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Thread: Mandolin history question.

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin history question.

    I was just wondering, when did the A style Mandolin with F holes first appear ?

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    From Gibson in the Ms. Griffith Loar, the only Loar signed A model.

    Signed by Lloyd Loar September 20, 1923.

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/74003
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Well, there's a single A-5 -- raised fingerboard, longer neck, f-holes -- that Lloyd Loar had built when he was at Gibson. It was built in 1923, and here's a description and photos from Mandolin Archive.

    As far as Gibson regular production models are concerned, their A-1 and A-50 models went from oval sound hole to f-holes around 1934. Epiphone made an Adelphi model mandolin, apparently as early as 1932, that was an A-model with f-holes. Strad-O-Lin started building in the mid-'30's, with an f-hole model (Graham McDonald, The Mandolin: A History, p.178); there were also f-hole A-models in the '30's from Slingerland and Regal.

    If we take McDonald's book as an authority, the first f-hole mandolins that weren't bowl-backs (Waldo built f-hole bowl-backs in the 1890's), may have been made by Albert Shutt of Topeka KS around 1910-15; McDonald writes that Shutt designed "...the first carved soundboard and back mandolins with f-holes and a cantilevered fingerboard, predating Gibson's F-5 by at least ten years..." (p.202). Shutt patented his design in March 1910. He used a variety of body styles, not the classic A-model shape, but with "shoulders," odd little twin scrolls, etc.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Interesting. Now I wonder why it was made ? What advantage would it have over oval holes ? I imagine they were after more volume as fashions in music changed but did it give it to them ?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    Interesting. Now I wonder why it was made ? What advantage would it have over oval holes ? I imagine they were after more volume as fashions in music changed but did it give it to them ?
    The introduction of f-holes to plucked instruments like mandolins and guitars probably had everything to do with the use of f-holes on violin-family instruments. Orville Gibson reputedly considered the violin "the king of stringed instruments," and so he started building mandolins with carved tops and backs, similar to violin construction. Lloyd Loar, who worked for Gibson Co. about 20 years later, took the violin analogy even further, replacing oval soundholes with f-holes, and raising the instrument's neck above its face.

    And, as noted above, he wasn't the first to do this; Mr. Shutt had patented an f-hole, raised neck mandolin a decade before.

    Loar also introduced a line of f-hole guitars, and the sound difference -- a more percussive sound, with a quick, sharp attack and a quicker decay -- became popular in jazz, swing and country music as played on the lead guitar, and in bluegrass on the mandolin. Since early '20's, the distinctive sound of carved-top, f-hole mandolins and guitars has been preferred in a variety of musical roles, though there are still many guitars and mandolins constructed differently.

    As to "more volume" -- carved-top, f-hole instrument are often said to "cut through" better in ensemble playing, than oval-hole instruments. This may indicate increased volume, or it may indicate a more decisive and audible attack. Oval-hole or round-hole instruments can put out plenty of volume, but there does seem to be a preference for the f-hole sound in band context.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
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    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    growing up in Kansas how did I not learn about Albert Shutt. :D

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    I would say this Tenor Lute fits into the definition of an A style mandolin with f-holes starting around 1923.

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    One last question... would f hole construction allow the use of heavier strings ? Just a thought.

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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Great to see the video of Banana with the tenor lute.Saw one on antiques roadshow last week.Fretboard Journal had one,but made it sound unplayable.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    The reason the Ms. Griffith Loar was made was pretty simple. Mr. Griffith was ordering a new Gibson F5. Ms. Griffith didn't want that point on the bottom digging into her leg so she ordered an A style body of that same mandolin. The mandolin had the longer F5 neck and the F holes probably just came along with the package. It wasn't like they did any particular research and came up with F holes on the A. They had already started touting the advantages of F holes on the F style. It wasn't just the F holes that made it different and they only made one. As has been mentioned they went to F holes in the 30's on other production A's.

    In the case of the first one it was just to satisfy a custom order for a customer, nothing more, nothing less.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    In answer to Kevin S, not many know about Shutt, and probably no one outside our little group of mandolin nuts, and perhaps the equally limited group of harp-guitar nuts. Here's an article on Siminoff's website about him. Shutt lived until 1963, but never was widely recognized as an innovator in instrument construction. Perhaps his most widespread influence was in the mandolins made and sold by Harmony that incorporated (or copied) his designs.

    And regarding the tenor lute, I was able to buy one, and it is an interesting, though not particularly successful, idea of Mr. Loar's. Mine is in decent shape, missing the tailpiece cover, but while it has a sweet sound, it doesn't produce a lot of volume. The supposed idea was to make a mandolin-family instrument that would appeal to tenor banjo players, but the contrast in volume between my TL and a tenor banjo couldn't be more pronounced. I've used the TL several times in vocal-accompaniment roles, and I'm glad I found one (they're quite rare), but I consider it more a collector's piece than a truly useful contemporary instrument.

    By the way, years ago, when my Washburn bowl-back mandola was in the shop, Dave Stutzman loaned me a "The Gibson" A-model, f-hole mandola, probably 1930 vintage or so. I've never seen it since, and never seen another one; as far as I knew, Gibson didn't catalog an f-hole mandola, other than the F-model H-5. Anyone else seen one?
    Allen Hopkins
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    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    By the way, years ago, when my Washburn bowl-back mandola was in the shop, Dave Stutzman loaned me a "The Gibson" A-model, f-hole mandola, probably 1930 vintage or so. I've never seen it since, and never seen another one; as far as I knew, Gibson didn't catalog an f-hole mandola, other than the F-model H-5. Anyone else seen one?
    The f-hole mandola was not pictured but mentioned in the 1934 Catalog W. The A-00 and the A-1 (see below) both had F-holes in that catalog. Here's the description:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Here's the mandola/mandocello page from the 1937 catalog:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I imagine they are pretty rare since the mandolin orchestra boom was pretty much over by the 1930s.
    Jim

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Also, here's a very rare H1E from 1937:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ...By the way, years ago, when my Washburn bowl-back mandola was in the shop, Dave Stutzman loaned me a "The Gibson" A-model, f-hole mandola, probably 1930 vintage or so. I've never seen it since, and never seen another one; as far as I knew, Gibson didn't catalog an f-hole mandola, other than the F-model H-5. Anyone else seen one?
    I believe they were still selling these mandolas in the late 30's. Martin Stillman mentioned one on eBay that I probably would have gone for. I can't find the thread right now. I'd never seen one up to that point.

    I'll change the date. The one that Martin pointed me to was a 1941.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Thanx Jim and Mike, the mandola I was loaned was most probably an H-0 from the early '30's. Wish I had it now...
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  23. #16
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Here's an H-0 thread.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  25. #17

    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    Interesting. Now I wonder why it was made ? What advantage would it have over oval holes ? I imagine they were after more volume as fashions in music changed but did it give it to them ?
    Gibson got away from the oval sound hole - on paper that is - in 1917 with the Reams/Williams patent #1,361,182. From the text it appears that it wasn't the diamond shaped sound holes that were the main feature. It seems that getting the oval hole out of the way allowed for a shape, thickness, and slope to the soundboard that produced "mellow agreeable tones" and "great volume and great carrying power."
    Joyce

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  26. #18
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by travellerbytrade View Post
    Gibson got away from the oval sound hole - on paper that is - in 1917 with the Reams/Williams patent #1,361,182. From the text it appears that it wasn't the diamond shaped sound holes that were the main feature. It seems that getting the oval hole out of the way allowed for a shape, thickness, and slope to the soundboard that produced "mellow agreeable tones" and "great volume and great carrying power."
    You're drawing a conclusion that isn't true.

    The patent drawing is here. It was never built as part of the Gibson line.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  27. #19

    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    You're drawing a conclusion that isn't true.

    The patent drawing is here. It was never built as part of the Gibson line.
    That's why I said "on paper."
    Joyce

    All facts are important, it's just the context that changes - Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray

    Guitar, brown with six strings.

    Not really, it's a 1976 Alvarez, model 5059

  28. #20
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    OK, but even on paper they didn't. You have one patent by two employees that had to justify the patent that was never used. I'm sure there's more paper that shows they didn't abandon oval holes. They didn't even abandon them when they started building F hole models.

    By the way, there's a reason that design never saw the light of day
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  29. #21
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin history question.

    Just as a point of reference, the only diamond shaped thing that even resembled sound holes (and they really are flange holes) that I ever saw on a Gibson instrument was on the early resonator banjos. The one shown here is supposed to be a 1926. By 1928 they had moved to a longer hole, closer to an oval. I'm pretty sure that this was done more to differentiate the Gibson banjo visually from others banjos. Other lesser companies were using the diamond shape on their resonator covers. If Gibson tried to patent that design today they probably would have had some real problems as that same basic configuration has been on Portuguese instruments for well over a century.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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