Sol Roach (Selman E. Roach, 1856-1933) was a multi talented eccentric who lived during the last half of the 19th and first third of the 20th centuries. He bridged the era of frontier life and that of established communities. His immediate ancestors came from Maine, settling in eastern Pennsylvania and later moving to west central Pennsylvania. Growing up in the frontier areas of Pennsylvania he worked in saw mills, as a professional hunter and outdoor guide, a coal miner, as a business man, a gunsmith and a violin maker, among other things. He married in 1876 and raised five children of his own, one boy and four girls, and raised one of his grandsons. During his life he became a friend and confidant of many men in high places in Pennsylvania politics and was a personal friend and former associate of Buffalo Bill Cody.
This website is dedicated to exploring Sol’s life as a violin maker. Although his work with violins began as early as the 1870s, research indicates that he didn’t make his first violin until he moved to Windber, Pennsylvania in 1898. Windber was a new coal town being established by the Berwind White Coal Company just east of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Sol built the second commercial building on the main street of the new town selling bicycles, guns and doing guide work. The earliest known example of his original violins is from 1900 and the last known example is from 1928. It is thought that he made around 50 original instruments, 26 of which have been discovered and documented. He also did extensive work regraduating commercial instruments. His original instruments are still in use and have turned up from coast to coast. Most of these are in playing condition. Many of them are being played regularly by both professionals and amateurs.
Details of his life and violins may be found in the book “Sell My Fiddle? Never!” available at no cost on this site. The book is 154 pages and is downloadable by individual chapters so that as new information becomes available it can be easily added in the appropriate place. This also allows you to download only the chapters that interest you. Chapter 8 is particularly long and contains a lot of color pictures. If you print this chapter be sure to start with a fresh color cartridge! “Sell My Fiddle? Never!” is currently not available in printed form.