Virtual Tour of
Muzika! A Celebration of Czech and Slovak Music
Violin by Mathias Ptak, Tabor, South Dakota, ca. 1880-1920
NMM 10034. Violin by Mathias Ptak, Tabor, South Dakota, ca. 1880-1920. Mathias Ptak was born in Iowa to Czech parents in 1858. Sometime before 1880, he settled in Bon Homme County, near the Czech immigrant town of Tabor, South Dakota, and married a Czech immigrant, Paulina Honomichl, with whom he raised eleven children. A self-taught violin maker and player, Ptak crafted this instrument from wood (pine, beech, birch, and maple) he found on his eastern South Dakota farm. His son, Steve (1905-2002), subsequently played his father's violin in Czech polka and dance bands throughout South Dakota and Nebraska beginning in the 1920s, along with his older brother, Tom (1895-1997), who became well known in the region as the leader of the Tom Ptak Orchestra, an ensemble that toured the region and broadcast live on the powerful AM radio station, WNAX, located in
Yankton, South Dakota. Gift of Steve and Byrt Ptak, Mitchell, South Dakota, 2001.
Close-up view of the soundholes
Three views of the pegbox and scroll of the Mathias Ptak violin
Mathias Ptaks' Violin Featured in
The Royal Serenaders Dance Band
Mathias' son, Tom, assembled a diverse group of musicians from the
Wagner, South Dakota, area in the 1920s, to play in a dance band called The Royal Serenaders. Tom's younger brother, Steve, alternated singing in this ensemble with playing on both the banjo and his father's handmade violin. On March 28-29, 1927, The Royal Serenaders entered a competition at the WNAX radio station and won first prize, bringing home a trophy that now resides in the Museum's Tom Ptak Archives. With the advent of the Great Depression, many of the band members were forced to leave the area in search of jobs and the Royal Serenaders disbanded.
Tom Ptak's first band, The Royal Serenaders. Band
Clayton Dostal, trombone; Ed Rehurek, trumpet; Dewey Drappeau, sousaphone;
Tom Ptak, drums and vocals; Steve Ptak, fiddle, banjo, and vocals; Adeline
Wagner, piano; John Dostal, saxophone; Ray Kuca and Johnny Matuska,
clarinet and saxophone. Photo gift of Steve Ptak.