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Thread: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

  1. #1

    Question Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Hi Everyone,
    I know you are hit with these questions all the time. The good news is I "don't think" this is a Larson!

    I was hoping you could help identify the attached mandolin which was a gift from my father in law (and in his family for many years). It's a beautiful instrument and I'd love to identify it if possible.

    I can find no discernible serial numbers, brands or anything that identify the type of Mandolin.

    I know little about Mandolins but have done some research (bought the washurn history book for example). The headstock shape (withe the 3 bumps in the middle) looks like a Washburn headstock 1915 style however I can’t find another with these features (eg 1125 or 225 have differences). Any ideas? Could it be a custom Lyon an Healy?

    Some features:
    The back-bowl has 42 ribs.
    20 frets.
    Grey lining inside

    Some photos attached. There is currently one on ebay with a crazy (presumably a mistaken) price against it that has the same "harp" inlay at the sound hole but nothing like the inlays of this one on the fretboard. The owner can't identify his/hers either.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. #2
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    There's nothing like that inlay in the Washburn book, but it could still be an L&H product.
    www.OldFrets.com: the obscure side of vintage instruments.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    The bowl back folks are sure to have some good info. I 'profile' of the bowl from the side may also help determine the origin.

    These are really exceptional inlays even among the often over the top world of European-style Mandolins. There is a striking Arts Nouveau quality that is not at all typical on these instruments! Exceptional.
    BradKlein
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Agree, the inlay work looks absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately, I, too know little than what I’ve read on here about bowl backs...
    Chuck

  5. #5

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    I would wonder if it is a Supertone from Sears or one from Montgomery Ward- with whatever their brand was at the time- Thornward was one also used on the guitars. I mention this because of the blingtastic nature of the instrument. This does not identify the maker but the headstock looks like a Washburn but take a look at this Supertone- not the same but very decorated!

    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...lin-1779219074


    It is labelled as the Harvard- the top mandolin in the teens era. Here is the 1916 catalogue page:Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    I owned one with same body inlays and borders and the same tuning gear plate but different fretboard and headstock inlays. Here's a couple of photos on that one. I also believe that they were made by Lyon & Healy. L&H probably made these for a store or a private player or teacher. I assume they would put their own label in these.

    The fancy inlays often appear on different manufacter's instruments since they were often bought from pearl suppliers and may be featured in their catalogs.

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    Jim

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Wow, just beautiful! I don’t think these designs are too much.
    If you think of the music that comes from them, there has to be some sort of balance between the beauty of the music and the source, the object. Or maybe it’s like the nightingale.

  9. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    The eBay seller has one similar and is asking $9000. I know I didn't sell mine for anywhere near that price.

    Very similar to the one I had.

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    Jim

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  11. #9
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Well, “askin’ ain’t sellin’”
    As they say.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  12. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Many of the early manufacturers –– and some today, e.g. Taylor Guitars -- make special "presentation" models with elaborate ornamentation, for special clients either to play professionally, or to sell. These might or might not be marked with either the name of the manufacturer, or of the client. The NYCity banjo maker Buckbee, for example, made "Celebrated Benary" models for Robert H. Benary & Son, a major NYC wholesale & importing company from circa 1880, selling a full range of musical instruments, according to Mugwumps' Mike Holmes. Martin made "Foden Special" guitars for teacher and performer William Foden, approximately 1914-17, and Style 44 "Soloist" guitars for performer Vadah Olcott-Bickford.

    My family heirloom B & J Victoria bowl-back, very likely a Lyon & Healy product, isn't at the level of the OP's instrument, but it also has mother-of-pearl body binding, a profusely engraved headstock plate over the tuners, and elaborate MOP inlay on the pickguard. It has 32 rosewood ribs, though, fewer than the mandolin under discussion. Its "Victoria"label has an India-inked "558" serial or model number, and also a price of $198.00 -- which, prior to 1920, would have made it quite and expensive instrument.

    The mandolin discussed here, so elaborately decorated, might well have been made for an individual artist, or for a wealthy client -- or for a mandolin teacher to make available to his/her students. It's regrettable that whoever the manufacturers were, they didn't leave a label indicating either the maker or the buyer.
    Allen Hopkins
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  13. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    The mandolin discussed here, so elaborately decorated, might well have been made for an individual artist, or for a wealthy client -- or for a mandolin teacher to make available to his/her students. It's regrettable that whoever the manufacturers were, they didn't leave a label indicating either the maker or the buyer.
    have seen a good handful of these around and none have had labels. I don't think they were top of any line. Strange, eh? Some American Conservatory mandolins were more ornate that Washburn ones. AC was the middle line.
    Jim

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  15. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Many years ago I bought a very similar instrument from an antique dealer online that was pretty much unplayable. Thankfully they took it back. I think there were simply blinged up a bit to make them special. Lyon and Healy made a whole lot of instruments but they generally labeled the Washburn products as Washburn because they got a premium for the brand.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  17. #13

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    The bowl back folks are sure to have some good info. I 'profile' of the bowl from the side may also help determine the origin.

    These are really exceptional inlays even among the often over the top world of European-style Mandolins. There is a striking Arts Nouveau quality that is not at all typical on these instruments! Exceptional.

    Thanks Brad, really appreciate it.

    I have attached a side profile as requested
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  19. #14

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Wow - looks great and very similar features to mine and particularly one for sale on ebay at the moment for $9k.

  20. #15

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Hey thank you everyone for your replies and interest. Very cool and extremely helpful.

    You have certainly given me plenty to look into but the closest link seems to be a Supertone for Sears or Montgomery Ward, or an L&H customized for someone based on what you have shared.

    Jim Garbers photos and the Supertone catalog have many of the same features (headstock, tailpiece and inlays)....

    It needs some tidying up and I'll run it by a luthier (it seems structurally sound but just in case) and change the strings.....

    Thanks again, Everyone!

  21. #16
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Just to put things in perspective, the person with the one on eBay has a better chance of getting hit by lightning twice in the same day than they have of getting 9K for one of these. Even very nicely appointed no name American bowlbacks don't garner a lot of money. Play it and enjoy it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  23. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Quote Originally Posted by no clue View Post
    I'll run it by a luthier...and change the strings...
    Make sure the new strings are super-light, like these. Old bowl-backs don't take to the gauges that most of us use for our modern instruments.
    Allen Hopkins
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  25. #18

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Hahaha. Thank you I have no expectations on price or intention to sell. I figured the eBay price was a typo! Bit appreciate you confirming. Thanks again for your help

    - - - Updated - - -

    Ahhh good advice I had interned to ask. Appreciate the heads up on that. Thanks

  26. #19
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    I had a flatback L&H about 45 years ago that was very similar. The pick guard was a a butterfly though.

  27. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Make sure the new strings are super-light, like these. Old bowl-backs don't take to the gauges that most of us use for our modern instruments.
    Those are adequate strings IMHO but personally I think these are much superior in tone for bowlbacks: Dogal Calace Dolce RW92B.
    Jim

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    All it takes is one sucker to pay the price and there are many out there that don't do their homework! Bowlbacks aren't any interest to me so I wouldn't pay much for any of them unless I could get one dirt cheap and heck nowadays dirt aint cheap!

  29. #22

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Picked this mandolin up from a market in the south of France, it was in a big wooden box under a bunch of 1950’s carpentry and farming tools. 5 euros. In Lyon, near where I live you can pick up a VERY nice one that’s playable too for 300-400 euros, though of course some are a LOT more than that. For various reasons.

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  30. #23

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    I think as has been suggested that this mandolin was made for third party sale. Whether this was by a big retailer- be it mail order or a music shop- or as has been suggested for sale by music teachers, it is hard to know. To add to my earlier comment, I have seen it mentioned that the most likely maker of the Montgomery Ward Thornward massively appointed guitars was Lyon & Healy but the name Thornward was also inlaid on the headstock. That does not rule out the possibility, that this mandolin is a Wards model but I do think it is an L & H instrument. It may be impossible to attribute its retailer but identifying its maker should be easier and L & H is currently in pole position.

  31. #24
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    Lyon and Healy sold to all of the mail order houses as did everyone else.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  32. #25
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy, Washburn????

    I am the proud owner of Jim's "Harpist" mandolin in post #6, above. I payed roughly 2-1/2 percent of the eBay asking price, which is probably more like its actual market value. Agree with Jim, this could have been a L&H product, or perhaps from a smaller shop.

    Mine is a higher-quality instrument, than anything normally seen in a Wards catalog, AFAIK. It's not one of those average instruments with bling added, for attention. I also have some of those -- very ornate instruments that also appeared in catalogues, but none of those is better than middling quality. This one is a well-made instrument with elaborate, and highly skilled, ornamentation. Unfortunately this instrument was also (probably) too lightly carved. Most likely they did this to maximize the sound when new, but my impression at this point is that choice was made at the expense of longevity, kind of like a fine classical guitar that's been played out. The Harpist has survived as a lovely artistic piece, though.

    I could be wrong about the sound. One of these days I'll get it restored, and we'll see what it has to offer -- but based on what I'm seeing, I'm not expecting much, tonally. Once restored, it could be worth $500 or so, market value. But of course, I'm not selling until the mando-world wakes up. If the American market ever rediscovers the musical value of vintage bowlbacks, I'll be moving upstairs to the penthouse.

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