Sartory and the fake bows: Phoney war

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One of France’s greatest bow makers,Eugène Sartory sued an unscrupulous American dealer who flooded the market with fake bows. Using the original court transcripts and contemporary news reports, Gennady Filimonov uncovers how the Frenchman sought justice

Sartory’s popularity caused imitations to be manufactured in large numbers at one time. When Sartory learned of the fraud, he travelled extensively, incognito, searching out dealers who were handling the imitations. He ascertained the source of the manufacture, instituted legal proceedings, and stopped some of the practice.

The above appeared in Joseph Roda’s seminal 1959 work Bows for Musical Instruments of the Violin Family. For most people it constitutes the sum total of their knowledge of this significant part of Eugène Sartory’s life – not only did the master bow maker endure the aggravation of seeing fakes in his name circulating in America, but this also caused him to enter a frustrating twelve-year period of litigation for trademark infringement against the culprits. Recently, however, I discovered a raft of original court transcripts, archived at the Supreme Court of New York, which provide a hitherto unknown insight into not only Sartory’s legal battles but also his business dealings and methods of working. I have also found evidentiary material in archival magazines and trade papers supporting Sartory’s claims. This research sheds light on a chapter of Sartory’s life that has gone completely unreported until now. The transcripts also provide a treasure trove of historical facts (in his own words) regarding his rise to fame, and how it brought on financial losses and personal frustration to the greatest bow maker of the 20th century.

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