was the pupil. He pointed upward and with the serene and holy look declared God the infinite. During his first tour only played in New York Philadelphia
Baltimore Washington and Boston he traveled as far south as New Orleans and made excursions to Cuba and Canada. He was almost constantly on the go and appearing in every city of any size east of the Mississippi. He became as he had been in Norway the common people's ideal of a great musician musically unsophisticated and they were awestruck by his fireworks. But what endeared him to them was his incomparable skill with melody is knack for undocking their own simple folk songs with new life and feeling. The tall strong Norsemen in thrall his audiences and the delight was mutual only bull proclaimed himself delighted with America. He had made many friendships that would last a lifetime. By the end of his tour he had earned over $80000 for himself about 20000 for assisting artists and over 15000 for charity. He had played to overflowing houses
all the way. When he left in December 1840 for the New York Herald noted his unparalleled success and popularity. No artist is ever visited our country and received so many honors poems by a hundred have been written to him. Metals and so forth have been presented to him his whole remarkable appearance in this country is really an example in glory and fame. He came from Norway the most northern country of Europe the birthplace of Odin and inspired all America. In January 1852 exasperated by political conditions in Norway and various difficulties connected with his management of the National Theatre only boat returned to the United States with the intention of becoming a citizen.
He took the oath of allegiance at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. However although he remained in the country for five years he never completed his naturalization. It was during this second trip to the United States that he became involved in a project which cost him the greater part of his fortune. He had learned that many of his countrymen were living in poverty in the southern states and he decided to buy one hundred twenty five thousand acres of land on this just behind a river in Potter County Pennsylvania to found the Oleana colony for immigrants which he intended to be a new Norway. The plan was never really viable as some of the would be settlers soon realized. When we moved to. I was wearing broad cloth and kid gloves most of the settlers were very poor and were then building small log houses and trying to clear farms in the stony mountain sides of only a
ridiculous purchase. The colonists had a hard time of it. Well what induced all of all to buy this miserable mountain tract when millions of fertile acres for to be had in the vast it's hard to say unless he had some fantastic idea that the settlers would feel more at home among mountains as in their own native land. He wants to colonize a settlement with Norwegian immigrants called new Norway about two thirds of our immigrants made for this place. They receive $15 a month and board and lodging for themselves and their families. Later he intends selling every acre of land for three dollars during the first year then $5 and after that $10 and expects ultimately to get the whole of this impenetrable forest with its steep hillsides turned into arable land inhabited by our countrymen. I must say that I advise no one to take my word for granted as I do not yet know whether he can keep his promise and realize his great
plans. I am firmly of the belief that only bow means well but he is no businessman. After three hundred houses and in a store and the church had been built and several immigrants had settled there only bill discovered that he had been tricked with a fraudulent title. After much effort and money was expended the colony was forced to disband. Only I was not to be the only financial venture that failed in 1855 only lost more money over a venture into Opera management in New York. He simply was never a very practical man. Throughout his whole life he was constantly cheated by theatre managers when he had money. He tended to be a bit reckless with it as his old friend Rasmussen understood and so well attested to and I remember once in New York when Ollie had in his trunk a large amount many thousands of dollars of American paper currency.
This he wished to change into British gold. He took the money out of the trunk and wrapped it carelessly in one of the large daily newspapers handed it to me and asked me to go with him. We went to a bank near Trinity Church in the bank. Holy Bull relieve me of the bundle and laid it on the ledge between a couple of the interior windows. The tellers at the bank were busy and couldn't wait on him at once so he calmly lit a cigar and went out of doors to take a walk up and down the sidewalk giving no thought whatever to the bundle of money. Of course I had or sense enough to stay near the money. I don't believe he had the least idea how much the package contained. But when he re-entered the bank he finally succeeded in shoving the package into the hands of the cashier and telling him he wanted to change into English gold. This he received in a fair sized canvas bag which you let me carry back to the hotel. At the hotel we took a good handful of the gold and a part of it to me and put the rest
loose in his inside vest pocket. The bag containing the balance of the gold he threw carelessly into his valet's among his dirty linen and underwear. By 1855. The only on a venture had almost wiped out only Bull's fortune. Financial necessity dictated his resumption of concert tours by the spring of 1857 only bull was in Boston giving concerts staying at the home of Publisher james t fields and receiving friends sitting in front of the fire late in the evenings and playing for visitors. It was probably about this time that he inspired in his friend Longfellow the picture of the violinist found in the tables of the Wayside Inn before the blazing fire of wood erect the rapt musicians stood and ever and anon he bent his head upon the instrument and seemed to listen to they caught confession for
the joy of the trial. The law meant to exultation at the bay. Then by the magic of his art the cropping of its heart and loved it again. Blast the musician as he stood illumined by that buyout of wood. Fair haired blue eyed his aspect alive his figure tall and straight and liar that every picture of his face revealing his Norwegian race was streaming from within and around his eyes and with the violin aided by rain. And the autumn of 57. Only Bill returned to Norway again. He was not to see America again for over a decade. In the interim his first wife died in 1867 he returned to the United States for a concert tour opening in
Chicago early the next year. He visited Madison Wisconsin where his arrival was described by one writer as a great triumphal event. At the West Madison station he was met like some conqueror of old by a hundred torchbearer as the sleigh ordered for him and not a ride he said he'd march in this country and the party paraded up Washington avenue and around the Capitol Square to the pilot's house. The next day a dinner was given for him and in the evening there was a party is coming arouse the liveliest anticipations among citizens. Tickets in the hands of speculators went as high as $10. The city hall was crowded for the opening concert was chair of Main in charge of the city police force acting as ushers. A local paper described how the elite and masses were there with the governor occupying a private seat in the gallery while Americans Germans Irish and Norwegians were mingled below as were broadcloth silks and laces with corduroy domes bun and calico.
It was during this trip to Madison that only bull met his future wife Sarah THORPE The 18 year old daughter of a wealthy Wisconsin lumbermen. He married her two years later in 1870. It was a 40 year difference in their ages and it was said that only his marriage was primarily the result of his mother in law's determination. Only his mother in law was a hard intelligent ambitious woman with a strong will. These characteristics undoubtedly form the only basis for one particular newspaper article about the wedding. It wasn't titled only bull. The big fiddler and his charming wife and mother in law are the two former were married and the latter bulldozed the proceedings. The ceremony was rendered particularly impressive by Mrs. Thorpe who quietly but emphatically assumed the role of mother in law by interrupting the minister just before the ceremony was
concluded. Hold up there. And the minister held up. I want them pronounced wife and man not man and wife. My dear madam. Such is not the custom. And that for the custom. It's got to be done. And the minister stammered a moment more and then remarking that he supposed it made no difference. Obeyed the order given him and to the great satisfaction of the triumphant Mrs. Thorpe pronounced the couple wife and man. This by some opinions concerning the mother in law most writers agree that the wedding reception she organized in Madison was the leading social event of the day. Over a thousand invitations were sent to all parts of this country and Europe and many people of prominence were present besides the social side of medicine. The poet Longfellow and other notables sent regrets. The beautiful grounds were gaily illuminated
for the event and the residence was turned into a bower of loveliness through the art of forests and decorators. A carpet was laid from the doorstep to the street that the guests might not soil their footwear in passing in. The gowns worn by the ladies were more elegant than any that had ever before been seen in the city. A further tone was given the occasion by only bill himself receiving the guests with a beaming courtliness for which he was famous. The dining hall was a scene of great splendor. A Chicago caterer with a corps of assistants came to serve the feast without regard to expense. He brought with him his famous dinner Sept. worth thirty thousand dollars and the guests that night ate from solid silver plates and drank from solid silver cups. The Chicago orchestra was also imported to furnish music at 60 only bull had lost none of his peculiarly magic effect upon audiences earlier in the same year as his marriage. The citizens of San Francisco had presented him with a golden diamond crown and had dubbed him
monarch in the realms of music. Years later the citizens of Milan Italy were to crown him again. But somehow Edward Brown's story of Ollie and the Hermit a story that Mr. Brown swore to add to a more romantic dimension to all his powers. Well I'm relating facts that I know in regard to the experience that Mr. Boyle had while crossing a western prairie on a cold winter night. This information was given to me by Mr Boyd himself. Mr. book being an acquaintance and near friend of a very dear friend of mine. Well in the olden days travel was carried on chiefly by stage coaches or similar means. But Mr. Bourne was a great lover of
horses and so went his way upon horseback. And so in this method of travel he was crossing the prairie to a small village. Mr bore was overtaken by a snow storm while on his way to the village and the track was blinded and he was unable to know where he was or in which direction he should go. Or just 20 fully believed that he would have to perish in the cold alone on the desert he saw away off in the distance. A dark space which he discovered to be a large clump of fir trees and Mr. Bowen sought shelter there but was greatly surprised to see off further in the distance. A small flickering light and he he made his way there. He found the light to be in a small hut. Mr. BALL knocked loudly on the door but received no answer so he repeated his knock with increased violence and the door was opened by a hermit. Mr. BALL was told to be gone but Mr. Bush was a very strong man and was not frightened at the rage of the hermit. The old hermit told Mr.
bold that he wished to be alone that he had seen enough cruelty of the world and did not wish to have him in his hut. Oh Mr. Bull told him that he was seeking shelter that otherwise he would die from the cold. The old hermit opened the door and Mr. Bowen entered the old hocked the room contained one small stool and a cock bag in the corner. The hermit lay down on the bad and Mr Bull sat before the fire on the stool. No conversation took place for a long time but finally the old hermit took from some hiding place. A violin and started to play. He played for a short time and then handed the instrument to Ole Bull saying perhaps the stranger will play. Mr. BOUCK played for a while for the hermit and then played Home sweet home. The tears flowed down the old Hermit's face during the playing of this song. And then the old hermit told Mr. Bull that an angel had come to him
and told him that he was wrong that he was going back to civilization. The following day and the next morning Mr. Bull continued his journey to the village and the old hermit went his way to civilization. For some years following his second marriage the only bull divided his time between his home in Norway the Thorpe home in Madison the homes of friends in Cambridge Massachusetts and of course numerous concert tours in Madison only figured prominently in social and cultural life and retaining a lavishly receiving important visitors to the Capitol and contributing to the musical life of the city. For amusement he often entertained friends that informal music out in the Thorpe residence or engage them in croquet billiards and cards. He particularly enjoyed the society of his countryman and took a special interest in all affairs connected with
Norwegian culture. I want to Kazan he gave a concert to aid the State University in purchasing a Scandinavian library. Later on he gave several performances in the region around Madison to raise funds for a monument to Leif Erikson. He took an active part in helping to establish a Department of Scandinavian languages at the university and as his Madison friend writes must be Anderson recalled. Norway remained the inspiration for his music and I once asked overlay of what had inspired his weird and original melodies. His answer was substantially that from his earliest childhood he had taken the profoundest delight in Norway's natural scenery. He grew eloquent in his poetic descriptions of the grass and the picturesque flower clad valleys with souring trees singing birds of the silver crested mountains from which the summer sun never departs of the melodious Brooks babbling streams and thundering rivers of the blinking
lakes that sink their deep thoughts to starlit skies of the far penetrating fjords and the many thousand islands on the coast. His face lighted up with inspiration when he talked of the eagerness with which he as a boy had devoured all the myths folk tales ballads and popular melodies and all these things he said. I have made my music. Such was the power of only bulls playing. His ability to make a tune sing his ability to play different melodies on four strings at once. His ability to place to Katoh notes the full length of the bow. His ability to touch the heart of the listeners that he was many times called a charlatan in his early days these critics had warned the audiences that there was undoubtedly an accomplice behind the scenes but in his later years his reputation was so great that at least on one occasion he himself was unable to meet his own high standards. At one of his concerts in Madison a group of all sings were present.
They happened to seat themselves close to me and conversed quite freely in their big. When he left the stage the first time one of them said I don't very much if this is the real Brewer. That music doesn't appeal to me in the least. It must be a scheme promoted by his advertisers to fool the people to come here. Well I believe so too said the second one. However let us wait until after he comes on again. Maybe he will do better then. They remain through his second and third appearances with no better satisfaction than the third one say. I just go that stuff isn't worth hearing. They're really disgusted they filed out one of them observing the have their eyes spill all maner. Hey Matt we have better musicians at home. To which they all agreed. Throughout his life only Beau was at his best when performing his own compositions based
on old Norse folk tunes. He was a master at playing Pogany revered every note that Mozart wrote never really was able to master Beethoven and refused even to discuss Wagner. He only published two of his own compositions and because he lived before the age of recordings the sound of his violin was lost with his death in Norway in 1880. Many tributes were paid to him both during his life and after his death. The poet Bjornson spoke at his funeral. So did the composer Grieg the Norwegian king sent a message and flags in many parts of the world were at half mast. Peasants filled his grave to the brim with flowers. It was several years later when Hungary and violinist. It was a dream and he gave his crib ute. It was remembered by only Bull's medicine friend over Tina Woodward more. It was Rehman was giving a concert in our university town
about 18 97. And having learned that only son Alexander win in Madison and he was there at the time always left his priceless when Jeremias violin at my home for safe keeping. I asked permission to pay his respects to my husband myself and see the instrument. He appeared. Early the next morning and was not long in detecting the violin case. Alexander was on hand and unlocking the case handed his father's old violin to RAM and who thus apostrophized it. You beautiful ugly thing. What grace. What arrogance. How grotesque in form yet how Iris to cry to see the Supro brain of that would look at avantage.
Never again shall I hear anything to equal your voice when only bull made you speak. He refused to try the instrument himself nor was he willing to have it tried by only Both son who was thinking of a meadow deed he had been told resembled that of his illustrious father. No he said. To my dying day. The only bull produce down this wonderful instrument will sing my years. I do not wish to have it disturbed. The way it was presenting I want this accounts of historic events today only the Viking fit. Material
for this series was drawn from the files and papers of the State Historical Society it was a consultant with the series was Doris play. Scripts by music by contemporary production Ralph Johnson. This is the national educational radio network.
The Way It Was
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"The Way It Was" is a radio program which presents eye witness accounts of notable topics throughout American history. Each episode begins with a description of a specific event, person, or historical topic, followed by several dramatic readings of witness testimonies found in the files and papers of the state historical society of Wisconsin. The program was originally released in 1969, and was re-broadcast from the program library of National Public Radio.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-37-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:15
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Chicago: “The Way It Was; 11,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2024,
MLA: “The Way It Was; 11.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2024. <>.
APA: The Way It Was; 11. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from