Modified 7/8 Gamba Double Bass c.1820 Deerfield, NH.
This is a most unique example of a Bass by the Prescott dynasty. It seems to have been in storage for about half of the 20th century from its condition and from what we learned when purchasing this instrument. This was a 3-string Bass as most of Prescotts' were and was converted to a 4-string sometime in the 19th century. The Plate inlay area of the Scroll has been filled with a maple inlay and 19th century French Tuners installed. The ff holes are attached and the Purfling is scratched in as is with many Prescotts but this is not original. This Bass was cut down from a 4/4 size some time ago. The Top was just removed and we found an old repair label inside from O. H. Bryant, August 1941. Bryant was the main repairman for the Boston Symphony. He died in 1943 at the age of 70. He was 68 when he worked on this Bass. The Scroll is typical of Prescott's work as is the Varnish from his earlier period. There is however one mystery here that needs to be solved. It has a Label by the 'Dearborn Bros. Concord, NH' with each of their names or initials on the label. I have seen a few Dearborn Basses and this Bass IS 100% Prescott to my eye. Even though the Dearborn Bros. worked together and separately with and for Prescott in both Deerfield and Concord, their Basses always differ from those of Prescott. This Bass also has a Purfled Loop under the upper Back Button of typical Prescotts' wide Purfling. This is left over from the Original 4/4 Bass as there is also some Purfling left in the corners and lower Bouts. The Dearborn Bros took over the Concord Shop in 1845 and they may have put their Label in the Bass when it was modified to a 4-string around that time. The Tuning Gears on this Bass are early-mid 19th century French and could also support the Concord restoration theory.
This Bass has evidence of the Ribs bent around the 4-piece Pine Top and let into the Top and back Plates as there is some wood still left inside this Bass showing the original 'rabbit' joint now filled in. I have been told that this is the style of the earlier Prescotts. This is the only Prescott I have heard of with a 4-piece Top. The original Poplar Hardwood Tail Block, Pine Cross Bars and Corner Blocks were still in the Bass when I got it. The new Tail Block is Willow now and the new Cross Bars are Spruce along with the new Neck Block. The existing Bass Bar is very old and remains in the Bass with just some slight shape-trimming that was needed. We can see some slight shadows of the original angled Bass Bar which was most likely replaced when it was converted to a 4-string. As the restoration is nearing its completion, much has been learned about this early Yankee Bass. It was a larger size when made but cut down with the same construction style inlaid Ribs as when it was first made. This points possibly to Prescott cutting down his own Bass to please one of his customers during his early days of Bass making. The Bass now has Linings and Blocks throughout. The Back, Ribs and Scroll (Neck) were all made from highly figured Sugar (hard rock) Maple of local growth. Arnold Schnitzer (the restorer), had a beautiful Neck Block for the Graft to match the original Scroll, Ribs and Back. All this Hard Curly/Flamed Maple makes this one heavy Bass. Maybe that's why Prescott used a hardwood Tail Block to begin with.
What could be said about America's most famous Bass maker that has not already been said? I have read about Prescott in many books and articles and most have the same information and dates with little variation. Prescott was born in 1789 and died in 1858. He may have trained with Benjamin Willard from 1805-1810. Willard made both Church Basses and Double Basses from 1800-1815 with both the Top and Back made from Spruce. He made about 60 instruments in total. Prescott made both Bass types as well but the Double Basses were from 3/4 to 5/4 sized with some being 7 1/2 feet tall. All are reported to have been made as 3-string Basses. He made 207 Double Basses in total on record.
Prescott started in Deerfield, NH with his first Bass in 1809 by one source and another has it at 1819 for a Double Bass and 1809 for a Church Bass. He employed both David and Andrew Dearborn when they were still in their teen years. In 1831 (or 1833 from one source) Prescott moved to Concord NH. to 'better his business'. There are conflicting reports as one source claims the Dearborn Bros. bought the Deerfield company/shop and another says David Dearborn moved with Prescott. In either case, in 1845 Prescott retired from the Bass business and sold it to the Dearborn Bros. or was it the Dearborn & Bartlett firm as he then went on to make Organs with his son.
This Bass is undergoing a complete Restoration to be brought back to tip-top playing condition. We will also add a Chromatic fingered Low 'C' Extension as well. I will update this page as more information becomes available as well as a full set of pictures when the Restoration has been completed.
|Prescott Scroll (modified to 4-String) to be completely restored|
|Pre-Restoration and Restoration photos|
|Scroll graft in progress along with Scroll repairs shown|
|Although this is a Prescott Bass, the Dearborns worked in the shop as well and even bought out Prescott 5 years before production stopped. We believe that the Dearborns had this Bass back in the shop at some time to restore it as it was Cut down and converted to a 4-string both in the 19th century.|
|Back repairs are shown here with all new Spruce Crossbars replacing the original ones made of Pine. Also visible are channels filled in which were once the rabbet joints for the insertion of the Ribs.|
|Most of the original Pine Corner Blocks were cleaned and saved. The original Tail Block was Poplar and has now been replaced with one made from Willow, another hardwood to help support this heavyweight! A new Neck Block was also added which helped in reducing the String length to finish under 42".|
|Top repairs showing all old cracks re-studded as well as some half-edging. The Bassbar is actually very old replaced sometime in the 19th century when this was converted to a 4-string Bass. The 'shadow' from original angled Bar is also visible next to the current Bar which was crudley shaped. Here you can see how it was re-shaped but left in as the Top is still perfectly arched with the FF wings still attached and with no signs of sinkage at all.|
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