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Thread: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

  1. #51
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Well, "English guitar" and "cittern" were used interchangeably for what was basically the same instrument, and we now classify the cittern as a member of the mandolin family. But the lineage of the mandolin split off from the larger-bodied instruments, so I'm not sure finding a cittern builder in French Canada would answer the question of "Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?"

    And I am sensitive to the fact that Canadians are "Americans" too, though "American" usually refers to the US in common speech.
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  2. #52

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by pfox14 View Post
    Did some more digging on Lyon & Healy. The earliest American patent for a mandolin design I could find is Pat. # 368,461 from 1887 by George Durkee who was Lyon & Healy's Chief Engineer. The patent is essentially a standard bowl-back mandolin. Also got pages of L&H's 1889 catalog showing their bowl-back mandolins. Apparently, L&H was importing fretted instruments prior to 1885, but were disappointed with the quality, so they built their own manufacturing plant in Chicago. If anyone finds anything earlier, let me know.

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    Benjamin Bradbury, patent # US262564, August 15, 1882, for a banjo mandolin. Don't be put off by the illustration, read the description and the claims, they both describe a mandolin. There is an example, which is more of a 10 string tenor banjo with double strings, in the MET.

  3. #53

    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/
    That paper is dated 1785.

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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//
    You bet he is credible. Clarence Lockhart Partee was the founder and an editor of "Cadenza." He sold it to Walter Jacobs in Boston around 1907.

    Partee was a student of Bohmann but what we don't know is which instrument did he study with? possibly banjo? Partee excelled at that but all these fellows were multi-instrumentalists.

    Partee is mentioned in several passages in "Guitar in America." BTW, he does have a Wikipedia entry

    I'm currently writing a narrative about Emilio Calamara and will let you know when it is posted at Gregg Miner's website. I believe they (Calamara, Bohman, Partee) were traveling in the same circles.
    Last edited by Mandophile; Mar-31-2019 at 7:44pm. Reason: error

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Hank Schwartz, who is one of the top authorities on A.C. Fairbanks, states that Fairbanks "Began manufacture of banjos, mandolins, and guitars as Fairbanks & Cole at 121 Court Street" in 1880.

    Oliver Ditson hired a young man named John C. Haynes and made him a partner in 1857. They apparently began manufacturing instruments in the Boston area in 1865 under Haynes' name. We know they made guitars, mandolins, zithers, banjos, and flutes. I could not find a date for when mandolin production began. Pehr Anderberg, a Swedish luthier, immigrated to the US during the Civil War, moved to Somerville MA in 1880, and set up shop making guitars and mandolins for John C. Haynes, and perhaps other Boston manufacturers. Julius Nelson and other future founders of Vega worked in Anderberg's shop, and both George Washburn Lyon and P.J. Healy are said to have worked for Haynes. See www.baystateguitar.com for more info.

    Apparently, Ditson helped to set up the Lyon & Healy company.

    In his book "America's Instrument, The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century," Jim Bollman refers to Anderberg's shop. Anderberg was the manufacturer of the Pollman instruments.

    So if the above info is accurate, we can say that Haynes, Anderberg, Nelson, Fairbanks, and Cole all had a hand in the development of the American mandolin and guitar in the later 19th century. Sorting out who built what, and when they built it we may not be able to determine.

    Perhaps Hank Schwartz and Jim Bollman will read this thread and contribute some more concrete information.

    The origin of mandolin making in America is buried in obscurity. I suspect more than one person tried their hand at building by the early 1800's. When the instrument started to catch on in the late 1800's, the established guitar makers added mandolins to their product lines.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-01-2019 at 3:42am.

  7. #56
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Lots to digest and I agree on most points made; however, I will say that the original question should have been expressed in this way: the first musical instruments manufacturer who happened to also make mandolins. The answer is still obscure but let's put it into context. As to Haynes in Boston and Ditson leading up to and during the nation's centennial in 1876, I believe manufacturing of patriotic (brass and wind) instruments for marching purposes had been going on for a while.
    I believe that the earliest evidence for manufacturing fretted instruments may be 1880. According to pre-1880s documentation, Joseph Bohmann called himself a cabinet maker and carpenter. The 1880 Chicago directory and census may be the earliest indications showing Bohmann and his father officially described as "makes musical instruments." Still vague in terms of 'first' but it means they may have already switched to making musical instruments in 1879 to qualify for 1880 criteria. Hambly was smart to title his dissertation...Mandolins SINCE 1880...because did not have access to the records that we are afforded when he wrote it in 1977.

    That said, Neapolitan bowlbacks were not seen, much less heard until the Neapolitan mando players showed up with them in the mid-1870s: Fachutar, Tipaldi, V. Leon

    ...but as Bruce Hammon put it the other day: we have yet to address the elephant in the room: Chicago's Lyon & Healy.

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    A careful reading of MTR's November 19, 1904, Vol. 39, No. 21 shows just how tight the race was with Bohmann given a slight edge over Lyon & Healy. see attached
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails MTR-1904-39-21-129.pdf  

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I apologize for unintended redundancy. I had missed some earlier postings. Nevertheless, wanted to add that I did find Lyon & Healy advertisements in several Chicago directories (1870s) and some included mandolins, lutes, dulcimers etc. My question is this: I've read that Bohmann started something he called "Bohmann's American Industry in Chicago" in 1878 but I am having a hard time verifying that. I'd appreciate any help in pointing me to any written documentation. Thanks.

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  13. #59
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Let me throw a little sideways thought into the mix: we're sorta limiting the "first American manufacturer" to the Northeast-Midwest instrument manufacturing scene -- Chicago, Boston, NY City, etc.

    Mandolin-like instruments are common in music from the Iberian peninsula, Spain and Portugal. Any chance that someone in the Hispanic-cultured part of the US, was building them even earlier? The Spanish Southwest was settled centuries before the Atlantic seaboard.

    Remember, the mandolin craze in the US was at least in part started by a concert tour by the "Spanish Students," who actually were probably playing bandurrias...
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Cafe member Hubert Pleijsier's book Washburn Prewar Instrument Styles is in my eyes the definitive book on Lyon and Healy instruments from the early days. Anyone interested in the history of the company does themselves a disservice by not getting a copy and reading it. It pretty much changed what most of us thought the history of that company was.
    Changed for better or worse? Not clear on what you mean. I do love the book and all the information in it. It indicates the Washburn mandolin came out in mid to late 1880’s after guitar which was 1893.

    Jan

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    In any historical context there are assumptions made about factories, how much product was produced and by whom. Hubert's book clarified a whole lot of misinformation that many of us had acquired along the way and assumed was true. For one thing Lyon and Healy manufactured more than was previously thought. Most of us old people in this world of musical instruments have been learning things the hard way for a long time.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Mandophile: A careful reading of MTR's November 19, 1904, Vol. 39, No. 21 shows just how tight the race was with Bohmann given a slight edge over Lyon & Healy. see attached
    Thank you for posting that. I added a paragraph from it to the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandol...usic_virtuosos

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacqke View Post
    Thank you for posting that. I added a paragraph from it to the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandol...usic_virtuosos
    I couldn’t find your addition anywhere on that Wikipedia page. Give us a clue.
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I didn't mean to hide it. I ended up placing it into the fourth paragraph in the United States section. It worked to give perspective for how big the mandolin had become in the United States by 1900.

    "Mandolin awareness in the United States blossomed in the 1880s, as the instrument became part of a fad that continued into the mid-1920s.[57][58] According to Clarence L. Partee a publisher in the BMG movement (banjo, mandolin and guitar), the first mandolin made in the United States was made in 1883 or 1884 by Joseph Bohmann, who was an established maker of violins in Chicago.[201] Partee characterized the early instrument as being larger than the European instruments he was used to, with a "peculiar shape" and "crude construction," and said that the quality improved, until American instruments were "superior" to imported instruments.[201] At the time, Partee was using an imported French-made mandolin.[201] [59] By the year 1900 mandolin sales constituted 10.6 percent of the nation's "small goods" musical instrument sales, less than the 21.3 percent that music boxes held and more than the guitar's 9.6 percent.[202] The mandolin also outsold zithers, "Apollo harps" and autoharps at 8.6 percent and brass instruments for bands at 7.5 percent of total sales.[202]"

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Excellent. Thanks, Jacqke.
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    In any historical context there are assumptions made about factories, how much product was produced and by whom. Hubert's book clarified a whole lot of misinformation that many of us had acquired along the way and assumed was true. For one thing Lyon and Healy manufactured more than was previously thought. Most of us old people in this world of musical instruments have been learning things the hard way for a long time.
    Got it! The book is certainly a wealth of information. I've already gotten my money out of it even if I never open it again!

  22. #67
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    In any historical context there are assumptions made about factories, how much product was produced and by whom. Hubert's book clarified a whole lot of misinformation that many of us had acquired along the way and assumed was true. For one thing Lyon and Healy manufactured more than was previously thought. Most of us old people in this world of musical instruments have been learning things the hard way for a long time.
    Actually, L&H boasted in their catalogs that they manufactured over 100,000 instruments per year which seemed way high to most of us these days. I think Hubert gave us some more realistic numbers.
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  23. #68

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacqke View Post
    Thank you for posting that. I added a paragraph from it to the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandol...usic_virtuosos
    Thanks Jacqke!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I couldn't find your addition anywhere on that Wikipedia page. Give us a clue.
    For stuff like that, you can usually find the part you want in about two seconds by using a very handy but sorta not-too-well-known browser feature called "Find in page" or "Find".

    In this case, I had my browser search that Wikipedia page for the word "bohmann" (not case-sensitive) and the browser automatically scrolled to the first instance of that word, which in this case (at the time of this writing, anyway) turns out to be the paragraph being discussed.

    These days I'm familiar with only two OS's - Windows and Android - so FWIW here is how that procedure works in those.

    1. On a Windows PC with Chrome browser:

    1. Press Ctrl+F (simultaneously press the "Control" key and the "f" key). Or, alternatively, if for some reason you're not into keyboard shortcuts, you can click on the 3 little dots near the browser window's upper right corner, and then (in the drop-down menu) click where it says "Find...".

    2. In the resulting search box, type "bohmann" (without the quotes). The page automatically scrolls to the first instance of that word on that page. (In cases where there is more than one instance of the desired word on a page, you can either keep pressing the "Enter" key, or alternatively click on the little up/down arrows in the search box, to cycle through all the instances of the word on that page.)

    Windows screenshot of what it looked like after I did the Ctrl+F and typed the word "bohmann" into the little box - I added the pink circles for clarity for purposes of this post, but the browser automatically added the colored highlight onto the searched-for word:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    2. Android phone with Chrome browser, has a very similar page-search procedure:

    1. Tap the three little dots in upper right corner of phone browser window.

    2. Tap "Find in page".

    3. In the resulting search box, type "bohmann" (without the quotes). The page automatically scrolls to the first instance of that word on that page. If there had been more than one instance of that word, you could have tapped the little up/down arrows in the search box to find the other places on the page where that word occurred.

    Android screenshot #1, shows what it looked like after I tapped the three little dots in the corner, this is where I then needed to tap where it says "Find in page":

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Android screenshot #2, this is how it looked after I tapped "Find in page" and then typed the word "bohmann" into the little box:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    ------------
    I have no clue about other browsers or OS's nowadays (I'm not as much of a tech-gadget person as I used to be), but one would hope that they probably have somewhat similar search-in-page functionality.

  24. #69

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Actually, L&H boasted in their catalogs that they manufactured over 100,000 instruments per year which seemed way high to most of us these days. I think Hubert gave us some more realistic numbers.
    Probably... but then on the other hand, there does seem to be a mysteriously large number of old bowlback mandolins that constantly emerge from hibernation and end up on eBay etc... it does kind of make a person wonder just exactly how many of the things were made way back when, for so many of them to still be in existence...

  25. #70

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    the one i have from circa 1760(according to several experts) was found in old fort st louis area , in a barn , near davenport iowa!!! so there!!! na na na na na naClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	176506, but i can't say where it was actually built, he said sheepishly. still i say found near davenport, must have been made near davenport on the fur trading post!!!

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    the one i have from circa 1760(according to several experts) was found in old fort st louis area , in a barn , near davenport iowa!!! so there!!! na na na na na naClick image for larger version. 

Name:	image00000177.jpeg 
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ID:	176506, but i can't say where it was actually built, he said sheepishly. still i say found near davenport, must have been made near davenport on the fur trading post!!!
    It looks much like a cittern.

  28. #72
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Davenport on the Mississippi, in the 18th century would likely have French or Spanish traders bringing their gear, possibly including an instrument such as this, into the area. I would be interested in learning --

    1. How could "several experts" have dated the instrument so exactly -- 1760?

    2. Isn't it more likely that it was manufactured elsewhere, perhaps even in Europe, and brought to the area by a trader?
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  29. #73
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    the one i have from circa 1760(according to several experts) was found in old fort st louis area , in a barn , near davenport iowa!!! so there!!! na na na na na naClick image for larger version. 

Name:	image00000177.jpeg 
Views:	54 
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ID:	176506, but i can't say where it was actually built, he said sheepishly. still i say found near davenport, must have been made near davenport on the fur trading post!!!
    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    It looks much like a cittern.
    Agreed. Check out Rob Mackillop's page. Highly unlikely that it was made in the North America. And that would have been in French territory probably imported.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    FWIW, that territory, Upper Louisiana--as well as the lower territory and NOLA, was also actually under Spanish control around that time period having passed over to them following various Euro-conflicts. The French got it back under Napoleon and then passed it along to the US. (Not that I think this is a Spanish instrument.)
    It is true, the Spanish didn't exert much of an influence very far up the Mississippi. But they tried to get in on the fur trade, etc.
    Currently reading an excellent book on the subject....
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  33. #75

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    aw youse guys are picking on me. ok the experts thought circa 1760, not exact. the head stock i have to admit looks like tielke, so probably a french copy of a tielke. (or a cheaper tielke--he did have a sort of factory that turned out players instruments as well as the hand made court presentation models.) but it could have been made in old fort st louis. i have the label that says so--i wrote it myself!!!

    next project. send high resolution pictures to the dendrochronoligy expert at the university of sasketchewan.

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