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Bob Denton
Oct-19-2006, 12:25pm
Does any one know what the impact both WWI and the Influenza Pandemic had on Gibson mandolin production during the years 1917-1918?

For those who are not familier with the pandemic, it virtually shut down the US for a few months:

With one-quarter of the US and one-fifth of the world infected with the influenza, it was impossible to escape from the illness. Even President Woodrow Wilson suffered from the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the crucial treaty of Versailles to end the World War (Tice). Those who were lucky enough to avoid infection had to deal with the public health ordinances to restrain the spread of the disease. The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public. Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Some towns required a signed certificate to enter and railroads would not accept passengers without them. Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers (Deseret News). Bodies pilled up as the massive deaths of the epidemic ensued. Besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins, morticians and gravediggers (Knox). The conditions in 1918 were not so far removed from the Black Death in the era of the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.

Were tuners available during the war? Were mandolins built and not completed?

Thanks

Keith Erickson
Oct-19-2006, 1:33pm
Hey there Bob,

I remember reading about a flu empidemic around this time but I wasn't aware that the facts and figures were that high.

I'm sure that the national and world economies were both affected during this time(not just Gibson's balance sheet).

As for the war; we entered that in 1917 and finished up on 11-11-1918 at 11:00 am. Rationing? Yes but not to the extent and time that was necessary to get through the 2nd World War.

During the 1920's, right after World War 1, the United States experienced one of the greatest economic expansions experienced in history. Gibson stopped making Loars around 1924 during the middle of this expansion. From what I read hear at on the cafe, it sounded like the market demand had more to do with how mandolins were made and were marketed more than any war or flu empidemic.

Bob Denton
Oct-19-2006, 1:58pm
I am interested becaue my "1917" A4 has a 1917 serial but 1918 or slightly later hardsware. I was wondering if it may have been built and assigned a serial number in 1917 but not finally completed untill late 1918 because of shortages of parts like tuners or even frets.

Although our involvement in WWI was shorder than in WWII, Wilson had a much stronger position and had a number of years to plan for the war, as there was no Pearl Harbor.

The Lucitania was two years PRIOR to our delaration of war.

Its facinating to imagine the social and political conditions that existed when this A4 was made.

Cya

Jim MacDaniel
Oct-19-2006, 2:36pm
I remember reading about a flu empidemic around this time...
Wow Keith -- I had no idea you were that old! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

allenhopkins
Oct-19-2006, 2:44pm
I believe the inlaid Handel tuners Gibson used on Gibson's higher-end mandos were imported from Germany, and the supply was cut off when WWI broke out.

Hope some Gibson maven will correct me if I'm wrong...

mythicfish
Oct-19-2006, 3:06pm
About those Handel tuners ... Lots of posts here on the Cafe, but little hard information regarding the place of manufacture
or the reason for their disappearance. The War? Who knows. But there was plenty of "German silver" available for violin bows
during those years.
I guess that's what is referred to as "The Frog of War".
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif???
Oh, the FOG of war!
Sorry .... never mind.

Curt

John Rosett
Oct-19-2006, 3:45pm
didn't gibson move into the parsons st plant in 1917?

Alex of the North
Oct-19-2006, 3:48pm
Good pun!

f5loar
Oct-19-2006, 6:00pm
Mismatched parts to year made is more common then you would think. Consider a lifetime full warrenty. You buy a new A4 in 1917 and one year later you drop it breaking the neck and bending the tuners or breaking off the fragile buttons. You would simply send it back to the factory and they put on a new neck with new style tuners since that's all they had in stock at the time. Hardware is something so easy to change out so it's not uncommon to see it happen. I remember buying a 1964 D21 that had the small button nickel tuners. One year later even though the tuners were fine I wanted the new big Grover rotomatics on there in fancy gold none the less so I just changed them out. Never thought about keeping the original tuners. Who is to say that didn't happen to yours?

Jim Hilburn
Oct-19-2006, 6:10pm
The "Gibson" script sure changed about that time. It seemed much more artfully done on the early teens instruments and by the Loar era it looked amatuerish.

Scott Tichenor
Oct-19-2006, 9:02pm
About those Handel tuners ... Lots of posts here on the Cafe, but little hard information regarding the place of manufacture
or the reason for their disappearance. The War? Who knows. But there was plenty of "German silver" available for violin bows
during those years.
I guess that's what is referred to as "The Frog of War".
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif???
Oh, the FOG of war!
Sorry .... never mind.

Curt
Here's a very good thread on Handel tuners (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST&f=8&t=28505) that is well worth the read. A bit long, but some great points made.

Daniel Nestlerode
Oct-19-2006, 9:03pm
The original question strikes me as an excellent topic for a masters level history thesis. (I wish I'd thought of it when I was getting my degree!) Though if it requires a LOT of digging and going overseas for acces to sales records and such, it might rise to the level of doctoral dissertation. In any case, a detailed account fo the affect of the Spanish Influenza on musical instrument production at Gibson could be an interesting read.

Daniel

Keith Erickson
Oct-20-2006, 8:53am
Wow Keith -- I had no idea you were that old! #

LOL # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif # #My wife always tells me that it's my gray hair that makes me lk more distingished than old. #


Although our involvement in WWI was shorder than in WWII, Wilson had a much stronger position and had a number of years to plan for the war, as there was no Pearl Harbor.

Well yes and no...

...in 1916 Pancho Villa led an attack on Columbus, New Mexico from a Villa strong just a few miles south in Palomas, Mexico. #We sent troops over to find him but he didn't turn up.

...it wasn't until the contents of the Zimmerman note (Germany assisting Mexico in gaining back the lost territories in exchange for a military alliance) were made public was there national support for the war. #You have to remember that the United States was not weary of three years of trench warfare like our allies were on the western front. #They had fresh troops and supplies and built up the armed forces over the course of a year and half. #Most of all there was a sense of urgency to keep the American southwest in American hands. #It's completely amazing to think how Wilson pulled it off.

As a side note: In Texas at that time, there was a constant threat of possible invasion due to the Mexican revolution 1910-1920. #During this time, the border was a pretty lawless and violent place. #The Plan de San Diego was a manefesto about how Mexico was going to take back lost territories supported by the Carranza regime (mostly over political reasons over actual action to complete this) and had some followers in south Texas. #So the Zimmerman note had a greater sense of urgency at this time for Texas and the southwest. #Greater detail if you read "The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution".

Sorry to go off the mando content #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Big Joe
Oct-20-2006, 9:19am
The Flu pandemic was not so widespread in the USA until after WWI. The war had only a mild effect on Gibson production. Among those was the introduction of the Army/Navy mandolins. These little flat models could be carried in a duffel bag and taken to the war with the soldier or sailor. This allowed the most popular string instrument of that era to be kept with the player even in difficult times. They were rugged and quite plain so they were not expensive. The production of these instruments replaced some of the production of other instruments. Of course, many of those who would have purchased higher priced mandolins were in the war and this was a product they could use. As they returned from WWI many did not continue to display an interest in mandolin music. Whether it was the exposure to differing influences in other places of the world or whether the war implacted their desire for enjoying frivolity and music is hard to say, but mandolin sales began to fall and continued to do so throughout the depression era.

The flu pandemic was a national emergency that affected nearly every business and family in the USA. Few people or industries were not affected. However, there does not seem to be any lessoning of production during those eras. Sales were largely handled by home teaching dealers around the country and the seemed to continue doing well. It may have been the areas affected by the flu as it spread across the US had a temporary decline in sales while the areas not affected...either before or after....were doing well enough to make up for the rest.

The major times of trouble for Gibson were the depression years of the early thirties, the war years, and the late seventies/ early eighties. These difficulties were for several reasons. Some of them were due to management issues and some due to outside influence (depression and war). During times of economic prosperity Gibson and most instrument makers have done very well. During times of distress some prospered or survived while others failed. Gibson and Martin are expamples of companies that were able to keep their heads above water in tough times by making adjustments needed to keep viable. Others just disappeared or were bought out during tough times. We have been in a long period of stability and this has been good for the music instruments companies. Eventually there will be tough times and then we will see who survives. Life and business always brings incredible challenges. Some will survive, others will become a byword in the industry. My hope is the economy will continue to prosper for some time to come.

The hardware on your mandolin being mismatched to years is not uncommon. It could be for any number of reasons, but the most likely is that they just used the parts they had at the time they sold the mandolin. It is also possible it was returned for some reason at a later date and the hardware replaced. War or flu would have nothing to do with either of these situations. Nice opportunity to discuss theory of politics, health, and economics. Thank you.

Keith Erickson
Oct-20-2006, 9:33am
WOW!!!!

Joe,

Thank you for sharing the history on this.

I do have some question:

Quality/ Sound?

Could you speak to the quality/ sound that the army/ navy mandolins delivered?

What types of music were played on these mandolins?

Could you speak about the ones that have survived the Great War?

Where did they finally wind up?

Thanks a bunch,

Big Joe
Oct-20-2006, 9:57am
Hey Keith...the A/N mandolins were pretty good sounding. They were designed so the owner would not be out a ton of money if it were destroyed in the trenches. Much like a beginner mandolin of today. They played well and sounded quite nice. They are getting to be pretty collectible today, though they do not bring a lot of money. Many were destroyed in the war or during the years after. No one thought about their being collectible ninety years later. There are quite a few still around in various conditions. They do not sound like a great F model, but they do sound nice. I have seen, played, and worked on a good number over the years. I have thought about getting one at times, but just have not done it. I guess it would not get played that much with my other instruments. I don't think you would be disappointed in having one as long as you don't expect it to sound like a good F model. It is a different thing altogether.

To answer your final question, they were used to play anything the player enjoyed. They were inexpensive mandolins that could go where others could not. If you liked old timey music, that was what you played. If you liked pop music of that era, it was good for that, if you liked classical, it was good for that. It was never intended to be a professional touring instrument for top notch music, but an instrument of reasonable quality you could play when you could not get to your good instrument or a good learning instrumnet.

Jim Garber
Oct-20-2006, 10:50am
Here's a very good thread on Handel tuners (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST&f=8&t=28505) that is well worth the read. A bit long, but some great points made.
The main info I have gathered in my searches and consultations (as reported in that thread) was that no one is sure of the actual makers of the tuners but that it is exceedingly likely that they were made by or made for or imported by the Louis Handel Company of New York who also sold pre-cut inlays and instrument accessories for the trade. Why Gibson stopped using them around 1918 -- war or economic considerations -- is not clear.

Jim

allenhopkins
Oct-20-2006, 10:55am
Big Joe could also mention that the World War I Gibson Army-Navy models were the prototypes for the Flatiron "pancake" instruments that were built in Bozeman MT during the period when Flatiron was an independent manufacturer, and later when Gibson bought Flatiron. I have a fancy Gibson "A-N Custom" (I assume the "A-N" is for "Army-Navy") built in Bozeman in 1987. Another legacy of the "Great War." There's a lot of discussion of the "pancake" mandolins in other threads.

And hey, Big Joe, I sent you a couple e-mails asking about a replacement tailpiece for the A-N Custon. Whaddaya think?

thistle3585
Oct-20-2006, 11:21am
The Louis Handel Company operated in New York from 1915 to at least 1946. They did provide pearl inlay and engraving for musical instrument makers. There is no evidence that Louis Handel made the actual metal tuners, but he was listed as a metalsawyer at the turn of the century. I believe the company closed upon his death. Does anyone know the earliest date that a handel tuner appeared?

Bob Denton
Oct-20-2006, 2:10pm
Thanks Joe for the definitive answer on this question.

I recently read "Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army During World War I" and found it fascinating.

The Spanish Influenza has recently been identified as a strain of Avian Flu, so it could happen again at any time and the outcome would be little different from 90 years ago.

Cya!

Givson
Oct-20-2006, 2:38pm
In the longer term view, World War I marked the end of an era, and the beginning of the decline of the mandolin's popularity.

"How're you gonna keep 'em down on the farm now that they've seen Par-ee?"

Soldiers who had been exposed to the roar and boom of the battlefield now gravitated to a more raucous, jazzy instrument - the tenor banjo, and a new style of music.

delsbrother
Oct-20-2006, 2:54pm
In the course of doing research into luthier Chris Knutsen's life in Los Angeles, we always hit a "black hole" in 1919 - no LA City Directory published. I've always suspected the flu had a part in this.. Whattdya think?

JEStanek
Oct-20-2006, 3:07pm
The influenza pandemic following WWI killed more people (~40MM) than died during the conflict (~8-9MM military and civilian). This is a cool thread. I wonder how many mandolin orchestras folded due to the pandemic and dwindling public performances during that time.

Jamie

Jim Garber
Oct-20-2006, 8:35pm
The Louis Handel Company operated in New York from 1915 to at least 1946. They did provide pearl inlay and engraving for musical instrument makers. There is no evidence that Louis Handel made the actual metal tuners, but he was listed as a metalsawyer at the turn of the century. I believe the company closed upon his death. Does anyone know the earliest date that a handel tuner appeared?
thistle3585:
Where did you find those dates? I was just curious about the company?

Some mandolins made by Joesph Bohmann of Chicago circa 1890 have tuners similar to the Gibson Handel tuners.

Here's one from the thread mentioned above:

http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/uploads/post-8-49492-HandelTunersOnBohmannMandolinRear.jpg

Jim

Bob Denton
Oct-20-2006, 9:48pm
The influenza pandemic following WWI killed more people (~40MM) than died during the conflict (~8-9MM military and civilian). #This is a cool thread. #I wonder how many mandolin orchestras folded due to the pandemic and dwindling public performances during that time.

Jamie
All public gatherings were banned including movies, theater and concerts.

cu

allenhopkins
Oct-20-2006, 11:53pm
In a related oddity, there were recent attempts to exhume the bodies of victims of the 1918 influenza, who were buried in permafrost, either in Alaska or in Scandinavia. Scientists hoped to analyze the genetic structure of influenza viri found frozen in these bodies, in order to determine why the 1918 strain was so virulent, and if it was similar to modern strains which might be equally devastating. I don't know if these attempts resulted in any definitive findings, and there's always the worry that the "flu" strain might be revived in some way...

Bob Denton
Oct-21-2006, 6:36pm
Yes, the strain was identified from frozen samples from Alaska and is an RNA virus similar to the current Avian strain.

An RNA virus (like AIDS) throws out millions of mutations, unlike a DNA virus, which attempts to reproduce itself accurately. The virus mutates very quickly and can mutate out of viability in a matter of weeks or months.

The only difference between the 1918 virus and the current avian strain is that is has not yet mutated the ability to jump from man to man. It does jummp from bird to man, the first step.

Again, I would suggest reading one of the books on the pandemic. It is an eye opener!

Cya!

thistle3585
Oct-23-2006, 8:25am
Jgarber,
I feel like we're splitting this thread, but I have been doing some research on the Handel company. The dates for the Handel company, and some of the following info, came from a family member. Louis Handel cut pearl inlay and provided engraving services to several instrument companies. Louis Sr. owned the company from 1915 to about 1946. Louis Jr. was born in 1918, so he would not have been involved during the period that the tuners were made. Prior to 1915, it seems that Louis Handel was a machinist of some sort. He is listed as a Metal sawyer in a Brooklyn directory right at the turn of the century. The earliest ornate tuner I had found on a production instrument was 1901. I wonder if the tuners you posted were replacement tuners.
I think Darryl, F5Journal, once mentioned that he questioned whether Handel actually made those tuners. Personally, I am beginning to believe that Handel didn't have anything to do with the tuners. I think that the instrument manufacturers bought the tuners seperate from the buttons. There seems to be too many differences in the construction of the tuners that have the decorative buttons. There may be some validity, based on the dates that they appear on instruments, to the part of the story of the buttons being imported and the war possibly interuppting that supply line. I don't think the Handel Company was involved with their manufacture. I wonder if Handel started supplying pearl buttons once the ornate ones were no longer available which is where the connection was made.

mandroid
Oct-23-2006, 10:59pm
"German silver" is just an alloy of nickle, colored 'silver'
[actually contains no silver , but thats beside the point]

somewhat off the influenza topic , but that was mentioned earlier thought some clarity could be offered. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/german_silver.

I have an A4 with a history, it was bought new by a returned WW1 vet.

Jim Garber
Oct-24-2006, 8:34am
Jgarber,
I feel like we're splitting this thread, but I have been doing some research on the Handel company. The dates for the Handel company, and some of the following info, came from a family member. Louis Handel cut pearl inlay and provided engraving services to several instrument companies. Louis Sr. owned the company from 1915 to about 1946. Louis Jr. was born in 1918, so he would not have been involved during the period that the tuners were made. Prior to 1915, it seems that Louis Handel was a machinist of some sort. He is listed as a Metal sawyer in a Brooklyn directory right at the turn of the century. The earliest ornate tuner I had found on a production instrument was 1901. I wonder if the tuners you posted were replacement tuners.
I think Darryl, F5Journal, once mentioned that he questioned whether Handel actually made those tuners. Personally, I am beginning to believe that Handel didn't have anything to do with the tuners. I think that the instrument manufacturers bought the tuners seperate from the buttons. There seems to be too many differences in the construction of the tuners that have the decorative buttons. There may be some validity, based on the dates that they appear on instruments, to the part of the story of the buttons being imported and the war possibly interuppting that supply line. I don't think the Handel Company was involved with their manufacture. I wonder if Handel started supplying pearl buttons once the ornate ones were no longer available which is where the connection was made.
Interesting... I have heard that Handel supoplied some of the inlay materials for the Larson instruments. I was always under the impression that these Handel tuner buttons were merely sold by Handel as part of their line of products and were either imported or made in the US for them.

I will dupe this posting on the Handel thread rather than further hijack this influenza one. Find it here (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=8;t=28505;st=75).

Jim

wsm
Oct-24-2006, 10:58am
I found this in the Gibson archives, thought it might be of interest.

http://www.gibson.com/magazines/amplifier/1997/8/archive/

Winning World War 1 with Mandolin sales

A collection of The Sounding Board Salesman, Gibson's magazine for its agents, has provided an inside view of Gibson's aggressive, inspirational approach to sales in 1918. As reported in the last two Archives columns, Gibson offered sales contests to make a salesman rich and invited teachers and players to attend an annual convention where a man could become a "God of riches".
In the meantime, Gibson was involved in an even larger issue: helping to win World War I.

The February 1918 cover of the Sounding Board Salesman featured Gibson's service flag. On the inside cover was a roll call of employees who were on active military service. The rest of the magazine focused on sales contests and the upcoming convention of the guild of banjoists, mandolinists and guitarists. However, as the war effort increased in intensity and its effect on business, that increase was reflected in the pages of the SBS.

The cover of the May SBS featured a new product, but its name was military: The Army and Navy Special mandolin (Style DY). It was an inexpensive model with a flat top and flat back. It looks for all the world like today's Flatiron mandolin, and indeed, the Flatiron company got its start making this type of mandolin. Gibson acquired Flatiron in 1987 and the Army/Navy style "flat" mandolin is still the backbone of the Flatiron line.

Gibson had already been doing its patriotic duty by making inexpensive mandolins for military personnel. The "introduction" of the Army/Navy in May was an introduction to the general public, who could buy it for $15, while soldiers could get it for $12. It may have been a morale booster for soldiers, it was also a potential sales booster for Gibson agents. "There's no chance now for a low-price prospect to escape," the accompanying article said.

the next issue of the SBS explained that what was good for Gibson was good for the war effort. The June cover featured an ambiguous slogan: Be a Patriot, Save Money, Don't Hoard It." Inside, the company quoted a recent article in The Saturday Evening Post suggesting that "non-essential" business (such as guitar making) was in fact very essential to maintaining a healthy economy during wartime. In other words, Gibson agents had a patriotic duty to sell more.

In July, the SBS turned away from the war to announce the hiring of Clifford V. Buttleman as sales and advertising manager. Buttleman would organize the Gibson Melody Maids, chronicled in past Amplifiers. He had been organizing mandolin clubs since the age of 10 (1896) and had became a Gibson agent at 23 in 1909. He became Field Secretary of the Guild in 1915, by which time he was doing $17,000 in annual Gibson sales, running a school with mandolin virtuoso William Place Jr., and editing three magazines including The Cadenza.

In September, the war returned bigger than ever to the cover of the SBS, in the form of a Liberty Bond poster. It even superseded the announcement of Gibson's very first banjo, which was placed inside the issue. Apparently, the war effort was that important. On the other hand, it's possible that at Gibson in 1918, the tenor banjo was that unimportant.

The December issue suggests that Gibson was not at all worried about the rising popularity of the tenor banjo, which would almost destroy the company within four years. The Red Cross poster on the cover reflected the end of the war (the armistice was signed on Nov. 11), and a headline inside proclaimed "Good Signs of Good Times." Gibson told its agents "Business is so good that if it were any better it would be bad, because we would be unable to properly care for any of it." It was a prime example of ignorant bliss, but at least it provides us a happy note on which to leave 1918.

Bob Denton
Oct-24-2006, 11:44am
What were the 1918 prices of the As and Fs?

Thanks!

f5loar
Oct-26-2006, 1:15am
from my memory of those days it was: A1 about $50, A4 about $80, F2 about $100 and F4 about $125. The F5 came out in 1922 for $250 and stayed that price until WWII.
The F4 went up to $150 in 1922 and the F2 at $125.

Soupy1957
Oct-26-2006, 5:04am
I just got over the flu and would rather not revisit it!
-Soupy1957

Bob Denton
Oct-26-2006, 12:32pm
I just got over the flu and would rather not revisit it!
#-Soupy1957
If you weren't coughing up blood, different flu...

Mike McCoy
Oct-27-2006, 9:01am
My paternal Grandma Ethel Murnahan McCoy died in 1918 from the flu, she was pregnant at the time so two lives were lost.