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Thread: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Hi, I am new to the site and got my first mandolin at a flea market on Thursday. I play guitar and am going to try to learn to play it. I cannot find anything about it except for a catalog page from the 1930's. Any information will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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  3. #2

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    It looks to be a mid-30s Harmony and it is probably based on the Monterey mandolin style. If you look inside you may be able to work out what it is in terms of wood. I have two S S Stewart mandolins with the same headstock shape and tuners- one is virtually unmarked and came in a Lifton case while the other is massively worn but plays. They have a faux maple finish but are actually made of mahogany. Indeed, the next model up had a carved plastic headplate and was finished with the mahogany showing. I will find a photo and post it. S S Stewart was a brand of B & J- Bugeleisen and Jacobson. Your mandolin has a nice case- it would be worth posting up some photos of it- inside and out.

    Here is that mahogany S S Stewart Harmony made mandolin at this link:

    https://reverb.com/uk/item/1885896-s...hogany-lacquer

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  5. #3

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Here below is another tuxedo style S S Stewart- it has the same logo as your mandolin- but it is a guitar- made by Harmony. It has Waverly Tune Rite tuners- which Harmony used about 1939/40. I have them on a 1940 stamped Harmony Monterey tenor guitar. These tuners are notorious for their metal buttons crumbling- as has happened on my guitar. This guitar has replacement plastic buttons and I would date it to 1940. I would suggest your mandolin is very late 30s early 40s- before WW2. You can date an S S Stewart instrument by its logo- the one on that mahogany mandolin- mid to late 30s- then probably your style- then another after a couple of years into the mid-40s. In the 1930s makers paired up a guitar and mandolin following the same style of finish. I have a nice Regal with a red spruce top sold by B & J as a Serenader- the guitar big brother sells for quite a lot of money in good order but the mandolin is very nice- an oval hole instrument. So, if you want the pair- here's the guitar- at a price somewhat above what I would reckon it is worth!

    https://reverb.com/uk/item/15109305-..._source=google

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  7. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PattiT View Post
    Hi, I am new to the site and got my first mandolin at a flea market on Thursday. I play guitar and am going to try to learn to play it. I cannot find anything about it except for a catalog page from the 1930's. Any information will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
    Hi Patti, I wasn't able to reply to your e-mail because it said your mailbox was unavailable. It is indeed a harmony built product.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  9. #5
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Yes Harmony "Chicago built" And I think its gorgeous! Maybe worth 800 bucks? The case is a higher end case though!

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  11. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    Yes Harmony "Chicago built" And I think its gorgeous! Maybe worth 800 bucks? The case is a higher end case though!
    On a really good day with all of the planets aligned and you find the one person that has to have it. That's a pretty generous price.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  13. #7

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    I have taken a look at my two S S Stewart mandolins. The superworn one which came with a chipboard case cost $50. It looked a mess- someone had screwed a Gibson style tailpiece on to the bottom rear edge! Anyway, it plays and the correct tailpiece was found for it- or the slightly Ritzier one seen on the mahogany version. As it is worn, I can see the mahogany in places- but it has that faux maple finish. The top has been worn down to the wood and it is spruce- not all mahogany like that other one. The second of the two which I will picture was sold at a $165 BIN which I went for as I liked the case although the mandolin was in disarray- with its bridge at right angles to where it ought to be and its strings on as a lefty. In fact it had not been converted into a lefty and was in perfect order and the case is a Lifton. It plays really well and is virtually unmarked and the case is superb although it had lost its original handle.


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  15. #8

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    This one has the "coolness factor" that most old Harmony's and Regal's lack. All black with the deco peghead and guard with HARD case. Imagine trying to locate that pickguard if it were missing. I would put it in a category like the Regal Le Domino line of instruments which sell for more than they "should" due to a similar coolness factor. I'm sure most of them become wall-hangers....

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  17. #9
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    That factor and the case is why I said 800 bucks Jeff!

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  19. #10
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    @PattiT, if you're looking for tips, tricks and advice on how to play, you're definitely in the right place on the Internet. The Newbies social group is especially a great bunch of like-minded people to answer any & all questions about playing & improving (click Learn & Listen - Social Groups above). Ask anything and enjoy the journey!

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  21. #11

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Wow Thank you all for the quick responses! I love it, it plays great. I appreciate all the knowledge I am getting from you all.

  22. #12

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    That's nice!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thank you!

  23. #13

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Sorry if my responses are messed up I am learning how to navigate this site. You all are really great and encouraging!

  24. #14

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Your mandolin does not look like a tight fit in the case and this may mean the pair have come together later in life. However, the case looks like a good one. My S S Stewart for the hard Lifton case fits really snugly which lends me to believe they have been together 80 plus years. I bought the mandolin as I hoped the case would fit a 1936 Gibson made mandolin but it is just too tight and would stress the instrument's neck. However, it is nice that the mandolin is as good as it is- not in the same league in terms of visual appeal as yours. It would be interesting to ascertain the wood used. My guess is that it is partly or all mahogany- and that is probably the same for that guitar that matches its style. Harmony started using that headstock shape in 1939 or 1940 on guitars and what with the tuners I am sure it is that era. Inside your mandolin you will probably find a code- it is in both by my S S Stewart mandolins and sometimes a date stamp- two digits for the year after S and F but that is not visible in mine.

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  26. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    I actually talked with the owner of this mandolin for a while on the phone last week. There were no date codes or model numbers inside. I pegged it as probably a Harmony before I saw it. He had taken it to a luthier friend of mine to get the strings changed. As fun as the paint job is I'm sure it was built by Harmony and it's still a Harmony.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  27. #16

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    You sometimes find with these spiffed up third party instruments, that the wood quality has been sacrificed for a dazzling finish. What gives me hope, is that the guitar version has those expensive single unit tuners and the top appears to be spruce. The body may be maple or mahogany but it could be birch. On that basis, I would hope that the mandolin is made from the better wood types but that is not to denigrate birch. The mandolin looks to be in good order and if it plays well and sounds good then what with its stunning looks, it is a nice instrument to own. I know that certain names give an instrument a lot more cachet but good instruments from the less storied makers have their merit. I picked up my Regal Custom from the expert last week and he said it was a very nice instrument- well made and in great order- he replicated the original pickguard for me. He said he has decided to make some mandolins- probably in the 1920s Gibson A2 style.

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  29. #17

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    I found this on this site! Thanks!
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  30. #18

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin Case

    Here are pictures of the case. Not sure what it is so any help in identifying is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
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  31. #19

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Thanks for posting the old ad! I now have a name for those commonly seen tailpiece covers -- the wrist-rest tailpiece!

  32. #20

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Your mandolin was $30- reasonably expensive and as I surmised it has a spruce top as per the guitar with a maple body- all good news. My two mandolins are the $16-50 mandolin while that polished mahogany version is $20. It seems they were sold concurrently so I reckon late 30s would date it. Your case is very similar to mine in shape but I think it is a bit wider at the body- is your mandolin a tight fit or is it loose? The Eagle Lock latches are the same as is the general shape. I think you have a very nice mandolin with a good case there- so often the case is little more than a dust cover but this one- like mine is a very good case and if it is a Lifton- worth a reasonable amount.

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  34. #21

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    I'll comment on the case. It seems that the mandolin is late 30's to maybe very early 40's. The case may not be original but is probably from around that era. Here's the mandolin case from the 1940 Lifton catalog. The case with the SS Stewart has a much wider headstock area, the handle is placed lower, and the compartment lid opens the opposite direction. My observation is that case makers are very consistent about the direction of the the compartment lid, so I don't think this could be a Lifton case. It doesn't look like a Harptone or Geib either. The headstock area is unusually wide. Perhaps it was built for a particular instrument that needed that shape.

    Steve

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  36. #22

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Thank you. Maybe a Banjolin?

  37. #23
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Samuel "S S" Stewart started building banjos in 1878, in Philadelphia. He died 20 years later, and his trademark went through a couple owners before Buegeleisen & Jacobson (B&J), a New York City distributor, bought it in 1915. They had "S S Stewart" instruments built by a variety of manufacturers. I once owned a "Fred Stewart" (one of Samuel's sons) tenor banjo that was likely made by Epiphone. Here's a banjo-centric Mugwumps article giving some Stewart history; they dis the "cheap, plywood [instruments] made by Harmony in the '30's," but that's their opinion -- don't take it personally...
    Allen Hopkins
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  39. #24
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    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    I just finished setting up a nice 1920 S.S. Stewart mandolin. All mahogany, with a little work it sounds and plays great. Original case, not a tight fit, but a little foam and it works well. Came with the key, rare.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  41. #25

    Default Re: 1930's SS Stewart Mandolin

    Harmony may have made cheap instruments but they weren't plywood so ignore what Magwumps wrote- judge the instrument on its own merits. It was retailed at $30 which is not cheap- you could buy a Harmony made Sears retailed Supertone for $3 at the time.

    Steve, thank you for your input. The Lifton catalogue picture shows exactly the same case as mine- with the lid opening in the same direction. As I mentioned earlier, I was propelled into the purchase for the case which is too tight for the mandolin I had in mind for it- so the Harmony S S Stewart is still in residence!

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