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Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 6:33pm
I recently came across a quite old mandolin that is owned by a neighbor of my grandmother. #We estimate this mandolin was made in the early 1900's, but it could be older. #It belonged to the step-father of this woman who ownes it. #She is now more than 80 years old and she said the mandolin was quite used when she received it from her step father when she was in her 20's. #Like my grandmother, she is from the mountains in SE Kentucky from a coal mining family.

The finish is quite poor with runs in it. #It definitely has been refinished once, as the wear around the pickguard has finish on it. #It has no truss rod.

The photos were taken with my cell phone camera, so I apologize for the quality, but it was all that I had with me at the time.

The strings on it are quite old Gibsons, but it really didn't sound too bad once I got it into tune. #Definitely that old A sound.

We were trying to determine what this mandolin is. Any ideas?

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 6:58pm
Picture 1

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 6:59pm
Picture 2

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:00pm
Picture 3

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:01pm
Picture 4

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:02pm
Picture 5

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:03pm
Picture 6

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:04pm
Picture 7

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:04pm
Picture 8

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:06pm
Picture 9

Smyers
Aug-17-2006, 7:06pm
Picture 10

ourgang
Aug-18-2006, 7:02am
Based on what I have read and not what I know for sure, it may be a Vega mandolin. This is based on the placement of the bridge behind (towards the tailpiece) the bend in the top. This is assuming that the bridge is in the correct position. What I have read is that Vega was one of the very few that placed the bridge in that position, most all others were forward of the bend.

Paul Hostetter
Aug-18-2006, 9:34am
Sure looks like Chicago, not Boston, to me.

allenhopkins
Aug-18-2006, 9:44am
Headstock shape is almost identical to my Weymann Mando-Lute, but the Weymann has a rounded steam-bent top rather than the "one-break" bent top of this mando. Backstrip purfling is identical pattern to the purfling around the Weymann's soundhole. I'm going to vote "Chicago" (Washburn/Weymann/Regal) as well.

Darryl Wolfe
Aug-18-2006, 9:52am
It looks alot like one I have that is labeled Supertone. Made by who, I don't know

Eric F.
Aug-18-2006, 10:00am
There were tons of mandos made that looked an awful lot like this, and I vote Chicago, too. Samuel Osborne (Sammo) is another possibility.

Bob DeVellis
Aug-18-2006, 10:32am
The rosewood back and recessed-and-covered tuners suggest it may have been a pretty nice mando in its day. If the intonation is correct with the bridge in that location, things probably are not well. Either the neck joint has a problem or the top has sunk. Although neither are obviously visible in the pictures, I assume the strings aren't up to tension. I recommend getting it checked out before attempting to get it strung and tuned for playing. The bent tailpiece cover suggests to me that it's been played with the bridge in its current location and that the cover needed to be bent to clear the strings. That may indicate a problem, or only a non-original cover. If the neck and top are okay, it may just be that the bridge was placed incorrectly. If it's structurally sound, cleaning it up and stringing it with appropriately light gauge strings (definitely not bluegrass gauge -- GHS classicals may be a place to start) might result in a nice little mando. A qualified luthier should be able to tell you what to expect and what else it may need (e.g., fret work).

Paul Hostetter
Aug-18-2006, 11:57am
The marquetry around the edge suggests Harmony or Regal, maybe a contract Washburn, real lowbrow decoration compared to many. The B&S seem to be Indian, not Brazilian, and the board appears to be dyed maple, not ebony. The white (not ivoroid) binding and the wide grain of the spruce speak to "budget Chicago" as well.

With a scale that short, J-74s would be fine - the tension is less than on the Gibsons those strings were intended for. J-73s would be though too.

brunello97
Aug-18-2006, 1:59pm
.....#I'm going to vote "Chicago" (Washburn/Weymann/Regal) as well.

I thought Weymann was out of Philadelphia? Were their mandolins made in Chicago and only sold through the Philadelphia marketers or did they have a manufacturering operation in Philadelphia?

I have a nice Weymann bowlback but have always coveted a mandolute in good condition. How does yours sound, Allen?

Mick

BTW My guess is some kind of Super/Concert/Uber-Tone still working through the better quality tuner sets while supplies lasted. Some had some really cool faux finish rosewood backs and sides.

allenhopkins
Aug-18-2006, 11:13pm
My Weymann is a "Keystone State" model, to be sold through Keystone State Music stores in PA. It's pretty low-end as mando-lutes go, unfigured maple back & sides, plain tuners (the fancier rosewood mando-lutes seem to often have nicely engraved tuners),simple two-ply binding around the top.
Back and top are heat-pressed into a rounded shape, so that the top is not "bent" like many bowl-back and flat-back mandolins, but "domed" with the bridge sitting near the highest point.
Sounds surprisingly good -- a bit thin, reminiscent of what I think of as the "bowl-back"sound, but really clear and ringy. It has several repaired top cracks, and its share of scuffs and scratches, but it's still capable of giving good service. I use it as a "period" instrument when I work at the Genesee Country Village restoration, and for odd jobs now and then when I need that style of mando. With its old hardshell case, it cost me less than $100 20 years ago, and I've been well satisfied with it as a performance and general-purpose instrument.

Michael Lewis
Aug-19-2006, 1:58am
Question re the sound hole binding: is it full depth of the sound board or set half depth? Half depth would be indication of Larson Bros.

Smyers
Aug-19-2006, 7:42am
I belive the sound hole binding is full depth. #I'm a couple of hours from the mando and will have to double check the next time I am up there.

The tailpice and cover is original. #The felt is long gone from the inside and it rattles a bit when hit hard.

The mando's top is sunk a bit below the break and bridge, perhaps 1/8"-1/4". #It appears to be stable.

It has been tuned up from time to time over the years. #The strings are definitely a bit lighter in guage than standard bluegrass strings. #I pulled it up to tension while I was there, as she told me that it had been put in tune just a couple of months prior. #(I found that hard to believe, as it was way flat by perhaps nearly an octave. #I did not check the compensation and intonation, as I did not have my tuner with me. #I'm not good enough to do it by ear.

I did not see evidence that the bridge had been moved, but it has been "refinished", as I mentioned. #So the original marks that would have been left could have been occluded by the newer finish.

By the heavy wear on the fingerboard and a dent in its edge, I would venture that the fingerboard is ebony, not maple, as the grain structure is very tight and I see no evidence of a lighter color wood showing through. #I won't rule it, but this doesn't seem to be the case.

The sides and back do appear to be rosewood, not of the highest grade, but Rosewood nonetheless. #It could be "faux" as someone suggest, as I am am no wood expert. #The neck is of some course grained wood, but isn't bent. #The neck is definitely an open grained wood. #I would definitely agree that it was a lower end model, as the wood choices, few detailed appointments and lesser workmanship point to this.

We do have to keep in mind that the original owner was simple folk from hills of East Kentucky between just after the turn of the century and the great de[pression. #The current owner would have been a teenager during the great depression and was probably given the mando in the late 30's or early 40's. #Most likely, the original owner did not travel to get it, as there were no roads where they lived. #That was also just not normally done by these people. #Just to get to a road required a day's walk over the mountain. #Most likely, it was purchased from the "company store" orignally using "script" as they did in those days. #This would probably limit the source of what company it came from. #If they would have travelled, they would have had to walk several days or hitch a ride to a train station once they got to the road. #And since they were very poor and train travel so expensive. #There is the possibility that it could have been brought back to Kentucky from a soldier traveling back from WW I, but very few of these folks went to WW I. #Does that bit of history help any in determining this mando's source?

What kind of value range would you estimate this mando is worth?

brunello97
Aug-19-2006, 10:29am
Scott,

That is an interesting story about life in the EKentucky hills. It definitely colors any appreciation of the life of the mandolin. I do believe that any number of makers sold through mail-order services during the 20s and 30s. Sears and Montgomery Ward for sure, which may be a way of an instrument reaching a remote area-and also might suggest a Chicago provenance.

I don't have an expert idea of the chronology of mandolin morphology, but it seems the flat-back hegemony really came on strong in the '20s. I doubt if your mandolin is any older than that, as earlier than this bowlbacks prevailed with the exception, of course of Gibson, L+H, some Vegas etc. At some point open tuners replaced the closed, in-laid tuners, for reasons of economy, I suppose, which might place yours on the earlier side of the era. This is all certainly conjecture on my part.

Diego might be the guy to ask. He knows a lot about makers from this era.

What is the depth of the mandolin sides? I have a Favilla flatback from this era (which does not resemble yours) but is significantly deeper in profile than the Concertone flatback I had (which did resemble yours.) However, the Concertone did not have the depth that yours appears to have, though the headstock, binding, tuners, etc. were quite similar.

I enjoy these sourcing discussions. I always learn a lot from the various opinions.

Post some more pictures when you can!

Mick

Smyers
Aug-19-2006, 11:08am
Brunello97,

To listen to my grandmother and the neighbor lady talk about their youth in E Kentucky is always a treat. #I garner more little tidbits everytime I talk with her. #She is approaching 90 now, but still quite lucid. #I have fond memories myself of going down to the Middlesborogh, KY area myself as a child and visiting my great grandmother. #My great grandfather played mandolin and fiddle himself, but I have yet to find someone who remembers what happened to his instruments. # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

While I didn't measure it, I estimate the depth of the mando's body at its thickest point near the tailpiece is about 1-1/2X that of a modern carved top A or F at the edge. #I would guess its internal volume is a bit greater than a modern mandolin.

Is that one of the nicknames for this type of mando... a flatback? #The back isn't flat though. #It defintely has a curve to it. #It is convex from side to side. #From the tailpice to the neck, the back starts off convex, but then transitions to flat or just slightly convex.

Paul Hostetter
Aug-19-2006, 6:04pm
The back is flatter than a bowlback, and that's why these are called flatbacks.

The photos aren't real good, so it's hard to tell, but it was the condition of the fingerboard, and the lack of luster, that led me to suspect it was dyed maple and not ebony.

If the rosewood on the outside of the mandolin also looks like rosewood inside, it's not antiqued or grained. Indian rosewood, even Brazilian, was so cheap back then they would have produced a solid rosewood mandolin as cheaply as a grain birch one.

The neck is probably Spanish cedar, which is neither cedar nor Spanish. It looks like mahogany, but it's lighter in weight, and a very common neck wood back then. Again, the p[hotos aren't much help, but I offer these ideas based on a lot of similar instruments I have seen over the years.

brunello97
Aug-19-2006, 6:35pm
Paul,

It is interesting that you suggest Spanish cedar for the neck. We've been using it lately for outdoor frame and trellis contruction. It is a beautiful wood and remains relatively value priced. (For how long, who knows.)

It was used extensively for cigar box manufacture early in the 20th c, which might explain its popularity/availability.

Also was used, apparently, as an anti-malaria tonic.

That's a hat trick: mandolins, macanudos and malaria. Pretty good for one species of wood.

Mick

Paul Hostetter
Aug-20-2006, 3:03pm
Cedrela odorata and a couple of closely related Cedrela species have a good track record in several realms. It's of the family meliaceae, which makes it a close relative of the Swietania species we usually think of as mahogany, which is why a lot of people can't tell them apart. Not as tough as mahogany, but unusually rigid for its weight. It's another one of those New World woods (like Brazilian rosewood, pernambuco, and so on) that became real popular in Europe after early colonization, and then had a life back over here later on. After 75 years off, Martin is using it again for guitar necks.

And it still lines cigar boxes.

http://www.earnestinstruments.com/jpgs/hootchulele1.jpg http://www.earnestinstruments.com/jpgs/hootchulele2.jpg

brunello97
Aug-20-2006, 4:55pm
Thanks, Paul, and can you describe how the scotch effects the uke tone? In the instrument, that is, not the listener.....

When I drink scotch everything sounds good. Even my singing.

Mick

Smyers
Aug-21-2006, 7:37am
I'll buy that about the neck. #The neck is some sort of open grained wood, like mahogany. #So the Spanish Cedar certainly would fit since it looks similar to mahogany as you mention.

I did a quick Google on Spanish cedar. #Seems it is from South America, not even from Europe! Strange name for the wood indeed. #So if the builder was sourcing their wood from one supplier, it could be that the sides are brazilian rosewood. #Pure conjecture mind you.

The inside appeared to be a dark wood, but it was hard to tell from the 80 years of dust build-up. #I'll have to get inside it and clean it on my next trip up to confirm it. #I'll also get some classical strings and restring it, check the compensation, etc.

Assuming it is has rosewood sides, ebony fingerboard and of the grade we have discussed, what kind of value should this mando hold? #$200 to $500? #$500 to $750? #$750 to $1000?

I will definitely make sure I carry my good camera with me on my next visit up to my grandma's area.

brunello97
Aug-21-2006, 10:13am
Hmmm. #Value is a pretty hard thing to gauge, Scott. Your best bet is to scour the classifieds here at the MC and at vintage instrument dealers on-line. #I try to keep track of things on ebay, but that can get overwhelming. There seems to be some premium on vintage mandolins with a maker's label of some kind.

My hunch from seeing things go over the last year or so would be in the $100-200 range. I know that may sound disappointingly low, but there are a lot of old mandolins still floating around out there. #I could be wrong about all this. Again, it might be good to check with Diego Moon, who's a regular on the MC board. He seems pretty up on this era and style mandolin.

Given the story around this one, though, the sentimental value sounds priceless. #Get it cleaned, strung and set up and play it regularly. Bring it back to life!

Mick

Smyers
Aug-21-2006, 8:53pm
It doesn't dissappoint (or surprise) me that it is of relatively low value. #After all, it isn't mine.

However, I may certainly like to buy it from her, as its history is worth something. #I don't think she is going to sell it though, especially for such a small sum. #Never hurts to ask. #Frankly, it is so worn that I would have to get at least a new fingerboard on it just to play it. #You should see how cupped it is between the frets in first position.

Thanks for all of your help.

Eugene
Aug-21-2006, 10:19pm
I also feel this is a definite Chicago build. #I'll also side with Paul on probably Regal or an incarnation of proto-Kay. #It is hard to make out detail in the photos, but it does look like Brazilian rosewood or a good faux job to me. #Upon inspection, even the good faux rosewood is pretty easy to spot by anybody who's handled it before.

I can't make out the action, but it would appear pretty high in upper positions in picture 10. #That could be a relatively serious condition issue given the relatively low market value of American canted mandolins (I feel the good pieces should be worth more than they are). #If yours is in playable condition with decent action and backed in real Brazilian rosewood, your first estimate of range is probably the most appropriate (i.e., ca. $200-500 and probably closer to the lower end, as Mick offers). #If it has condition issues that effect its functionality, it will be worth less.

Darryl Wolfe
Aug-22-2006, 11:13am
As a gauge, I've been picking up about any B. Rosewood flat back mando I see if it can be had (usually on eb**) for less than $175. (I'm treating it as parked pocket change that likely will escalate over the next ten years). And, dealers who have well adjusted playable likenesses of the same usually ask around $300-450 for them

Smyers
Aug-22-2006, 1:34pm
Eugene,

Luckily, the appearance of it having a high action is an optical illusion. It is quite low in fact. Easily playable. I checked the neck for warpage and it is amazingly flat for having no truss rod.

Eugene
Aug-22-2006, 9:47pm
That's good news.

jim simpson
Aug-22-2006, 10:36pm
This is a B rosewood that I picked up a couple of years ago at an auction. There was no identifying markings or labels on it. I think I ended up selling it to a dealer at a guitar show for $250.00. It had no issues.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:45pm
Well, I made the trek to get more pictures of the old mando, this time with my Fuji digital in hand. I cropped reduced their detail level to near the maximum allowed to post. The first couple are of the overall instrument.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:49pm
overall 2

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:50pm
Back

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:51pm
Back Closer View

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:52pm
Back at Neck Joint

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-01-2006, 1:55pm
It has been refinished Scott

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:56pm
Top Close-Up 1

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:57pm
Top Close-Up 2

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:58pm
Side

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 1:59pm
Tailpiece Area

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:00pm
Headstock top

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:01pm
Headstock back

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:03pm
Headstock Side - Note crack near one of the G tuner button stems

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:05pm
Fingerboard & Nut - Upon closer inspection, it may indeed be a dyed maple fingerboard, as lighter areas can easily be seen in this view. Note the heavy wear between frets. Oddly, the frets themselves are not in bad shape.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:07pm
Side of neck - Here the grain of the neck and fingerboard can be more plainly seen.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:14pm
I know she ain't much to look at, but she's got interesting history. #And the sound is a pretty good period sound, although it would be better with new strings. #It would clearly need the fretboard replaced and something done about the finish. #Clearly, she's been refinished at one time and quite poorly to boot, so I don't see any harm in having her sanded a bit and a good light period finish done to her.

The compensation is out of whack, as it goes flat down the neck, more on the A & E strings than the D string. #The G string is dead on down the neck. #So it's probably going to need the bridge replaced too.

That crack in the headstock needs repaired and the slight dip in the top below the bridge needs carefully examined.

The owner told me she would consider selling her to me, but I don't think it's worth too much, especially considering its going to take a couple hundred bucks to get her fixed up a bit.

Thoughts? #Looking for a general consensus and conversation, now that I ahve better photos up.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:20pm
BTW: It does appear to be real rosewood back and sides, as the inside of the mando is quite a dark reddish wood with tight grain.

Jim Garber
Sep-01-2006, 2:40pm
The compensation is out of whack, as it goes flat down the neck, more on the A & E strings than the D string. The G string is dead on down the neck. So it's probably going to need the bridge replaced too.
I assume that you placed the birdge in the correct position? In the first photo you posted, it is below the cant which, except for Vega's, was not the rule. It should be on the fretboard side of the cant.

Jim

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 2:55pm
No, the bridge was not moved from its original position. The position is close to being correct. While the compensation is off up the neck, it will require less than 1/16" of adjustment. To get above the cant, we are talking over 1/2". The G string is dead on up the neck.

Paul Hostetter
Sep-01-2006, 3:03pm
I stand by my earlier statement that it's made of Indian rosewood, with a dyed maple fingerboard. Rather that being refinished, per se, it's just had some spar varnish brushed on over whatever was already there.

Smyers
Sep-01-2006, 3:28pm
Paul,

I'll buy all your assessments as facts. Indeed, the "refinish" appears to be just brushed over, very sloppily mind you, the origianl finish.

Hambonepicker
Sep-04-2006, 9:35pm
Darryl,

You showed a photo with 3 mandolins; the one on the left seemed to be the one you wrote about as a Supertone (manufacturer unknown). Tell me more about the middle one, and show a better closeup of the purfling inlay pattern. Do you have a label or know anything else about the center instrument?
Hambonepicker

ourgang
Sep-05-2006, 7:12am
Based on the placement of the bridge, I originally thought that it might be a Vega. However, just by measurment, should be equi-distant from the nut to 12th fret and from the 12th fret to bridge, it seems that the bridge is out of place and should be moved forward of the cant, toward the fingerboard. I guess the Chicago build is probably more accurate.

Jim Garber
Sep-05-2006, 9:35am
No, the bridge was not moved from its original position. The position is close to being correct. While the compensation is off up the neck, it will require less than 1/16" of adjustment. To get above the cant, we are talking over 1/2". The G string is dead on up the neck.
I read the above quote a few times and am not all that sure what you are talking about. Do you mean that the bridge needs to move 1/16" to get the compensation correct or that the action needs to be brought down 1/16"?

And are you saying that the g-string is intonated properly with the bridge in that original position?

What I fear is that the neck might need to be reset in order to realy play this thing in tune.

Jim

Bob DeVellis
Sep-05-2006, 9:53am
Jim, that echoes my concern. If the G string is about in tune with the bridge that far back, something's amiss.

Paul Hostetter
Sep-05-2006, 10:16am
Based on the placement of the bridge, I originally thought that it might be a Vega. However, just by measurment, should be equi-distant from the nut to 12th fret and from the 12th fret to bridge, it seems that the bridge is out of place and should be moved forward of the cant, toward the fingerboard. I guess the Chicago build is probably more accurate.

Anyone really acquainted with the, um, imprecision of Chicago budget instrument manufacture would never place much importance on the location of a bridge as an indication of anything. They weren't assembling parts generated by a CNC machine, y'know.

As far as making the thing play in tune, you move the bridge so that it does. That's the point of a floating bridge. Sometimes they rest below the cant, sometimes above it, sometimes right smack on it, unfortunately. You position the bridge so the frets and intonation align, which means the 12th fret is not really in the precise center of any presumed measured ideal, and nothing is equidistant. Playable instruments don't work like that.

As far as the details of this particular instrument's intonation issues:

1) is the nut correctly cut?

2) are the strings decent?

3) are you aware that if the top of the bridge is a straight line and all the notches there are clean, that you have a choice of having the E play in tune, or the G play in tune? You can't have them both unless you do a compensated bridge. Shorter scales need more compensation than longer, Gibson-style scales. In cases like this, I set the bridge so the E plays in tune up the neck, and make the best of it with the others.

Smyers
Sep-07-2006, 11:05am
Anyone know how to get hold of Diego Moon? Seems he doesn't accept PM's or publish his e-mail address.

Smyers
Sep-11-2006, 7:15am
I just wanted to thank everyone for putting in their 2 cents. #This has been a great help. #With these posts and little behind the scenes help from DiegoMoon and Jgarber who put me on the right trail out on the web, I have determined this is a Larson Brothers mando, c. approx. 1915. #I found at least one collector who has its identical sister, albeit in a bit better condition.

I believe it falls into the $100-$200 range in value, if it were in good condition. #However, since it needs a new fretboard and to generally be restored, its value is less than $100. #Still a nice piece of history. #With a little TLC from a good luthier, the ol' girl will sing again.

Thanks everyone. # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

brunello97
Sep-11-2006, 8:32am
A Larson? Hmm. Can you describe the process or details that helped you to that conclusion? If so, given the fame (and relative scarcity) of their work, one might assume a far higher asking price.

That is unless they had a 'budget line'....Still, their materials, workmanship and details always seemed a cut above.

An interesting thread continues.

Mick

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-11-2006, 9:17am
Darryl,

You showed a photo with 3 mandolins; the one on the left seemed to be the one you wrote about as a Supertone (manufacturer unknown). Tell me more about the middle one, and show a better closeup of the purfling inlay pattern. Do you have a label or know anything else about the center instrument?
Hambonepicker
The one on the left is a Weymann 20 in spruce and mahogany with no raised edges. Center is a Brazilian and spruce Supertone, on the right is a Brazilian and Spruce no-name, assumed to be Chicago Regal, Rex ect. The one in the center has pear rectangles and diamonds around the edge, inlaid in a black mastic or something similar.

Smyers
Sep-11-2006, 10:23am
brunello97,

The process involved leads from DiegoMoon & Jgarber who put me in contact with a couple of others out on the web. The guy who I found that provided the most links and information on the web is Dan Alexander, who I contacted directly. #If you look at the link below, you will find two photos that tell the tale. #One is a mando that is the EXACT model I have found, right down to the purfling and bridge location. #It is simply called an "Unlabeled Flatback", which you will find in the 11th row on the link. #The other is the one labeled "Stahl 1915 Flatback", which you will find in the 8th row. #This one appears to be an "upgraded" version of the unlabeled model, sold as a Wm. Stahl, but otherwise identical.

http://www.larsonbrothersguitars.com/otherpics.html

The workmanship is quite good, even though this old mando is well worn. #Nothing is loose, the neck straight and tight, and it is still playable even though nothing appears to have ever been done to it, other than the bad home "refinish". #It is clearly good craftsmanship, even though a "budget" mando of its day. #Clearly, a lower end model without all the bling-bling that we all love.

Based upon the numerous links and tidbits collected, I would deduce that in all likelihood, this is a mando that was sold as a "generic" mandolin through mail order catalogs like Sears & Robucks or the like. #Some of the information on the Larson Brothers indicate that this was done. #This seems to hold true to where the mandolin originally came from in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. #Based upon discussions with the owner, it was most likely purchased through such a mail order process using "script" from the "company store".

So, being a Larson would you consider it worht more than the $100-$200, even in its condition?

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-11-2006, 11:50am
here is a closer shot of the Supertone

Jim Garber
Sep-11-2006, 1:33pm
The guy who I found that provided the most links and information on the web is Dan Alexander, who I contacted directly. If you look at the link below, you will find two photos that tell the tale. One is a mando that is the EXACT model I have found, right down to the purfling and bridge location. It is simply called an "Unlabeled Flatback", which you will find in the 11th row on the link. The other is the one labeled "Stahl 1915 Flatback", which you will find in the 8th row. This one appears to be an "upgraded" version of the unlabeled model, sold as a Wm. Stahl, but otherwise identical.

http://www.larsonbrothersguitars.com/otherpics.html
Possible, possible... but, I don't think that there are any absolutes here. Mr. Alexander may think that this unlabelled one is a Larson, but I don't think anyone can be 100% sure even of the one he displays on his site. The Larsons never signed any of their instruments tho certain brands were only made by them and others were sometimes made by them.

Even on his building characteristics page (http://www.larsonbrothersguitars.com/info.html), there are a number of characteristics that do not jibe.

I did fwd this thread to Bob Hartman, who wrote both Larson books.

Jim

Smyers
Sep-11-2006, 3:44pm
Jim,

I appreciate you forwarding on the link on to Bob Hartman. #There is always room for learning more or correcting mistakes.

Probably the biggest thing that lead me to believe that it is indeed a Larson was the comparison between the 1915 Stahl model and the "unlabelled" model. #If (and only if)on line 8 on Mr. Alexander's page he has the 1915 Stahl correctly identified, then by comparing it to the unlabelled one on line 11 of the same web page (which is the identical twin of the one in this post), it leads one to believe that the unlabelled one is a Larson, since they made the Stahl mondos. #The similarities are so incredibly close, right down to the slightly open grained shellac finish. #The only thing different is the purfling and the quality of the "booking" on the back, and this only marginally so. #The shape, dimensions, scale, tuner type, etc. is spot on. #Even the fact that the bridge is past the break in the top is identical. #Conclusive? #Perhaps not. #But if I were a betting man...

Smyers
Sep-16-2006, 5:10pm
Well, I went ahead and bought the old mando. Got it pretty cheap, so I have a little bit to fix it up to make it a player. So regardless of what it actually , I own it now.

I'd still like ot hear from Bob Hartman. He has never commented.

Larsons' Creations
Sep-18-2006, 4:26pm
New to this site! I am Bob Hartman, author of the Larson Brothers books. I believe this mandolin is Larson made, c. 1915. I have photos of the same style with more ornamentation which has no brand but many Larson features including the soundhole binding covering only part of the wood in a side view. I will attempt to post these photos.
In the now posted photos it appears that the soundhole binding is set in the same fashion, with a ledge of wood below it.

Jim Garber
Sep-18-2006, 5:24pm
Welcome, Bob, to the Cafe. And thanks for clearing up some of our conjecturing.

Jim

brunello97
Sep-18-2006, 7:02pm
Thanks, Bob, pull up a chair, welcome to the Mandolin Cafe Hot Stove League. I look forward to your continued posts.

I, for what it's worth, remain the respectful sceptic that the mandolin in question is a Larson. Not that I have a fraction of your experience with identifying them, but this seems all-around like a budget level mandolin. Perhaps Larson did contract work using lesser quality tops and dyed fretboards, though your site suggests otherwise. I have the same soundhole binding detail on an obviously budget-brand non-Larson two point from probably the same era. I've seen a lot of projection go out over "Larson Traits" but some similarlities remain circumstantial to my admittedly amateur eye.

I am open to persuasion, though, and look forward to learning something along the way. Not that anyone should feel obligated to defend their positions on this, just my two cents.

Mick

Smyers
Sep-18-2006, 9:17pm
Bob,

Thanks for chiming in. I look forward to some of your posts and detailed comparisons. This is getting more interesting as I go! I may have to buy one of those books of yours. Sounds like an interesting read.

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-19-2006, 12:38pm
Here is an auction for a similar mandolin that is being touted as Larson made and Stahl distributed. #I have one like it and have been told it is a Rex. #There is no label. Mine is on the right in the picture I posted on page 1 of this thread

<a href="http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-STAHL-LARSON-BROTHERS-BRAZILIAN-MANDOLIN-EXC_W0QQitemZ270029935090QQihZ017QQcatego

ryZ10179QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem" target="_blank">link</a>

Jim Garber
Sep-19-2006, 5:02pm
Rex was a Gretsch label. I never heard of the Larsons making mandolins for Gretsch but could have, I suppose.

Jim

Smyers
Oct-16-2006, 8:21am
I have the old mando at a luthier's now for some repair work. We did do a bit more investigation and did learn that the bridge does need to be move more toward the break, probably 1/8" to 3/16". So whoever thought the bridge was too far back was correct.

Desert Lass
Oct-19-2008, 8:24am
A mandolin, with label inside, that looks like the one being discussed, is a SAMMO by "Samuel C. Osborn Mfg. Co. Masonic Temple Chicago Ill." Acquired in Ohio in recent years. Examined by a luthier and found to be in very good condition.