The Squier Story

Jerome Bonaparte "J.B." Squier, a young English immigrant who arrived in Battle Creek, Mich., in the latter part of the 19th century, was a farmer and shoemaker who had learned the fine European art of violin making. He moved to Boston in 1881, where he built and repaired violins with his son, Victor Carroll (V.C.) Squier. To this day, their violins are noted for their exceptional varnishes, and they command high prices as fine examples of early U.S. instrument craftsmanship. Indeed, J.B. Squier ranks among the best-known U.S.-trained violin makers and is often referred to as "the American Stradivarius."

Victor returned to Battle Creek, where he opened his own shop in 1890. As his business grew, Squier moved the company to 429 Lake Ave. and eventually to 427 Capitol Ave, S.W.-the famous "fiddle factory" of Battle Creek. With a limited market for violins in Battle Creek, however, Squier astutely sought relationships with national music schools and famous violinists.

Up to 1900, the best violin strings were made in Europe. Victor Squier started making his own hand-wound violin strings, and the business grew so quickly that he and his employees improvised a dramatic production increase by converting a treadle sewing machine into a string winder capable of producing 1,000 uniformly high-quality strings per day. Squier violin, banjo and guitar strings became well known nationwide and were especially popular among students because of their reasonable price.

In the 1930s, Squier began making strings for the era's new electric instruments; the company also sold pianos, radios and phonograph records until divesting itself of all string-related products in 1961.

Fender entered the picture in the 1950s, when the V.C. Squier Company began supplying Southern California inventor and businessman Leo Fender with strings for his unusual new electric guitars. The V.C. Squier Company became an official original equipment manufacturer for Fender in 1963, and Fender bought the V.C. Squier string company in early 1965 shortly before Fender itself was bought by CBS in May of that year. By the mid-1970s, the Squier name was retired as the strings had taken the Fender name.

 


1982-83: Squier JV guitars

The promise of a new, revitalized Fender dawned in the early 1980s as the dismal CBS era wound down, and concerned Fender officials noted the abundance of Japanese guitar makers who were blatantly copying-in some cases cloning-original vintage Fender designs with great accuracy and low costs, albeit with some occasionally bizarre details.

In one particularly galling instance, for example, one manufacturer used headstock logos closely resembling those of original pre-CBS Fender guitars, but using the words "Tokai" (with a large backward uncrossed "F"), "Springy Sound" instead of "Stratocaster," "Breezy Sound" instead of "Telecaster," "Oldies but Goldies' instead of "Original Contour Body" and-the last straw-"This is the exact replica of the good old Strat" instead of "Fender Musical Instruments" in small print below the main logo. Ouch.

Fender acted by setting up its own official Japanese manufacturing operation, Fender Japan, in March 1982. A joint U.S.-Japanese venture, Fender Japan produced guitars with material and technical support from Fender's U.S. facilities; Japanese manufacturing facilities even included factories that had been producing the aforementioned Fender copies. By May, Fender Japan had six vintage instruments-'57 and '62 Stratocaster models, a '52 Telecaster, '57 and '62 Precision Bass® models and a 62 Jazz Bass®.

Meanwhile, as the flood of Asian Fender copies surged over Europe, Fender sought a competitive low-cost alternative. Accordingly, the long-dormant Squier name was resurrected and assigned to export versions of the new Fender Japan vintage models; these became known as Squier JV ("Japanese Vintage") instruments. These high-quality models featured minimal design changes, including a small Squier logo on the headstock where the "Original Contour Body" decal normally appeared, and a more cost-effective zinc tremolo block in place of the usual steel one.

These early Squier JV models were produced until late 1984 and are highly sought after among collectors today for their quality and relative scarcity. Soon after their introduction, a new and larger Squier logo appeared, accompanied by the now-familiar "by Fender" logo.

1983-85: There's Magic in the Breed

In late 1983, as it had in Europe and Japan, Fender decided to import Squier instruments into the United States in order to compete with the many copies flooding the domestic market. To make them stand out without competing directly with Fender's existing domestic models, these U.S.-bound Squier models were given '70s features and touted as the first instruments ever "officially authorized" to borrow from Fender's classic designs.

The series included Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision bass models, and three Bullet® models-affordable entry-level instruments combining Stratocaster-style body shapes with Telecaster necks in triple-single-coil or dual-humbucking pickup versions, plus a split-pickup bass with a Telecaster-style headstock.

Using the slogan "There's Magic in the Breed," Fender re-launched the Squier name in the U.S. market with these instruments.

1985-1995: Setting the Standard

The Squier Standard Series, introduced in the mid-1980s, was based on the original vintage models, but with more up-to-date features (likely mirroring design evolution and standardization at big brother Fender). By 1989, the series had evolved to include the Squier II Stratocaster (which had a more modern-looking tremolo) several non-pickguard contemporary designs, and even the heavy metal HM Series, which featured pointed headstocks and flashy finishes. These contemporary and HM series instruments soon disappeared quietly, but the Standard Series itself continued throughout the early 1990s and evolved into a new generation of Squier models.



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