World Renowned Violins Were Once Made In Battle Creek, MI
I almost forgot this slice of Southwest Michigan trivia! I was at a concert last night at the Kalamazoo State Theatre watching the phenomenal guitarist Tab Benoit when he mentioned he was using some of the finest, loudest strings to come out of Battle Creek, Michigan.
We all know about the history of Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo, but did you have any idea the world-renowned V.C. Squier Company, the predecessor to Fender's Squier guitars, was born right here in Battle Creek?
V.C. Squier Company
According to the Battle Creek Enquirer during the 1900s Victor Carol "V.C." Squier owned and operated, “one of the largest and most complete factories in the country devoted to the manufacture of musical strings."
V.C. was the son of famed violin maker J.B. Squier, who taught him every trick of the trade. V.C. apprenticed under his father in Boston before returning to Battle Creek to open his own "fiddle factory" at 427 Capital Ave SW, a building that is now occupied by Wharry Engineering.
Not only was Squier's company ahead of its time for using a converted a sewing machine to manufacture their strings, but the V.C. Squier Company was a major employer of women at the time; similar to the "Kalamazoo Gals" of Gibson.
Squier's products were so highly rated that Squier was dubbed the "American Stradivarius" of violin makers. The highest compliment of all!
Squier + Fender
In the 1950s Squier became the musical string supplier for Fender guitars and by 1963 Squier was the official original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the famous guitar company. Eventually, the V.C. Squier Company was purchased outright by Fender who continued factory operations in Battle Creek up until its closing in 1981.
A year later, Fender decided to revive the Squier name and created a new line of guitars which are still available to this day. I don't even play guitar and even I have heard of the Fender Squier, but at the time I had no idea it had ties to Southwest Michigan!
V.C. Squier passed away in 1949 but you can find his final resting place in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek. I have visited his grave myself to pay my rock-and-roll respects. You can even still visit the original Squier factory in downtown Battle Creek and its most recent location just outside of town.