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Thread: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I have a Bacon Professional on its way, though it will need considerable restoration to make it playable. Looking at the pictures, I have a hard time believing that it came out of the banjo factory at Groton. I know it's been discussed a few times, but I'm curious to hear any new insight.

    I've seen it posited that these were built by Regal or Lyon & Healy. While Bacon did source their guitars from Regal, that was about 10 years later and this doesn't really look like the handiwork of either company. One source says they were built by Gretsch, but I'm not sure if they were even building mandolins yet in 1921 - certainly not ones of this caliber. That leaves Vega - which I find a lot more plausible due to stylistic details and geographic proximity - and any number of small Boston or NYC shops. From what I've seen, it's possible that there were several builders, at least for the Amateur model.

    Have I missed any possible builders, or any info out there?
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I had quite a bit of of research I had done when I owned an early 20's Amateur. I believe I passed it on to the the guy I sold it too. Everything I recall was that Bacon built it in Groton, Ct. At least that's what the label read as well as the catalog I had. Here are some pics I had from the catalog. With the exception of the last one.
    As far as Gretsch goes, they bought the company later on as far as I know. What I recall is that Bacon only built those 3 models of mandolin for a decade or less. I know when I was researching them there was plenty of information on the internet but I had to look. Not sure I got a lot of it here.
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by willkamm View Post
    Everything I recall was that Bacon built it in Groton, Ct. At least that's what the label read as well as the catalog I had.
    Wow, that is news to me. The town of Groton is just across the bridge from where I work. It is funny that we are located almost exactly in between the old Ovation and Guild factories, but I had no idea that this immediate area every produced and instruments. I will have to look into this further. Thanks!

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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Here is a little history. Looks like the factory was devastated by a hurricane. Also some mention of the sale to Gretsch.

    http://acousticmusic.org/research/hi...bacon-and-day/
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    Wow, that is news to me. The town of Groton is just across the bridge from where I work. It is funny that we are located almost exactly in between the old Ovation and Guild factories, but I had no idea that this immediate area every produced and instruments. I will have to look into this further. Thanks!
    Appears the Bacon factory was right on the Groton waterfront at 169 Thames Street. The current location of Puffins Restaurant. Looks like they get decent reviews.
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by nmiller View Post
    I have a Bacon Professional on its way, though it will need considerable restoration to make it playable. Looking at the pictures, I have a hard time believing that it came out of the banjo factory at Groton. I know it's been discussed a few times, but I'm curious to hear any new insight.

    I've seen it posited that these were built by Regal or Lyon & Healy. While Bacon did source their guitars from Regal, that was about 10 years later and this doesn't really look like the handiwork of either company. One source says they were built by Gretsch, but I'm not sure if they were even building mandolins yet in 1921 - certainly not ones of this caliber. That leaves Vega - which I find a lot more plausible due to stylistic details and geographic proximity - and any number of small Boston or NYC shops. From what I've seen, it's possible that there were several builders, at least for the Amateur model.

    Have I missed any possible builders, or any info out there?
    From what I am reading at Acousticmusic.org, David Day, who joined Frederick Bacon in 1922, had experience in mandolin and guitar design at Vega. That may account for stylistic similarities. Bacon started building mandolins right around that time. As for Gretsch, the Bacon business sold out to Gretsch in 1939.

    http://acousticmusic.org/research/hi...bacon-and-day/
    Last edited by Bill Kammerzell; Jul-09-2017 at 9:24am.
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Here are some historical timelines of different builders. Bacon is at the bottom 3rd of the page. Looks like the Groton Facility opened in 1920. Again, right around the time, David Day joined the business and Bacon started their mandolin making. Before that it appears there was something in Forest Dale, VT.

    http://acousticmusic.org/research/gu...jos-mandolins/
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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Some early '20s stuff that was labeled Groton wasn't actually built there. I had a '21 tenor banjo with a Groton stamp; the rim may have been built there, but the neck definitely wasn't. The Bacon guitars of he 1930s were built by Regal in Chicago but still labeled Groton. Given that the mandolins don't resemble the banjos they were building at the time, there's no doubt in my mind that they farmed them out.
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Just as a side note, by the time Gretsch bought them Gretsch was farming out the mandolin building.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    According to this Mugwumps history by Ed Britt, Bacon cataloged carved-top mandolins in 1920, before the Groton facility opened in 1921, and two years before Day joined the firm. This acoustic music.org article credits Day with the design of Vega's cylinder-back mandolins, and implies that he brought his mandolin design skills to work with Fred Bacon in Groton. However, if Bacon was offering a carved-top design two years before Day joined the Bacon Co., that undermines the theory that he designed Bacon's mandolins.

    Regal clearly did build some mandolins marked "Bacon"; research yields a pic of a clearly Regal-built "reverse scroll" mandolin labeled "Bacon Sultana Grande." But these Bacon two-points don't look Regal-esque at all. Nor do they look much like Vegas, though obviously Vega could have built to Bacon's (or Day's) specs.

    What's the serial number on your Bacon? Supposedly the serial numbers were at 5xxx when the Groton plant opened, 9xxx three years later. Of course, these are banjo serial numbers; mandolins may have been in a different series.
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Couldn't find that Mugwumps history. I made it difficult by forgetting the name.
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Regal clearly did build some mandolins marked "Bacon"; research yields a pic of a clearly Regal-built "reverse scroll" mandolin labeled "Bacon Sultana Grande."
    I forgot all about these - yup, they're definitely Regal products. I meant the early '20s mandolins only, the Amateur, Professional and Artist models.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    My Bacon Artist is numbered 204 and label is signed "William Place 1921." All the Bacon mandolins of those styles have three-digit numbers and most seemed to be dated 1921:
    • 051 Amateur
    • 114 Artist
    • 156 Amateur
    • 161 Artist
    • 182 Professional
    • 20X Professional
    • 204 Artist
    • 221 Artist
    • 221 Artist
    • 316 Professional
    • 432 Amateur/Student


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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    William Place was Bacon's counterpart to Gibson's Lloyd Loar. Obviously not as respected or as well known, but the Place signed Bacons are the ones to look for, and can sound really sweet. George Youngblood has restored a number, and was the source for much of Acoustic Music's article. He's currently restoring an Artist for me, but then again, he started 3 years ago and I keep forgetting about it.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I don't know if I would call Place Bacon's counterpart to Loar. Yes, they were both mandolin players but I am not sure how much Place had influence over the design at Bacon as much as Loar did at Gibson. Also, Loar might be more remembered these days by us modern players but I believe that Place was pretty famous in the mandolin concert scene back in his day. He also wrote a respected mandolin method and made recordings quite a bit as well.
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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    While not contributing much to answering Noah's original question, here is the first advertisement from Bacon about the new line of mandolins, as published in The Crescendo in April 1921.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I take back some of what I said above. According to that ad that Graham posted Place was the Loar of Bacon (my next band name). Still I wonder if Loar was any more famous at the time as Place.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Good band name, indeed. However, "Plectral Sacrifice" might work well, too. I have to say, I love the vocabulary used in those old ads. Thanks, Graham, for putting that up. Good question on the level of fame between the two. Did Loar benefit by a much better marketing program at Gibson, thus making him the mandolin-design icon as opposed to Place? I have played very few Bacons, but really liked them all. Then again, an A2Z I had might be my favorite.. I don't know. Maybe some day someone with some time will try to unravel a timeline between the two's accomplishments and see how they stack up, at least in terms of attempted innovations.

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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I owned a Bacon Amateur a few years back (still my avatar) and sold it to David Grisman. I had to have the fretboard planed flat before it was playable. I found it to be heavily built, but an OK mandolin. Didn't Grisman produce a mandolin modeled after the Professional?
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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Look at my Albums for some good photos of the Bacon Amateur. I remember it also had a rather low serial number. Sorry I didn't take a photo of the label.
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Capt. E View Post
    ...Didn't Grisman produce a mandolin modeled after the Professional?
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    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    I don't recall Place signing my Amateur. Very likely didn't sign them all.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Capt. E View Post
    Didn't Grisman produce a mandolin modeled after the Professional?
    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Eastman DGM-2. I have one; nice mandolin.
    Actually, the Eastman version was a copy of the Bacon Artist model.
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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Quote Originally Posted by willkamm View Post
    I don't recall Place signing my Amateur. Very likely didn't sign them all.
    I imagine he simply signed around 1000 labels at one time for Bacon to use as the instruments were shipped - hence the apparently universal 1921 date.
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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bacon mandolins - who actually built them?

    Place and Loar were contemporaries in the mandolin world, and if mentions in the Cadenza and Crescendo are anything to go by, Place was better known in the teens and early 20s. At the same time, both magazines were east coast based and tended to focus more on east cast musicians, Place being from Providence RI. Place and Loar were both part of a group of virtuosic musicians who were around at that time and Professional members of the American Guild, the organisation which promoted the mandolin, guitar, banjo world.

    Back to Noah's original question about who made them. Bacon certainly did hint at making them themselves, but so did lots of other 'manufacturers'. Vega were still making the cylinder back instruments at that time and we don't know if they had the expertise to carve mandolins. It would be interesting to compare fingerboards between Vegas and Bacons. Both used a 13.85" scale, and I would imagine that Vega had a standard dimensions and slotting pattern. Some comparison might be illuminating.

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