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Thread: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

  1. #76

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    it may have legally been underr spanish control after 1763, but not before. it was french territory before 1763. the french had a string of trading posts and forts right down to louisianna and across the plains through manitoba canada and up the sasketchewan rivers and up the missouri river.

    even after 1763 there were no spanish authorities in the davenport area, the fur traders were from montreal. the old "northwest company", and it probably took twenty years for the french in the hinterland to switch allegiances of quit the country.

    best survey history book by eccles:"france in america". the french were at the rockies by 1685, and to the pacific by 1710. waaaay before louis and clark. they had an extensive trade network and alliances with the natives.

    vive les voyageurs!!

  2. #77

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    the seven years war ended in 1763, then the louisianna territory was technically given to spain, but they never had settlements or forts in the north mississippi or it's tributaries. the french got it back in 1800 and sold to the usa in 1803. so spanish control was very brief and they only occupied new orleans and area.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    It looks much like a cittern.
    it is, the french version, guitarra allemand

  3. #78
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    ...vive les voyageurs!!
    Huh –– I was spelling it "voyeurs." Or does that mean something else...?
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  5. #79

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    The earliest white settlement in the area was by Julien Dubuque, about 70 miles north of Davenport. He was a Frenchman mining lead with a charter from the Spanish authorities and Mesquakie natives. He came into the area about 1785 and got his mining grant in 1788.
    French fur traders regularly camped near Prairie du Chien, about 130 miles north, in the early 1700s with no clear dates but permanent settlements did not occur till after 1800. Davenport was not settled till around 1836. I highly doubt any barns or houses or any form of white settlement was in the Davenport area in 1760 or even before 1800. Joliet and Marquette came through in 1673 but regular settlement was much later. If this was made in 1760 I would expect it came into the area much later.

    I live about an hour northwest of the area and have played quite a few old time and bluegrass jam sessions in the Davenport area. There is also a town named Bluegrass nearby where we would meet to have jam sessions at a ladies house. She is quite a good mandolin player.(minimal mandolin content).

  6. #80
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    Greer, SC

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    That book, El Norte looks real interesting. There are families with deep roots and Hispanic surnames in the deep south. We forget that in all of the Americas, north, south and central, Spanish is the predominate language. So it follows that their instruments would be found and their influence felt in ways that have become ingrained in our culture.

  7. #81

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    you are not reading french sources. there was a french fur trading fort there from around 1700, perhaps a few years earlier. american history books often ignore the french settlements. again read eccles:"france in america"" for a real history that used french sources.

  8. #82

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    in addition the french fort near modern st louis was established in 1723, after there was already a small fur trading settlement there from twenty or thirty years earlier. (about 1200 french habitants farmed there to support the trade down the mississippi and up the missouri rivers) the same fur trading factors established trading posts up the missouri river all the way to the rockies. most were only seasonally occupied beyond fort chartes, and fort genevieve(near st louis). this is why so many natives across the northern plains became catholic. the priests were out there first with every fort. the recollets, and obelets were aggressive in converting natives. moreover the french traded on a much fairer basis than american traders because they were trying to establish long term relationships, that is why the natives were mostly allied with the french during the north american wars. eccles book is a good start for histpry that includes french sources.

  9. #83

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    a quick look the fort orleans on the missouri was built 1723 with 40 french soldiers and abandoned three years later wit 8 french soldiers. fort st louis was near by. the exact location of neither is known now. the jesuits and fur traders were at sault ste marie and macinac island in the 1660s and established a mission near green bay wisconsin in 1667. from there they traded and preached into the illinoir country through the 1670s to the 1690s and had established a small colony. built the big fort de chartes 1720, and started a stone one 1759, but never finished as the war came. there was a lot more french spoken in illinois, wisconsin, missouri, kansas and iowa that english untill 1820, at the very least. it was the trade language between native tribes. the french brokered many peace treaties among natives to build a trade network and oppose english expansion. except for the souix and the iroquois most natives were french allies. the souix were defeated by the french speaking metis on the northern buffalo herd at the battle of grand couteau,and earlier at the battle of white plains manitoba 1747, and had a grudge against the metis and french that lasts to today.. manitoba souix do not get along with other natives. the metis had the advantage of direct access to fire arms from the fur traders. most metis fathers were fur traders who didn't want to return to europe or quebec.

  10. #84

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    You misunderstand. There is no question there was settlement at St. Louis fairly early. There was a French monastery there at the great Indian mound at Cahokia also.

    St. Louis is quite a long way from Davenport. It is roughly 270 miles (430 km). In France it would be about the same distance as Paris to Calais. Green Bay is even further. It was not a one or two day trip at that time under primitive wilderness conditions. Frenchman Julien Dubuque was in the Dubuque, Iowa area in 1785 about 70 miles(112 km) north of Davenport. That was to mine lead ore. Prior to that there were very few white people in the area. Certainly no settlement. The Ioway tribe was very, fiercely protective of their land rights though there were some incursions by Mesquakie (Sac and Fox) in the late 1700s as the white people pushed them west. Mostly even other native tribes stayed off Ioway land.

    The fur trade was not a major factor in the area due to the landscape. It was mostly open prairie bisected by rivers. Land that is forested now was kept open by fires. The real fur trade was north and west. There was a voyageur trail in northern Iowa but that was 130 miles(200 km) or further north from the west through Prairie du Chien, which had a primitive settlement on an island in the river, then to Green Bay.

  11. #85

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    fort st louis was not in st louis , it was near davenport and was recorded in french sources cites by eccles circa 1720. these distances were nothing to the voyageurs. they canoed from montreal(from tadoussac in the earlier days) to the rockies and back for furs and other goods. the mississippi trade was much more in hides. the best beaver fur was further north but there was enough worth travelling for way up the missouri river and tributaries such as the little big horn river. as i say the french got along with natives much better than the english. they traded fairly and built alliances. they freely intermarried to forge bonds. this was considered an abomination to the english and new englanders. fort orleans was also in iowa.

    but as i said a mission near green bay 1670, a farming settlement near modern st louis by 1685 , trade and missionary activity all the way to new orleans soon after. les voyageurs travelled as a way of life.

    the fur trade had a usual turn around of two years from financing the expedition in montreal to the return from the far west to sell the furs. (another year to paris auctions) it required financing over the long term and the companies were among the first in the world to used modern long term debt financing as a result.

    the french records show they farmed for several years near old fort st louis to support the voyageurs. that's settlement, and it was in the early 1700s, like i say, american historians often ignore french sources. which were very through as the priests who went along kept records that were sent to rome called the jesuit relations. there are tens of thousands of jesuit relation, but written in french or latin.

    if you can't read the french, whcih is well published you need to look the historians who can.

    i remember when i was in florida near st augistine the local historian told us all how the spanish were first there--i chimed in, no the french were here a few decades earlier. i got him cites later. he had a masters degree and didn't know about the french settlement in florida. education is weak in the usa. a history degree without a second language is unheard of in canada, or europe, and it must be a relevant language. anything on the opening of the mid west requires french or you're not meeting world historical standards. i had to write a tranlsation exam from french into english with accuracy of %90 to get my honours history degree.

    if you want there are quebecois historians who can give you the french records for the french in iowa, missouri and illinois, and up the missouri, but eccles book gives all the citations a general inquiry would need.

  12. #86

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    That is interesting. It is doubtful any relics remain from that era. Any buildings would have been rough log cabins and manufacturing even more limited. Even at Dubuque remnants or artifacts from the late 1700s are pretty limited and scant. There are no buildings left from that time. I have been to the historical museum at Davenport many times and there is no mention of French settlement there despite an extensive exhibit on local history. It is certainly something they would take pride in if they realized they had that early of a settlement.

    There is mention of Joliet and Marquette through the area. And of course voyageurs who traveled the Mississippi. The Sauk and Fox (Mesquakie) had a major settlement on the Illinois side of the river into the early 1800s. It is quite likely French traders would have met there.

    The real musical claim to fame of the area was from much later when cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, one of the early jazz figures was born there. There is a jazz festival celebrating his life every year.

  13. #87

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quite fascinating history info in this thread, very good reading.

  14. #88
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    Alvin, Texas

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    This is interesting, simply because I posted a photo related to this thread some years ago, and I have researched Bohmann since around 2005. I will post the photo with a small addition, later.

    Please clarify what you mean by mandolin manufacturer. In the 1880's, I could imagine it being someone who made mandolins by hand; or someone who has a semi-production line (a combination of parts made by vendors and parts made in house), or a small production line.

    Bohmann had a small production line of instrument making, on a mezzanine level he built on the third floor of his "3-story brick business with apartment flats," as the Chicago Tribune put it in 1897. Bohmann purchased it for cash, $25,000, if I recall.

    A photo of this mezzanine workshop and some workers, along with other photos, was in a long ago issue of Vintage Guitar, with some documents, many of which were third generation photocopies, unfortunately. I cannot produce or name the VG back issue quickly. An eBay search might find it. Does anyone on this forum know anyone in that VG article who might have the original photos and documents? As a Bohmann biographer, I would love to visit them and get high resolution scans.

    But since Graham mentioned a Bohmann catalog page earlier, here is a scan of that page.

    Attached photo: Click image for larger version. 

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    The best way I could summarize this catalog page is to say Bohmann conflated TWO groups of Spanish Students for advertising purposes, in a deceptive ploy to sell mandolins. It became an advertising coup for him. All things considered, Bohmann made a good living for himself and his family, considering the gorilla who dwelled in the jungle of Chicago: Lyon and Healy.

    The original Spanish students, as some of you know, first performed in America on New Year's Day, 1880, at Booth's (Boothe's?) Theater in NYC. They came from Spain, and in previous years held widely acclaimed concerts in Europe, and at a Paris Exposition, I think in 1876.They were an overnight sensation in NYC, and eventually toured many other cities.

    In 1880, a plethora of classically trained Italian musicians lived in NYC. They seized the opportunity to make money. Soon, they were "off and running," christening themselves The Spanish Students, even copying the Spaniard's names on their playbills.

    If you are following along, and you read the Bohmann catalog page, you will see the Spanish Students' names are - Italian? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?

    Only one name on the page is Spanish, one Mr. Seville, who reportedly purchased the first mandolin Bohmann ever made. Unfortunately, Bohmann does not supply a date for this purchase.

    Even though the original Spanish students played mostly bandurrias strung with gut, the Italians played mandolins, strung with steel strings. Some of these prominent Italian mandolinists soon moved on, establishing their own groups.

    It did not take long for some of them to establish Chicago as their home base. Attached is a photo of Valisi's Mandolin Orchestra. This is the photo I posted years ago on the cafe, but I am including a detail clipped out of my previous posting. The introductory inside page. This group photo appears in Bohmann's catalog, but originally came from a brochure mailed to Bohmann from Sig. Cesare Valisi. Attached photo:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This photo might confuse some of you. Reading the introductory page, you see it announces the Tenth Annual Concert Season of Valisi's Mandolin Orchestra, from 1894-1895. They had already been in Chicago for ten years in 1894. When I showed this brochure to Paul Ruppa, he was surprised that the Valisi brothers were established in Chicago that early.

    For those of you who don't know Paul, he is an authority on the mandolin in America. Some facts Paul Ruppa has published about the Spanish Students include the origin of their Spanish name, Estudiantina Espanol de Figaro. The name came from a Spanish satirist, Mariano Josť de Larra (24 March 1809 – 13 February 1837), who took the pen name Figaro. Their costumes were based on customary character roles within Spanish tradition, and had nothing to do with the italian opera named Figaro, as has been speculated previously on mandocafe. In recent years, Ruppa has teamed up with a researcher in Spain, and they have begun to fill in many gaps in the history of The Spanish Students, of which there were several Spanish incarnations.

    But the Spanish Students mentioned in Bohmann's catalog are now called Carlos Curti's Spanish Students, a label Paul Ruppa has helped establish.

    I would guess this group photo predates the first annual concert season for Valisi's Mandolin Orchestra. Some mandolin players in Valisi's group would later endorse Bohmann mandolins, but in this photo, they all appear to hold Italian-made mandolins. One, Cesare Valisi, may be holding a Bohmann mandolin. But since no one has produced the original photo, blowing it up for detail is not useful.

    I always have issues with my connection at home. Please bear with me. If I could document the earliest date Bohmann made a mandolin, it would be in the year 1882. Attached is a catalog page bearing the endorsement of Prof. E.H. Frey, with a testimonial dated Nov. 22, 1897. The good professor says he has been playing a Bohmann mandolin for fifteen years. Attached is that Bohmann catalog page scan. Allowing attempts to read Professor Frey's mind, if he meant he had been playing a Bohmann mandolin for nearly fifteen years, then that would make the year 1883, which jives with the writings of Partee.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    As for primary historical documents confirming the above testimonial: I have the handwritten letter that Prof. E.H. Frey wrote to Bohmann, dated Nov. 22, 1897. Written at the top of the letter is his location: Lima, Ohio. Ergo, 1882-83 for the first year a true manufacturer built mandolins. I also have a customer letter in which the customer requests Bohmann to exchanged the wooden tuning pegs on the headstock with modern tuners. No clue as to when that instrument was built.

    Who knows when the original Spanish Students first played a concert in Chicago? Did Bohmann attend one of their concerts, or did he merely read about them in the paper? If Bohmann attended a
    Spanish Students concert, what was the likely date? Perhaps he built his first mandolin for Mr. Seville within a week of attending the concert. Who was this Mr. Seville character, anyway?

    So as far as I know, that would be the earliest documented date that an instrument manufacturer built a mandolin. On the cover of his catalog, at the top of the drawing of the Bohmann factory, are the words, "Established 1876." Also, the name of his company, Joseph Bohmann's American Musical Industry. The name was created as a marketing ploy, like so many other Bohmann deeds.

    attached photo Bohmann catalog cover:

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    Bohmann is also listed in and 1872 Chicago directory as a musical instrument maker. Bohmann's factory sat in mothballs for over 40 years in the inner loop area of Chicago, before a Bohmann grandson began to sell off factory effects piecemeal. The family had grown tired of paying taxes on the building. This Lost Factory Sale, as some people call it, took around ten or more years. Unfortunately, Bohmann's grandson allowed factory visitors to rifle the factory files at will. I know that some original factory records still existed in the files, as the oldest Bohmann factory post card I have is dated 1889.

    Unfortunately, this vast compilation of Bohmann files was fragmented and scattered around America. My small archive came from the estate of a man who was declared incompetent. Who knows what other small Bohmann document collections have already made it into a landfill somewhere? Such a documentary diaspora is a tragedy.

    Anyone who has some original factory documents, I would love to visit with you someday.

    hambonepicker, aka Bruce Hammond, near Alvin, Texas
    Last edited by Hambonepicker; May-16-2019 at 2:03am. Reason: one mispelling; added image

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  16. #89
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    Alvin, Texas

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Sure would love to see a brace of photos after it gets restored.

  17. #90

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    lewis and clark looked for fort orleans but couldn't find it. english sourcers say natives destroyed it and killed them, french sources say they pulled up stakes as the profit from the trade on the upper missouri wasn't good, and they could reach it from the existing red river settlements. i have found that very very few american historians read french sources, or even know they exist. that's why i suggest eccles. a university of toronro historian who wrote widely in english from french sources. he wrote a lot on early settlement history, great reads and he provides full footnotes to search from there. if that's your thing.

    yeah very little of these forts survives,

    i also claim that maisoneuve, the founder of montreal, had a mandolin in his ensemble and a lutheir. maisoneuve played lute and cittern. what kind of cittern i never found. his lute was standard late medieval/early renaisance, he was in montreal around 1650. but i did read once of his musical ensemble to while away the winter nights. and one reference to his mandolin player.the first founders of acadia had a musical ensemble in 1604 at port royal in nova scotia. they were called the order of good cheer. their performances made lots of fans among the natives. a few wrote their own music, so some of the first european music written in the americas. one side of my family was in acadia by 1630.

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