View Full Version : SUPERTONE from SEARS, ROEBUCK and Co.

Jul-27-2013, 4:03pm
This instrument is obviously a low quality instrument but has some interesting inlays for such an instrument. The tag inside identifies it as a SUPERTONE by SEARS, ROEBUCK and Co. Does anyone have any idea when it might have been made, as well as what company made it? I've attached 3 photos.

Jul-27-2013, 4:14pm
Silvertone was their Guitar amps.. some had the amp in the case for the electric guitar.

since its old and you want more than to just show off your find , there's this section:

Marty Jacobson
Jul-27-2013, 4:18pm
Looks yours was $14.95 when it (or a similar model) was new.

Jul-27-2013, 5:00pm
Just guessing but the inlaid scratch plate and metal backed machine head makes me thing mid 20s Chicago, probably Regal,

Jul-27-2013, 5:53pm
Early teens, probably built by Harmony. Could be wrong. I don't think it's a 20's instrument.

Jake Wildwood
Jul-27-2013, 6:19pm
I'd agree -- Harmony-built and teens. The body shape screams Harmony as does the binding and purfling style which they used on many of their upscale "parlor" size guits at the time.

FYI, Supertone was the Sears brand name on instruments until 1939, after which it was Silvertone. 1939 is also the year that Harmony was no longer owned by Sears and Oscar Schmidt's labels transferred to Harmony (and thus Harmony begins producing Sovereigns, La Scalas, Stellas that are clearly Harmony products).

By and large, most Sears fretted products were made by Harmony before '39, with "gaps" filled by other makes where Harmony didn't offer something appropriate.

Jul-27-2013, 7:47pm
Nice Sears ad, Marty, thanks for posting. Last summer I did a rehab job for a friend on her ST(what looks like a 12L 310-1/4.) I know she'll enjoy seeing this ad. Very interesting to see bowlbacks, canted tops and production f-holes on the same page. Cross over year. Hard to imagine the bowlbacks being made by Harmony though. But who can keep anything straight in Chicago (or NY, for that matter) from this period? Every little conversation helps, though.

Which brings me to a couple questions for Jake:

_1 Harmony was owned by Sears? I did not know this. Can you flesh this out a bit? When was it acquired, or was it set up by Sears to begin with? Was it sold, or broke off as a separate company?

_2 Did OS go out of business in 1939? (Hence the label acquisition by --independent--Harmony....) You are a sharper eye than I, but I do keep an eye out for '20s era Sovereign mandos--real sleepers in my opinion. Schmidt could use the same historical research that we have seen for L+H and Regal.

No doubting anything you are saying, bro', but when I can get you and Mike talking about GreatLakesRim instruments in the same conversation, I am going to lean forward.


Jake Wildwood
Jul-28-2013, 9:55am
Harmony was independent until 1916 when Sears bought them specifically to fulfill their mailorder instrument obligations (of course, Harmony still sold to other firms). Over 1939-40 the company reverted to its own ownership, and yes, I think OS went bankrupt in '38?

Jake Wildwood
Jul-28-2013, 9:56am
FYI, the former president of Harmony bought the stock needed to keep it under his thumb by 1940. This is the stuff I remember off the top of my head without searching... :D

Jul-28-2013, 1:19pm
That Sears catalog page also contains what I consider to be the holy grail of Harmony mandolins, the Shutt designed model. Even when Sears owned Harmony they were still buying from other manufacturers but you have to assume the bulk came from Harmony in the years Sears owned them because that just makes sense.

Graham McDonald
Jul-28-2013, 5:55pm
Harmony was set up by an ex-Lyon & Healy employee Wilhelm Schutz in 1892 and bought by Sears in 1916, because they could make ukuleles which were the groovy thing at the time. Schutz stayed on as president until 1925, when Sears appointed Jay Kraus to replace him when Schutz retired. Kraus, with a group of other senior employees, bought the company back from Sears in 1940. Harmony bought the Stella, Sovereign and La Scale brands from Oscar Schmidt around 1937 and bought the Regal name in 1954.

From somewhere I had the idea that the Supertone brand was introduced by Sears in 1914 and used originally for the Shutt designed Mando-violinos (as they were called at first). The Supertone brand was used much more widely in later years as that catalog page shows and I should go back and check the Sears catalog info I have to see if I can date that particular one. I suspect late teens/early20s as the Shutt designed instrument was then called a Viol Mandolin. It stayed in the product line until 1941

1914-15 were the years when the flat back mandolin started to appear as part of the general product line from the big Chicago companies and it wasn't until the early 20s that bowlbacks started disappearing from the catalogs.


Jul-28-2013, 5:56pm
What I REALLY want is that mandolin with the amp-in-the-case case that went with it (in my fantasy world). The Supertone/Silvertone combo. That would be awesome!