View Full Version : John brandt 1899

Nov-26-2006, 8:24am
I have a mandolin made by John Brandt with a date on it as 1899 which was made in chicago. It has 2 long cracks in it and I am trying to find out if it can be repaired and any recommendations. It was my grandfathers with his initials enlayed in the handle stock. I really do not know anything about mandolins as I do not play any instrument but this is the only thing I have of his and is a family airloom. If anyone has any information I would appreciate the help.

Nov-26-2006, 9:21am
I'd love to see a photo, blinkers. Can you post one? Brandt was my favorite obscure Chicago mandolin maker. Brandt mandolins were endorsed by golden-era virtuoso Seth Weeks. Mike Holmes speculates that they may have been built by the Lyon & Healy facilities, but I haven't seen any good evidence for that other than the presence of both in Chicago and similar soundbox profiles; their decorative styles were completely different. All the Brandts I've seen except two have a lovely full violin scroll on the headstock. Does yours? Of the exceptions, one was dated (I believe) 1898 and had a typical headstock; the other was labeled "style 1" and had a blocky partial scroll (like an Embergher without the grace).

Yes, almost anything can be fixed, but some repairs tend to exceed the value of the instrument. Still, if it's of personal value to you and you have no interest in selling, I'd certainly explore the possibility of repair. If you can tell the forum where you are located, you might get some recommendations for area repair shops of good repute. When it's up and running, I would recommend you only use very light strings. GHS's "Classical" set should be readily available but aren't very long lived. I prefer Dogal's "Calace" carbon steel, set RW-92b.

Nov-26-2006, 9:28am
Here's one that I used to own but sold a couple years ago. It was labeled style 2. I came to string the outermost g and e" with a reverse wind around their tuning posts to minimize rubbing and the crazy string angles this crazy headstock tends to induce.


Nov-26-2006, 1:58pm
I live in northern Illinois and I have included some Pics. The style is 105
Number 5280

PS. Hopefully I am doing this correctly.

Nov-26-2006, 1:59pm
Here is another Pic

Nov-26-2006, 2:01pm
And the Handle

Nov-26-2006, 2:02pm
And the back shot and thanks for your help.

Nov-27-2006, 9:40am
Very nice, blinkers! The wood-burned etching in the neck obviously is post-production, but it looks rather nice and I like the period personal touch. It looks to be extremely healthy. Where are the cracks? When repaired, do you intend to learn to play?

Nov-27-2006, 9:59am
Is it an optical illusion or is there a bass-ward kink to the headstock?

Rick Turner
Nov-27-2006, 11:20am
Lots of staves, mother of pearl fingerboard (?), beautifully made...and no obvious cracks in the photos. I'd guess it's a pretty easy job and well worth doing. What a pretty mandolin!

Bob A
Nov-27-2006, 11:48am
A VERY handsome instrument. Certainly deserves to be rendered playable. It would be advisable to properly string it with extra light strings; these are generally unavailable at most music stores, but Martin and GHS make suitably light-gauged strings, which will not warp the neck the way bluegrass strings will.

Nov-27-2006, 8:07pm
I probably will not learn to play as I am lucky just to be able to type let alone play an instrument. The cracks run almost the full length of the bottom. I do not know what a bass-ward kink is so I can not anwser that one.

Nov-27-2006, 8:16pm
Wow, I know you guys share the same taste in mandolins, but do you share the same back porch?


Oct-15-2008, 12:09pm
I have a John Brandt style D that is a family heirloom. Luckily it was in good shape and wasn't too hard to fix up. I don't have a really great photo of just the mandolin, but hopefully you can see it pretty clearly in this photo of the folk/bluegrass band I play with, when we played live on Public Radio. (I also play the mandolin with a traditional Mexican group and with a Mideastern group.) Not only is the instrument beautiful, but it has a lovely sound and awesome action. It is a joy to play.

Oct-15-2008, 6:26pm
Thanks for posting the picture of your mandolin and conjunto. Welcome to the MC.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by 'family heirloom'?



Oct-16-2008, 10:15am
I'm not sure what sort of elaboration you would like. It was purchased by a man named Sidney Niles who was my maternal grandmother's great-uncle. He played it in an all-mandolin band around the turn of the century, and somewhere I have a great black-and-white photo of him holding the mandolin. (I can try to find it and scan it if you like.)

Sidney and his wife had no children, so for some reason he left the mandolin to my grandmother, his great-niece by marriage. I'm not sure why, since she didn't play any musical instruments that I know of. She gave it to my mother who also could not play it but thought it looked lovely sitting on top of the piano she also can't play. I had to beg her to let me get it fixed up. So far as I know, I am the first one since Sidney Niles who can actually play it.

Is that the elaboration you were looking for?

Oct-16-2008, 11:17am
Well, sure. It sounded like there was a story to go along with the 'family heirloom' and I'm sure many folks here appreciate hearing it.......I'm not looking to be nosey, just curious. So many vintage mandolins pass through here in discussion yet so few have a clear family pedigree. Where did you great-great uncle live? Do you know where he purchased the mandolin. Yes, I think we would all love to see the photo you speak of.

You have wandered into a nest of mando-holics here.



Oct-16-2008, 12:32pm
I will try to find the photo tonight.

I don't know much about Sidney Niles, but he did live in the Chicago area. (Makes sense, right?) I will see if I can also dig up the newspaper clipping of him and the rest of the mandolin band. It was very cool - mandolins in every size!

I also own a Fender electric mandolin that a friend left me when she moved out of state. (She also left me her pet hedgehog.) But I'm an accoustic girl at heart so I prefer the old mandolin.

Ed Goist
Mar-17-2011, 7:01pm
From a (c.1900) Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. brochure on John Brandt mandolins


Mar-17-2011, 7:20pm
Great photo, Ed. Did Brandt make anything larger than mandolins? Mandolas? M'cellos?


Ed Goist
Mar-17-2011, 8:49pm
Hi Mick; thanks, I love that photo!
I dug it up while researching Brandt. There isn't much out there on him (I did find his immigration information & his information from the 1900 census [you gotta love genealogists!]), but no mention of him building anything other than violins and mandolins.
One old, obscure reference called him a "builder of mandolins in the German style", any idea what that might mean?

John Ritchhart
Mar-17-2011, 10:46pm
Is Elen related to him? (danger obscure reference)

Mar-25-2011, 6:21am
Is it an optical illusion or is there a bass-ward kink to the headstock?

Boy that pic in #5 sure looks that way. But then not in the others. It could be an illusion.