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Thread: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

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    Default An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

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    A pal showed me this recently, and we wonder if any cafť users can shed any light on in any way? Curious crossed flags, the Stars and Stripes indicates a late 19th Century period, the other one, not the Union Jack of UK remains unidentified.

    Any significance in the stamped "PATENT" word?

    They are Guarnarius styled F holes, proper violin holes. The tortoiseshell piece wedged between the strings is probably upside down. The body is purfled like a violin and there is quite a profile to the soundboard. Spruce soundboard but not sure about the back.

    cheers, Kevin Macleod

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    My guess is that the decal might have just been put on by one of the previous owners and might not have anything to do with the manufacture of the mandolin. I also think that the sleeve guard is an add-on as well. In fact it looks like the prong that attaches to the tailpiece is bent under. The 4 post tailpiece is of the older kind and my guess here would be that this is a European instrument or perhaps made in the British Isles. Usually it would say patented with a number or else Patent Pending. It does not look very unusual except for the f-holes. It looks like a simple but well-made mandolin. I will check my files for any clues.

    For some reason, I would suspect a firm like John E. Dallas, but I only have a few jpeg examples.



    Actually I found this Dallas mandolin from a reference to an eBay sale in 2011 (attached). I found a reference at an auction link site. Here is some of the description which does mention the decal. it is also possible that this is the very same mandolin that Kevin found since it mentions the decal and seems to have the same sleeve guard.

    Here we have for sale a RARE ANTIQUE 8 STRING f HOLE FLATBACK MANDOLIN AND CASE (J E DALLAS & SONS ?) We were having a clear out and came across this mandolin in the attic. It belonged to my Grandmothers father and handed down through the family (about 100 years?).
    The motif on the back shows a lady standing on a cloud holding a union jack in one hand and the stars and stripes in another (13 stripes and 18 stars)
    It is teardrop shaped but flat backed. It has 8 strings and 18 frets. Can't find a manufacturers name on outside and cannot see inside as sound holes are f shaped (as in violin like!). Length is 24 inches. There is a small gap where the back plate has come away from the main body of the instrument but easily glued. Comes with original case which is well worn and has no locks. Here is what Ken Thompson from Hobgoblin Music had to say
    "It is difficult to be definite about your instrument even if I had it to hand however I have seen something similar. I think it dates from about 1900 and was probably made either by or for J E Dallas and Sons . The back looks like rosewood and the front spruce. Dallas were an English company but had alot of instruments made in the States.It probably has a value of about £200.
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    Last edited by Jim Garber; Jan-13-2014 at 11:43am.
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Jim, that's great! Well done for keeping such a valuable archive - I'll pass this onto John who aims to restore it. I wonder what the original finish would have been on the soundboard - its almost bare wood - French polish perhaps? The decal is under the body finish which seems to be a varnish. Thanks! Kevin

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I wish they had pics of the back also on that Worthpoint site. I would think that the top might have been like Italian-made instruments with little or no finish on it. In fact that might be a clue to its origin. If so, I would say that it was meant for export since the words "Patent" are in English. I am looking fwd to seeing it when John gets his hands on it. Could be contemporary to Waldo and Shutt as early mandolins with f-holes.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Jan-13-2014 at 12:18pm.
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    A friend posted this elsewhere

    "Had a look around and 19th century mandolins were almost entirely Italianate round back models, though Gibson patented a flat one similar in shape to this in 1898. The f holes are most unusual and only on much more modern mandos. I did find a flag drawn in 1858 like that one here http://www.georgeglazer.com/.../worl...billflags.html
    and described as a Union Jack, perhaps the white lines were too fiddly to put in and the flag was recognised without. This might have been handmade from a different original instrument perhaps? The tortoiseshell is also an oddity. Let me know what turns up.

    George Glazer Gallery - Antique Prints - Chart of National Flags
    www.georgeglazer.com
    George Glazer Gallery, New York City. Antique prints, maps and globes. Chart of National Flags, chromolithograph, Henry Bill, New York: 1858.

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by kmmando View Post
    A friend posted this elsewhere

    "Had a look around and 19th century mandolins were almost entirely Italianate round back models, though Gibson patented a flat one similar in shape to this in 1898. The f holes are most unusual and only on much more modern mandos. I did find a flag drawn in 1858 like that one here http://www.georgeglazer.com/.../worl...billflags.html
    and described as a Union Jack, perhaps the white lines were too fiddly to put in and the flag was recognised without. This might have been handmade from a different original instrument perhaps? The tortoiseshell is also an oddity. Let me know what turns up.
    No, that is too simplistic. The only similarity of your mandolin to the Gibson patent is that neither is a bowlback. Yours is a flatback/flattop whereas Gibson made carved archtops/backs. There were a great many flatback mandolins like yours throughout the 19th century, so while the more recognised style of 19th century mandolins are bowlbacks, having a flatback doesn't make yours an oddity. The f-holes somewhat more so, but again such models pop up quite frequently in vintage mandolin ads and now and then on Ebay. It's not right that f-holes only appear on much more modern mandolins, although they only became mainstream in the 1920s/30s after Gibson introduced the F5. One particular large-ish US brand, Waldo, was specifically associated with f-hole bowlbacks from the 1890s onwards.

    Martin

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Thanks Martin, all helping to flesh out a bit of a story to it. It is actually a carved top, my photos didn't do it justice I'm afraid. The Waldo link is interesting. I'll pass all this on to the owner. I'm an interested intermediary!
    many thanks
    Kevin

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by kmmando View Post
    Thanks Martin, all helping to flesh out a bit of a story to it. It is actually a carved top, my photos didn't do it justice I'm afraid. The Waldo link is interesting. I'll pass all this on to the owner. I'm an interested intermediary!
    many thanks
    Kevin
    Thanks, Kevin.

    Looking at the side view photo you've posted, it's a canted top, similar to most bowlback and Martin-style flatbacks. They are generally grouped with the flattops, not archtops, as the cant is produced by bending a thin flat piece of spruce, rather than carving it out of a thicker piece of solid wood. They also often have some degree of induced arching from side to side but again that would not be carved. In the photos you've posted it looks like there is a bit of a bulge between the bridge and the tailpiece. That would not have been there at the time it was made, but bulging like this is fairly common in old flattops. I'm pretty sure the top of this instrument started as flat piece of spruce, not a carved top.

    Martin

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Could be contemporary to Waldo and Shutt as early mandolins with f-holes.
    I mentioned Waldo above and also Shutt both pre-dated Gibson for the use of f-holes on mandolins.
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I don't know, but I really have my doubts that this mando is pre-1900. Looks way more modern than that to me.
    Visit www.fox-guitars.com - cool Gibson & Epiphone history and more. Vintage replacement mandolin pickguards

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I don't know either about pre-1900 but I would not be surprised if it was contemporary with Waldo and with Shutt -- no real connection with those either -- meaning more like teens or so of the 20th century.
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    They are generally grouped with the flattops, not archtops, as the cant is produced by bending a thin flat piece of spruce, rather than carving it out of a thicker piece of solid wood. They also often have some degree of induced arching from side to side but again that would not be carved. In the photos you've posted it looks like there is a bit of a bulge between the bridge and the tailpiece. That would not have been there at the time it was made, but bulging like this is fairly common in old flattops.
    I don't have any real knowledge to speak from, but based purely on observing the photos... The bridge appears to have an arch-shaped foot, and the space between the f-holes seems arched higher than the outside edges. This is aside from the bulge you've pointed out between the tail and bridge. Wouldn't that indicate a carved arch? It seems counter-intuitive that a top would bulge upward against the pressure of the bridge such that the bridge would need to be fitted. Maybe I'm just seeing things...

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    These flattops and bowlbacks were built with a cant (fold) in the top and with induced arch as well. Flattop instruments need to have some sort of induced arch since the string pressure would push the top downward and eventually cave in.
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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I am struggling to see a cant in the soundboard on this one, but it doesn't really look carved either. The English builders often used a quite severe arching over braces to dome the soundboard instead of a cant and the head shape does suggest an English maker maybe 1910-14 or perhaps even post-1918.

    I think using f-holes on mandolins was always going to be a temptation for mandolin makers to emphasize a connection, real or imagined, to violins. There was a lot of marketing going on emphasizing violin type characteristics in mandolins. The Lyon and Healy CremonaTone, Gibson's Cremona finish as recently discussed and the like. This one does seem to have nicely cut f-holes to a violin pattern as well.

    cheers

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    John's uncertain about the top and says

    Kevin

    Difficult to say, will try and get my inspection light inside tomorrow.

    My gut feeling is no, as there is no fluting round the f-holes. The top could have been a flat sheet and steamed

    to fit the curved bracing. The bridge has been cut to fit the arching. How the bulge abaft the bridge came about,

    I'm mystified. I've been following the chat on the mandokaf website. Fascinating !

    John

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Kevin that is a Union Flag before the Scottish joined the Union in 1703? And added the Scottish Saltire - putting in the white stripe and blue wedges......
    Bev Lawton

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    The flag of Great Britain predates 1703 and was created at the request of the new king, James- the VI of Scotland and the James I of England-the first monarch of the new united crowns in 1603 and he was keen for a new flag and a new nation- Great Britain. The official flag followed the style still seen to this day. However, the was an unofficial flag that some in Scotland preferred which reverses the design. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_...6_Scotland.svg

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    These flattops and bowlbacks were built with a cant (fold) in the top and with induced arch as well. Flattop instruments need to have some sort of induced arch since the string pressure would push the top downward and eventually cave in.
    I can't see the cant either - it's usually a very clear straight line where the top angles down towards the tail.

    Producing an induced arch like that is easy - you just plane a curve into the bracing and glue the top down over the braces. I've just fixed an Italian bowl back (with obvious cant) and the bracing in front of the cant was heavily curved - just glueing it back in place restored the dip by the sound hole and turned it into an upwards arch. And I've built several ukuleles and few guitars, all with arching/doming in both top and back achieved simply by glueing the plate over curved braces.

    The bulge behind the bridge looks like another curved brace, rather than distortion caused by string pressure. On fixed bridge instruments like guitars you often get such a bulge ("belly") because the the string tension tried to rotate the bridge forwards, which produces a dip in front of the bridge and a belly behind it. But this shouldn't happen on floating bridge instruments like mandolins because the force from the string tension is all downwards on the bridge.

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    And the top could have been the actual bare wood. It was not unusual to leave the top unfinished on some bowlbacks for instance.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    As usual, just to make every one aware: this is a 4 year old thread revived because of interest on the decal with the UK flags.

    There is nothing wrong with reviving it, just to put it in perspective.
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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I stumbled upon your post when researching the history of an old mandolin I bought about ten years ago. I thought I would post a few pics here to add to the discussion.

    I recently had to remove the back of the mandolin as it had become party detached. While in there, I replaced a broken brace and the tail-piece block (which was poorly made and installed). I also attached some extra kerfing where none was previously installed. The top is two pieces of tight-grained spruce (not carved) and the back looks like rosewood. It's relatively crudely constructed with only an average attention to detail.

    When it came to reattaching the back it was impossible to fit it exactly so I opted to remove up to 3/4mm from the sides to ensure a perfect fit. I also removed the tuning gear (old but not original) to tidy up the head, which was a bit of a mess. As a result I had to sand the head, neck and sides of the instrument. I left the sound and back boards in original condition. I did, however, apply a few coats of natural orange oil to the top, which was extremely dry. The finish looks really natural.

    The frets are the old flat style (original) and have been well used (re-fret down the track I suspect). I strung the mando up with some 10-34 Elixirs and the thing sounds 2-3 louder and quite bright now. A great outcome for something I paid 100 pounds for about a decade ago.

    I suspect the instrument is at least 100 years old, perhaps closer to 120, but to date I have no way of verifying that.
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  23. #22

    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Brian, I assume you are in the UK- the original post appears to be from Scotland. You mention the tuners are not original and we were never shown the tuners of the instrument that started this thread. However, they appear to be similar to yours with the buttons and protruding metal post ends. To my eye, they are typically German but you reckon they are not original to your instrument. It is hard to have a definite opinion of its origin. You appear to have made it a nice instrument through your efforts.

  24. #23

    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    Hi Nick. Iím actually in Australia and had the instrument shipped from the UK. I assumed the tuners were not original because when I removed them I found evidence of other fixings which didnít align with the ones I had taken off. Iím keen to find out more about this little mandolin, including the flag-bearing lady on the back, so will persevere! Cheers.

  25. #24

    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    I would assume that the decal depicts Libertas- the Roman god of liberty as seen in the Statue of Liberty. I would suggest that the flags of the USA and UK together and Libertas is making the statement that the nations are free and democratic although it depends on how you define the term- as in the early 1900s no women had the vote in the UK.

    I have seen mandolins of this shape and age before but I cannot recall if they were from Saxony, Bohemia or Italy. It may have been made in Markneukirchen, Saxony or across the border in Bohemia- Schonbach. It may be from Catania, Sicily. I will have a look but I assume as this thread so far has not drawn a positive identification, it may not be possible to be certain. It may have even been made in England although mandolin making was not a big business in the UK- unlike those three towns I have mentioned. It would be far less expensive to import than manufacture in England. Decalcomania was rife in the early 1900s but decals have been around for a long time. If the tuners were reversed, would this explain those holes?

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    Default Re: An help identifying this late 19th century mando?

    The “UK” flag you refer to is nothing like any flag I’ve seen flown in the UK! It’s missing the white bits which originate from the Scottish “Saltire”.

    This might suggest that, at least the decal (or transfer we “English” speakers call them), didn’t originate in the UK although I suppose the same can be said for the Statue of Liberty which didn’t originate in the US!

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