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Thread: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

  1. #126

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    ollaimh. The Fort St. Louis connection is much more than highly doubtful. The sight of Fort St. Louis is known. It is over 100 miles east and on the other side of the Mississippi. That is not nearby in wilderness times. The site was excavated in 1949. There are no surface remnants though some soil traces and relics were found in the excavation. The time it was occupied was over 70 years earlier than your instruments date. It was all log buildings and fairly rough living even by the standards of the time. There is no native spruce anywhere with 300 miles. The Iowa side was complete wilderness even in 1800 let alone 1760.

    The major French connection in the area you procured the mandolin is Antoine Leclaire who was one of the founders of the city of Davenport. He was not born till 1797 and built there in 1833. Julien Dubuque settled near the site of city of his name in 1788 but nothing remains of his settlements except some mine pits. That is 70 miles north. Your instrument came here much later than when it was built.

    It is a cool instrument and great for its own sake. That it was built in Illinois, let alone Iowa in 1760 is a dream.

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  3. #127

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    you are ignoring feench sources and like most americans on this issue dead wrong. if you want history that uses french sources start with e j eccles:"france in america". i know of no american historian who has read the french sources. the french sources show the letters back and forth from old fort st louis and the expidition orders, replies and the trade between old fort st louis and montreal. i have even debated this with an american with a masters in history who worked at iowa parks and he was forced to admit hews wrong. this is a topic where american historians arr woefully inadequate, as they are with history of natives glossing over repeated massacres ofnon combatents.

  4. #128

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    every body quotes antoine leclair with no knowledge of the history. the old fort st louis is called old fort st louis now because it was distinct from the later fort you talked about. the old fort st louis was near davenport. they thought they could trade up the missouri county. they made very little money. the fur trade was on the noth and south sasketchewan rivers and not the missouri, and the lead copper and goods from the gulf went throiugh the illinois colony. even wikepedia give the 1720s as the date of the french fort in iowa, although that's not a very good source. again e.j. eccles is an historian fluent in french. unlike american settlements french ones were government ventures with priests who wrote fulsome diaries, and local adminstrators called intendants who wrote weekly reports to montreal. in addition they had a military commander, who also wrote weekly reports to montreal. most of these reports there are in fact more proofs of old fort st louis than of any american settlement in the area. or pretty much any area before 1800.

    the trade failed to make a profit and the fort was burned twice by natives, so they gave up and joined the settlement at the illinois colony worse for was not called st louis it was called fort des chartres. with three or four agricultural settlements, but the main settlement there was of natives. they had a large settled population allied with the french. btw i have a history degree in this area and passed the french translation exam for that history. did you?

  5. #129
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ollaimh View Post
    i can't rove this one was made n america. but it's a bill mahar thing. "i don't know it for a fact but i just know it's true".
    So, getting back to the question and premise of this thread...you have a hunch but as we used to say in New York (not Old York) that and a buck and a half will buy you a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, there is no way to 100% prove that this was made in North America. The most you can probably prove is that it is as old as you think it is and maybe get a some historical instrument expert to verify that was made by a maker who lived on this continent. Not so easy.

    Frankly, that far back in the pre-Anglo America I would assume that the people there would have little time to produce a fancy instrument but were more likely just trying to survive and this lovely instrument came up the river from some French transport and was traded to the good settlers of this area.

    And I would for you to prove me wrong.
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  7. #130

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Frankly, that far back in the pre-Anglo America I would assume that the people there would have little time to produce a fancy instrument but were more likely just trying to survive and this lovely instrument came up the river from some French transport and was traded to the good settlers of this area.
    Or was picked up by a serviceman in Europe at the end of WWII or during the 1950s or 1960s. Or was picked by someone traveling in Europe just like it got to Canada now.

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  9. #131
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    re: Jim's comment about how "to produce a fancy instrument" and Carl's "little time" to produce:

    I recall my upper division/grad courses in early American history, in particular an art history instructor made a strong point about the crudeness in portraiture, and that characteristic extended to early architectural contributions. The lack of knowledge was an issue and that ignorance was attributed to no one remembering to bring method (luthier?) books about how to paint or to construct objects; without "blue prints." Elementary designs were available in European source books but without access, even talented carpenters/artists/luthiers would have had to rely on guesses based on their faulty (?) memories. How does one build a mandolin with only a model at hand? or only by memory. So...the simple answer...very few immigrants knew how to construct a musical instrument. Beyond that, where was the need? The mandolin was so rarely 'needed' in opera or the classical tradition (Vivaldi, Mozart and later, only occasionally other composers like Verdi).

    Once the post Civil War period began, a greater number of (mostly) Italian violinists-mandolinists like Philadelphia's G.B. De Stefano, or entrepreneur Luigi Arditi, and Bohemian luthier Joseph Bohmann became pioneers for the mandolin. Even when an Italian or French imported model could be closely examined, it required a talented luthier like Chicago's Bohmann who performed repairs for the Italian mandolinists in the early 1880s but we still don't know what his first mandolin looked like. Did he copy the Neapolitan model? possibly but we should remain openminded about all possibilities.

  10. #132
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    What a great thread! I can't believe I'm only seeing it now. I love both American history and musical instruments of all kinds, and this thread combines those interests. Thanks to all of you who have posted - keep it going!
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  11. #133
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    re: Jim's comment about how "to produce a fancy instrument" and Carl's "little time" to produce:

    ......we still don't know what his first mandolin looked like. Did he copy the Neapolitan model? possibly but we should remain openminded about all possibilities.
    This makes certain sense, of course, Sheri in light of this conversation. But it also reminds me of the "It might be a Larson!" jive we deal with so often here.
    You do your homework, trace your first person accounts, double check your sources. When you make a presumption it is backed up by hard work.

    But that is a far cry from a position of
    "I think this is so because I think this is so and I dare you to prove me wrong!" which is where Mr. Oolamih is coming from.
    And the "No American history writer reads French!" bs. That kind of arrogant nonsense doesn't have any place in a thoughtful conversation here.

    I'm sorry I wandered in on this. Jim and Sheri and many others here are careful thinkers, readers and do their homework, so I thought I'd check out what this conversation was about. My bad.

    The chances of that thing being made in what is now Illinois, Iowa, Missouri are slim and none.
    Like Guillaume Le Mar said "Je ne le sais pas pour un fait mais je sais juste que c'est vrai".

    But could be a Larson.

    Mick
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  13. #134
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...But it also reminds me of the "It might be a Larson!" jive we deal with so often here....But [it] could be a Larson...
    Hey! As Curly said:


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  14. #135
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Having another look at the detailed pics of the guittar from Davenport, it looks very much like an instrument that came out of one of the guittar makers in Britain or the French makers acrossr the Channel around Calais or Dunkirk. There is an attention to detail in the shape of the pegbox and carving of the animal head which says this was made by a professional builder who made these all the time, rather than someone at an outpost of empire in the second half of the 18th century.

    I suggest to ollaimh that he/she? get in contact with Panagiotis Poulopoulos at the Deutsches Museum. He would seem to have done the most research on guittars in recent years and his PhD thesis was on the English Guittar.


    Cheers

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  16. #136

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Good suggestion, Graham. If folks are interested in reading that dissertation, which is quite useful, the link is above in message #122.

    Best,

    Barry

  17. #137
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    My apologies Barry. I had forgotten that you had already suggested that important reference. I would think if anyone could give an expert opinion on the origin of the Davenport guittar it would be Panagiotis Poulopoulos.

    Cheers

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  19. #138

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    No worries, Graham, I just wanted to make sure folks had the link!

    Best,

    Barry

  20. #139
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    a citation from my paper on Mr. Seville's role in bringing the mandolin to America:
    Editors, Daniell & Abbot, “O.K. Houck’s Progressive Benevolent Violin Auction.” Presto, No.1763, 8 May 1920, p. 18. Seville imported wood from timbers used in a 150-year old French house in or about 1906.
    I'm not implying anything as to what wood might or might not have been used on Mr. Ollaimh's "mandolin" but I am suggesting that if Mr. Seville went to the trouble of ordering old timbers to build a violin in Memphis, TN that we should remain open to how/where/when the "first" mandolin was built in North America.
    Last edited by Mandophile; Apr-15-2020 at 9:43am.

  21. #140

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    There is a historical story from the Davenport, Iowa area which illustrates the limits of open mindedness and when a person has stepped over into the realm of nonsense. During the 19th century there was a lot of speculation around the Native American earthworks and mounds in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Part of the city of Davenport was built over a substantial grouping of these mounds. A local preacher became quite obsessed with the idea that these were built by Europeans or the Lost Tribes of Israel because obviously primitive savages could not have built them. A few of his acquaintances got tired of his nonsense. So they fabricated some inscribed and engraved tablets with Hebrew and other script and planted them where he had been excavating. These tablets became a nationally known sensation. The head of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology declared they were fakes. Controversy ensued. Finally someone confessed to the joke. The local museum and historical society, which was fairly prominent at the time, was immensely embarrassed and took years to recover.

    There is a point where open mindedness becomes simply naive. Making assertions that fly in the face of accepted history without extraordinary evidence is simply bluster. No one is denying French presence in the early exploration and settlement. However it was still wilderness. And stating no one at the state universities or historical society is aware of a major settlement because they have never read French sources is insulting nonsense.

    One other note, the other Fort St. Louis to which he refers, was located at what is now Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. It was on a bluff over the Illinois River over 100 miles to the east. And it was not a civilized town in any sense, just a few log building with a palisade wall. The biggest building was the powder magazine. It was excavated in 1949. This confused me about his original post. It is not anywhere near Davenport except in comparison to Canada. The site is well known to historians and archaeologists in the area. The dates they give are 1691 at the latest which does not fit his timeline either.

    http://www.fakearchaeology.wiki/inde...enport_Tablets

    https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/...20brochure.pdf
    Last edited by CarlM; Apr-15-2020 at 3:31pm. Reason: Fort St. Louis references

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  23. #141
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Thanks, CarlM....Great links.
    The 'fake tablet' story sure has a lot of parallels to this story of the "barn find ur-mandolin", but inverted as to the claimed source.
    Our Mr. Oolmiah and the Rev. Gass (or maybe better known as "Reverend Gas") seem to have a lot in common.

    Mr. Seville imported old wood from France was ~300 years after the Forts St. Louis-es in discussion. That's an eternity on the frontier. Steamboats (or railways) coming up from New Orleans or down from Chicago, etc. Lyon and Healy, of course, was importing rosewood logs from Brazil as well at that time so that kind of shipping was pretty well established. The Robber Barons were importing whole buildings from Europe to set up on their estates or inside their mansions.

    Bohmann seems pretty well in the clear. For now. We haven't conclusively eliminated the Larsons on this one yet.....

    Mick
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  24. #142

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    I think that the thing that occurs to me is that an English Guitar is not really an "ur-mandolin," and even if one was made here in North America at some point that is not the same as a mandolin being made here. They were two very distinct instruments and both were certainly known in English North America by the 1760s.

    "The earliest reference to mandolin in the English colonies comes in 1769, when an advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania newspapers that John Gualdo had a shop where he sold musical instruments, "adapted and composed music for every kind of instrument," kept a servant who would copy music to order, and would teach ladies and gentlemen to play violin, German flute, guitar, and mandolin (Sonneck 1949, 70). Gualdo had come to Philadelphia in 1767 as a "Wine Merchant from Italy, but late from London," and advertised that he had opened a store in Walnut Street." from a 1997 article I wrote for Mandolin Quarterly

    Poulopoulos notes in the dissertation referenced above:

    In New York, as already mentioned, the German-born Jacob Tripell in 1764 advertised that he "makes and repairs […] English and Spanish Guittars […] at reasonable rates, as neat as in Europe, having work’t at the business nine years, with the best hands in London since I left Germany."

    In my research into the mandolin in colonial America, I have not located any builders among the references to players and teachers.

    Barry

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  26. #143
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Barry's reference to Gualdo is important to the discussion. If I recall from my own investigations, this early mandolin teacher/performer died quite young in an insane asylum. We mustn't read too much into that but a fact to consider. I'd like to add that without "pattern books" or some sort of access to designs on how to build a <fill in the blank>, Colonial America was on its own trying to figure it out. I think it just made sense (practical/economical) to import what was available from European builders.

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  28. #144

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Sadly, Gualdo suffered some sort of misfortune, for Francis Hopkinson, prominent Philadelphia musician and composer, wrote to a friend on October 17, 1771 that "Sigr. Gualdo lies in Chains in one of the Cells of the Pennsylva. Hospital" (Sonneck 1949, 74). It is assumed that he died there not long after. There is some question if the misfortune was a fall from a horse or a house. The record is unclear.

    And Mandophile's point about the economics of instrument acquisition in colonial North America is also accurate. For the most part, it would not have been as practical from a cost perspective to make instruments here in North America as to import them in the 1700s

    Barry
    Last edited by btrott; Apr-16-2020 at 12:41pm. Reason: adding text

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  30. #145
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Barry's point about a guittar not really being a mandolin is pertinent. I would argue that citterns (which is what a guittar is) diverged from what became mandolins two or three hundred years previously. in 1760 the Neapolitan mandolin was just emerging out of the Vinaccia workshop in Naples and the predominant gut strung mandolin was more or less a small lute which had quite a different evolutionary path from citterns.

    Organological angels dancing perhaps 8-)

    Cheers

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  32. #146
    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
    in 1760 the Neapolitan mandolin was just emerging out of the Vinaccia workshop in Naples and the predominant gut strung mandolin was more or less a small lute which had quite a different evolutionary path from citterns.

    Cheers
    Thanks, Graham. This is fundamental to resetting the wayward diversion of this entire conversation. My own comment referring to an "ur-mandolin" was only a nod to the weirdosity propagated by our own Reverend Gas. No one should confuse the Iowan specimen as a mandolin ur or urtherwise.

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  34. #147

    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    Hi, Mick, This is what I was trying to say, only stated more clearly!

    Just because an instrument is a plucked, wirestrung chordophone does not make it a mandolin. English guitar is a lovely instrument (I have and play one from the 1770s), ut even if some were made here in North America as Poulopoulos notes that does not mean that this is the first case of mandolins being made here.

    Best,

    Barry

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  36. #148
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    The smile on my face this Monday is derived from the intelligence, illumination and sense of humor shed on this thread as to the origin and/or original "ur" mandolin. Not to be confused with oranges as expressed by the ignorant. Perhaps another way to express it: the medieval-born guitar ("chitarra or cittern") is not the "inner mandolin" but the "u'ud" or lute represent the forerunners. Perhaps we should be looking to Arabic "Spain" for earlier signs and answers. Not that the French or Italians weren't manufacturing but I believe they, too, were copycats. And darn good ones!

    Stay safe, everyone!

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  38. #149
    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was the first American mandolin manufacturer?

    This thread got me charged up enough th buy Walter Carter's History of the Mandolin in America book.
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