View Full Version : My 1917 gibson a1

Jan-06-2008, 8:29am
I'm a very long-time reader of the Cafe, but only a recent member. As a way of introduction, I thought I'd post some pictures of my A1. It's my second mandolin purchase, acquired early last summer. My first is a Breedlove Quartz OO, acquired a few years ago. Both purchases were supported by research I was able to do by reading through various discussions here on the Cafe, so a belated thanks to all for making the Cafe such a great place!

While I still quite like the Breedlove, the A1 was a nice step up sonically. It also looks great, being in very clean original condition.

On to the front of the A1...

Jan-06-2008, 8:47am
Hmmm. I seem to be having trouble with this. I was previously able to successfully upload my avatar image, so that provides a hint of what my A1 looks like!

I'm pretty sure that the image size of the jpg is within Cafe upload limits.

I've messaged Scott to ask about this. If I can get it worked out, I'll post my images. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Edit: Scott replied and pointed me at a nice tutorial (http://www.grandmainger.com/picpost/) for posting images. It turns out that previewing my posts may have prevented my images from appearing. I preview them, as posting to the Cafe is still very new to me!

Jan-06-2008, 9:27am
Try again. This should be the front of the A1...

Jan-06-2008, 9:31am
And this should be the back...

Jan-06-2008, 9:33am
Here's the headstock...

Jan-06-2008, 9:34am
And the tuners...

Jan-06-2008, 9:36am
A detail of the front, with the bridge. A cropped version of this is my avatar (at the time of posting, anyway).

Jan-06-2008, 9:38am
Finally, here's a shot in its case, which I believe is original.

Avi Ziv
Jan-06-2008, 9:41am
Wow - this A1 looks great and in almost mint condition!

Welcome to the cafe


Jan-06-2008, 9:52am
holy time capsule batman.

that is great. how'd you come by it?

Jan-06-2008, 10:05am
Thanks guys. I'm lucky to have found it.

One of the ways that I break up my work day is by regularly looking at what appears on the websites for Folkways Music (http://www.folkwaymusic.com/) in Guelph, Ontario, and The 12th Fret (http://www.12fret.com/used/index.html) in Toronto. The A1 turned up at Folkways. As Guelph is a very short drive for me, I went to see it, loved it, and bought it. (I had sought and received pre-approval from my wife!)

It is a beautiful instrument. I do play it regularly, but am quite aware of the pristine condition it was in when I got it. Needless to say, I'm careful with it, but it was made to be played!

Larry S Sherman
Jan-06-2008, 10:14am
Beautiful instrument-amazing condition!


Jan-06-2008, 10:14am
That looks really nice, congratulations http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Jan-06-2008, 10:42am

Jan-06-2008, 10:49am
That looks incredible, wow! I bet it sounds fantastic..

Jan-06-2008, 11:02am
The condition looks extraordinary. Congrats!

Jan-06-2008, 11:20am
You have to let me borrow your time machine sometime!

Jan-06-2008, 11:58am

They really must have been making 'em well in during this time. I have a similar 1916 A-1, serial#: 27953, in similar pristine condition that I purchased from Greg Boyd a couple of years ago. When I hold it, I still can't believe that I'm holding a 90 year old instrument. It surely must have been a treasured instrument. I would love to know what kind of tools they had available during that period in time to allow them to show such fine craftsmanship. It rings like a bell.
I owned a 1918 A-1 for a little while that did not hold up as well as my '16.
Good luck with yours.

Jan-06-2008, 12:16pm
Wow, that thing is gorgeous! Thanks for the pics. Enjoy

Jan-06-2008, 12:24pm
Minty fresh! Congrats and welcome to the Cafe!

Jan-06-2008, 12:29pm
very nice and welcome as a regular poster! Play it because thats exactly what it was made for!

Jim Kasperson
Jan-06-2008, 12:54pm
Do you know anything of its history and how it survived in such good condition? GTW it is beautiful

Jan-06-2008, 1:41pm
Kasper, I don't know anything specific about the history. I did ask about that when I bought it, and was just told that it was an instrument that had not been played much. I didn't press it, as I figured that I didn't want to pry too much into whoever was selling it through Folkways.

If Jesse or Mark from Folkways see this, maybe they can provide a little more detail. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Thanks, all, for the friendly welcome!

Jan-06-2008, 10:53pm
I don't know anything specific about the history. I did ask about that when I bought it, and was just told that it was an instrument that had not been played much.
Probably spent 60 years in its case under the bed or in an attic. Really nice find. Play it well, its been waiting long enough.

Mark Walker
Jan-07-2008, 8:30am
Very cool! #Congrats on obtaining that piece of musical history. #

I sent pictures to Dan Beimborn a while back of a 1926 Snakehead my cousin stumbled on. #Turns out this 80-year old woman wanted mandolin lessons from him. #She'd been given a mandolin by her father, who bought it from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo in 1926. #She played it for about a year as a little girl, then lost interest - until just recently. #It wound up in an attic for all these years and she found it several months back and brought it with her to one of her lessons. #My cousin's jaw about hit the floor when she opened up the case! #I'll have to skinny down the pics of it and post them one of these days.

Anyway, congrats again on that mint mandolin! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jan-07-2008, 8:44pm
wow, look at the 11 year difference of my 1906! It sounds great tho...definitely lived different lives.

Jan-09-2008, 5:45pm
I'm fortunate too. #I have a 1915 A-1 in excellent almost mint condition. I purchased it this past summer at Bernunio's www.bernunzio.com. #It is presently strung with D'Addario Flat Tops. #Would like to try some Thomastik-Infelds medium flat wounds on it soon. #What strings do you use on yours?

Jan-09-2008, 9:27pm
It is presently strung with D'Addario Flat Tops. Would like to try some Thomastik-Infelds medium flat wounds on it soon. What strings do you use on yours?

Regular old J74s. I've been curious to try others, based on what I've read in the Cafe, but haven't gotten around to actually doing anything about it!

Mando Morsi
Jan-10-2008, 4:32am
Wow its hard to believe a mando that old would stay in such great shape, it must sound like a dream. That pumpkin finish with maroon back is so beautiful on A-style mandos, although it looks a lot better on your old gibson than on my Kentucky.
Congrats on a gorgeous new baby, seeing mandos like that gives me some Gibson oval hole MAS that i must one day remedy.

Jan-14-2008, 6:53am
Thanks Mark. #The J74's are kind of the standard. #The D'Addario Flat Tops sound great but I just love the sound of TI's. When setting it up, Rick at Bernunzio's originally tried Calace's on my Gibson and didn't care for them.

I checked out the Folkways website. The pics there are even more detailed than yours.#Your 1917 Gibson is incredible. It looks brand new, even the case. #Congrats on a great acquisiton!


Jan-14-2008, 9:57am
The D'Addario Flat Tops sound great but I just love the sound of TI's.

What set of TIs do you use? Medium or Strong?

I do want to try some out, but didn't find any locally when I looked on the weekend. Another Cafe member has kindly offered to send me some to try though.

I checked out the Folkways website. The pics there are even more detailed than yours. Your 1917 Gibson is incredible. It looks brand new, even the case. Congrats on a great acquisiton!

Yes, it really is something! I knew it was pretty cool when I got it, but the reactions here have really increased my awareness of that.

Apr-20-2008, 9:47am
Well, finally got to try the TI's on my 1915 Gibson A-1
(medium flat wound). What a difference in sound and playability! Beautiful complex sound and much easier to play.
The D'Addario Flat Tops were good for opening it up again though. It hadn't been played in awhile.

Bernie Daniel
Apr-20-2008, 10:05am
Absolutely beautiful mandolin. #

It almost had to have spent most of its 90 years in the case in a closet or attic. #

Notice no wear on the neck and not even any dirt or grim of any kind around the nut. #Almost a 90 year old virgin. #Congratulations!

Was there any fret wear at all? #Also the pickguard does it show any signs of aging? The celluloid is still 90 years old abeit very protected.

Very interesting little time capusle there.

Michael Gowell
Apr-20-2008, 1:18pm
These mint old mandos remind me of a late teens A-2 I purchased from a dealer around 20 years ago. #I picked the mando from the wall, attracted by it's new appearance. #After just a few chords I knew I had to have it ($650) and when the dealer brought out its case he said "Here's a case so fine it makes music all by itself."

Another one really "from under the bed", purchased cica 1920 by a young husband who died within a year or two. #His widow put his mandolin under her bed and not until she passed in her 80's did the case and contents emerge.

Stephanie Reiser
Apr-20-2008, 3:24pm
very nice instrument, and welcome to the Cafe.
That mint condition case reminds me of my friends mint F-4, late teens. She has a vinyl cover for the case that looks to all the world as if shes toting around a trio of tennis rackets. Just a thought.
Very nice!

Apr-20-2008, 4:48pm
congrats...that's beautiful...

John L
Apr-20-2008, 10:18pm
My A-1 is from 1916, and not quite as clean. I just put a set of GHS silk and bronze strings on it, which sound better than the extra light d'addario's that were on it before. I didn't buy this one from Folkway, but bought my OM there - great shop and really nice people.

Apr-26-2008, 9:23pm
John, your mandolin looks great also.

Have you tried LaBella Flat wound strings? I've got a set on mine ('20 A, but its really beat looking) The playability is much easier, and I don't have the need to lower bridge action by shaving, which i didn't want to do on original non adjustable bridge.