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Thread: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

  1. #26
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacqke View Post
    Does anyone have any opinion as to how reliable Clarence Partee was? He claimed in 1902 to have handled Bohman's mandolin. It looks like that was 1883 or 1884, but that may be vague.

    http://www.newspapers.com/clip/1966977//
    Partee was the owner and editor of The Cadenza from it's start in the mid 1890s until he sold it around 1906 or 08. He was also one of the instigators of the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists which was the peak body for encouraging the playing of those instruments and trying to raise the standards of teaching. He also had a brief excursion into instrument manufacture with an odd bowlback mandolin he called the American Lute, based on a curious patent and featuring an asymmetrical body and off-set soundhole. He certainly would have been across most of what was happening in the BMG world in the US during his time as editor of The Cadenza, and does state he was in Chicago in the early 1880s, which would have been right at the beginning of the resurgence of interest in the mandolin when the mandolin playing community would have been pretty small.

    Cheers

  2. #27
    Registered User pfox14's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    The article about Bohmann certainly has some weight given the fact that Clarence Partee wrote it. The problem is Bohmann never patented a mandolin design and as far as I know, there's no definitive proof that he started making mandolins in 1883. However, anything's possible.
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  3. #28

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    since there were English guitars in the time of ben franklin,(I have read a reference that franklin played one), if find it hard to believe there were no mandiolins in the Americas. I have a rough French guitarra allemange(the French cittern, or English guitar cousin) that dates to 1750/60. still being repaired. the French palyed mandolins, even if it can be argued that the english didn't.(which I would not argue). so I would be amazed if there were no early mandolins. however i'll have to ask around and do a little research.

    my guitarra allemange came from davenport iowa. the french had a trading post and fort there around 1750. that's America now!!

    these would have been luthier made instruments and not companies, but that would count, by me.

  4. #29
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I knew there was a thread about mandolin in America's early days. You can read it here: Mandolin in colonial America.

    That still does not mean that these instruments were made in America or give us much of a time line to figure out when ones were made here.
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  5. #30
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ...That still does not mean that these instruments were made in America or give us much of a time line to figure out when ones were made here.
    And you will note from the cited article that the mandolinists mentioned were immigrants from Mediterranean countries, who presumably brought their mandolins with them -- though one could have commissioned a colonial luthier (I'm sure there were some) to build a "one-of" here for his use.

    I did a little Google search for mentions of mandolins from the Civil War era (for one of those threads discussing whether and what kind of mandolins could be used at re-enactments). I found a couple of mentions of mandolin playing or players, but no discussion at all of anyone making them here.
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  6. #31
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    L&H claimed that they were the first US manufacturer of mandolins. I do not know if that claim is accurate, but L&H's own factory did not start its operations until around 1883/4. The first Washburn mandolin line was listed in the 1886 L&H catalog IIRC, and the first ad for these mandolins that I have found dates to 1887.

  7. #32

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I e mailed a friend who has reseqarched French music in new france. he said there were references in letters to lutes made in quebec city . maisoneuve played one.(the early governor of montreal) and references to mandolin being widely played in france, and even the guitarra allemange being played in quebec, but no actual reference to mandolin. but I am going to keep looking. there was a full ensemble set of pre 1750 instruments found in the attic of a quebec convent a decade or so ago, i'll have to look and see what was there. I know there were viola d'amore cousins and lutes. if there was a mandolin it would likely have been gut strung, but not necessarily as they had wire strung guitarras. they used brass and iron strings.

    also I saw a few sites saying mandolin was played in the civil war era, so were they all imported?
    mandolin might not yet have been common but I can't believe they weren't played

  8. #33
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Apropos of the banjo mandolin exchange, I ran across this online:

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    Farris was in Hartford, CT.

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  10. #34
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    ...also I saw a few sites saying mandolin was played in the civil war era, so were they all imported?
    mandolin might not yet have been common but I can't believe they weren't played
    See Post #30 above; I found a couple of references to people playing mandolin around the Civil War, but no references to manufacturers.

    That's not to say individual instruments weren't built in the US; there was no shortage of people making musical instruments, and if someone wanted a mandolin, he/she could contact a maker of violins, or guitars, and ask to have one built. When we speak of "manufacturers," we're generally thinking of a shop or factory producing them on a larger scale, and for sale generally -- not just a "one-of" for an individual who contracts for it. As with the discussion of lutes in French Canada, there's no reason to doubt that a craftsperson could have built a mandolin, or several, if there were musicians who would pay for them.


    Later: with regard to John Farris and the banjolin, there's a brief discussion in the Wikipedia article on mandolin-banjos.
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  11. #35

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I asked a few people, in the French early music world. they had a lot of references for mandolin in ancient regime france, but nothing they could remember specifically saying anyone played one in new france. they believed it was played in new france, which doesn't prove made there but it would be a start.

    they had the guitarre allemange and the lute. maisoneuve played the lute(the early governor of montreal) and his diary has an entry of having a local wood worker make him one--a small tenor lute. not quite a mandolin.

    i'll keep digging. and try to post pictures of my guitarre allemange

    my previous post disappeared btw
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  12. #36

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I haven't heard much about the Snedeker company though I briefly owned one of theirs. This is an 1895 article mentioning their factory move to Muncie, Indiana.

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  13. #37

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    wrong picture--as must be obvious. can't find the right guitarre pics in my confuser. sorry

  14. #38

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    good article jim, I suspected that mandolin was played in America before the revolution--or should I say the tax revolt.

    this says little about local manufacturing. I do think there must have been some, now for the easter egg hunt!!

  15. #39
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Was The CF Martin family making guitars and Mandolins in Europe , before Immigrating?
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Was The CF Martin family making guitars and Mandolins in Europe , before Immigrating?
    Mike Longworth's quite authoritative Martin Guitars: A History (Colonial Press, 1980 rev. edition), states (page 1), "The Martin tradition of guitar making actually predates 1833 by quite a number of years. As early as 1807 there were references establishing Johann Georg Martin as a guitar maker. A few years later his son, Christian Frederick Martin...left the land of his birth forever to take up his craft in the new world of the USA." Martin came from a woodworking family in Markneukirchen, Saxony, Germany, and had apprenticed for 15 years to guitar-maker Johann Stauffer in Vienna, Austria. Reportedly, he emigrated to America after the instrument makers of Markneukirchen, to which he returned after apprenticeship, got in a dispute with the carpenters' guild over who should be building what.

    Mandolins? No record of Martin or his descendants building a mandolin before the 1890's. Could a German guitar-maker, or violin builder, have made a mandolin for a musician who wanted one? Sure -- but we have no record of that. The mandolins from the 18th century, and earlier, are largely of Italian manufacture, with some French and Spanish "relatives," not Northern European.

    We know that C F Martin, once established in the US, concentrated on building guitars, and that the company he founded didn't diversify into other instruments -- mandolins, ukuleles, etc. -- until the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th centuries. So the likelihood of Martin being the "first American mandolin manufacturer" is near-zero.
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  17. #41
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Vinaccia mandolins ca. time of the American Revolution. I don't think anyone was playing Rawhide. Yet.

    Hard to prove a negative. Speculation about whether anyone was building in the early US or Canada will remain just that until something turns up. I hope it does, but count me among the Doubting Thomases until it does.

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  19. #42
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    The folks who have been trying to flog that first instrument in your pictures have been claiming it as a Vinaccia for years. It is almost certainly a oddly modified Genoese mandolin which the Vinaccias had nothing to do with.

    It is interesting that people have been desperate for years to find evidence of pre-1880 American mandolins. There might well have been the occasional 18th century mandolin floating around the US or Canada, but it seems to be forgotten that for the first three quarters of the 19th century the mandolin was almost universally ignored, and there were few even in Europe.

    Cheers

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    The folks who have been trying to flog that first instrument in your pictures have been claiming it as a Vinaccia for years. It is almost certainly a oddly modified Genoese mandolin which the Vinaccias had nothing to do with.
    Thanks, Graham. The provenance of these mandolins isn't of real importance to me, or probably to the conversation. If the dates are way off, that would be another thing. I just hoped to provide some examples in the context of the discussion going on about what mandolins from this era might have looked like--quite different from those in 1876 or 1976.

    The article Jim links to has some interesting discussion of mandolin performances and teaching in 18th century America and is really worth the read.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    According to the Johnston/Boak book Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference, Martin began building bowl-back mandolins in 1895, and by 1899 they were selling two thirds as many mandolins as guitars.
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  23. #45
    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    This isn't about manufacturing in America, but it is a reference to a mandolin in Philadelphia in 1885.

    http://www.newspapers.com/clip/20616...phia_mandolin/

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  25. #46
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacqke View Post
    This isn't about manufacturing in America, but it is a reference to a mandolin in Philadelphia in 1885.

    http://www.newspapers.com/clip/20616...phia_mandolin/
    Typo? The posting you linked to says 1785.

  26. #47
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacqke View Post
    This isn't about manufacturing in America, but it is a reference to a mandolin in Philadelphia in 1885.

    http://www.newspapers.com/clip/20616...phia_mandolin/
    This is fascinating, Jacqke, thanks for posting. Your link is going to slow down my productivity at work this morning.

    The mandolin is for sale at a bookseller's shop right, next door to a coffee shop. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    I also enjoy the ad below it for a load of Honduran mahogany. Probably not for mandolin production, but it gives some indication of the kinds of possible links / resources that fueled Nazareth, PA some time later.

    Mick
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  27. #48

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I remember my great grandfather having a beautiful L&H that he said he gotten as a young man in the 'Naughts. I remember it looking practically new. His greatest joys were playing it and polishing it. Great grandmother used to complain about how much he spent on strings. I wish I had known anything about anything when I was a kid because I am pretty sure that great grandmother sold it for $50 when he died in the early eighties.

  28. #49
    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    It was a typo; I did mean 1785 for the year of that clipping. It was one of the only early mandolin mentions in early U.S. newspapers that I accessed. I wonder how anyone knew what an "excellent" mandolin meant.

  29. #50

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    bah to the sceptics. if they ben franklin played an English guitar(the English cittern) and maisoneuve played a guitarre allemange(the French cittern) those are mandolin family instruments. why don't they count. French sources say maisoneuve had some of his musical instruments made in quebec city, well before 1725.

    i'll keep asking a francophone friends about mandolins. I read French but I am in a small city and may not be able to find old manuscripts. moreover music isn't much researched by French Canadian historians. i'm intrigued, so i'm going over to the university de Moncton and ask at the music department. when I get the chance. I expect the real researchers are only in montreal but i'll give it a shot.(there's a big early music scene in montreal)

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