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Thread: Is this a real Larson?

  1. #1

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    No.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Quote Originally Posted by 383roller View Post
    To my eye, it looks like an instrument made -- or contracted to be made -- in Chicago by the Samuel Osborn Co. in the 1920s and often sold with a SAMMO label.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Those SAMMO mandolins are almost certainly a Harmony made instrument which would be my opinion on this mandolin's maker.

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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    My very first mandolin was very similar to that one but had a butteryfly pickguard and was labeled Lyon and Healy. It really needed better tuning machines is about all I remember out that thing.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Almost everyone made a similar model (well, except Gibson) but I'm with Nick on this one, it looks like a Harmony to me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Larson query always=
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Larson query always=
    I'm steering clear; once burned, twice shy...
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  9. #9
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    It is most absolutely, definitely, likely, probably not a Larson.

    Which means: there's a (snowball's) chance (in hexx) that it might be a Larson.

    Which around here translates into it could be a Larson.....

    Which is supported by such irrefutable evidence as "I saw a Larson with strings on it just like this one has...."

    Which then, naturally, becomes There's no real proof that it isn't a Larson....

    Which then, indignantly, becomes "Well, I think it is a Larson."

    Which then, enthusiastically, becomes "It's a Larson".

    Which then, proudly, becomes "I own a Larson!"

    So let's save some time and indigestion and say yes, of course it is a Larson.

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    In my fantasy Hollywood biopic, there is a short scene where Carl and August actually talk to each other.

    Carl: Hey, August!
    August: What?
    Carl: Let's never sign our instruments or give anyone the possibility of knowing whether we made these. It will drive those people 100 years from now crazy.
    August: Sounds good.
    Carl: Ok. Now we can go back to never talking to each other again.
    August: Right.
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  12. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    August: What happens when they find out that we had them all manufactured for us by Regal and Harmony?
    Carl: Nobody would ever believe that. By the way, take a look at this new mandolin I built. I call it the Strad-O-Lin.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  14. #12
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Real Larson:
    http://www.sprucetreemusic.com/produ...andolin-c-1910
    This is a very plain model. Note the rather triangular body, although they also used other patterns.

    There's a fancier one at Retrofret in Brooklyn, labelled Stahl. I can't get a direct link to work. Also, both Intermountain Guitar and Banjo and Schoenberg guitars have Maurers.

    If y'all will get a copy of Hartman's book, you can learn to recognize a Larson. It's easier if you've seen a few.
    Last edited by rcc56; Dec-05-2019 at 11:58pm.

  15. #13

    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    It seems plenty of mandolin sellers attempt Larsony.

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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Real Larson:
    http://www.sprucetreemusic.com/produ...andolin-c-1910
    This is a very plain model. Note the rather triangular body, although they also used other patterns.

    There's a fancier one at Retrofret in Brooklyn, labelled Stahl. I can't get a direct link to work. Also, both Intermountain Guitar and Banjo and Schoenberg guitars have Maurers.

    If y'all will get a copy of Hartman's book, you can learn to recognize a Larson. It's easier if you've seen a few.
    Stahl mandolin at RetroFret
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Real Larson:
    http://www.sprucetreemusic.com/produ...andolin-c-1910
    This is a very plain model. Note the rather triangular body, although they also used other patterns.

    There's a fancier one at Retrofret in Brooklyn, labelled Stahl. I can't get a direct link to work. Also, both Intermountain Guitar and Banjo and Schoenberg guitars have Maurers.

    If y'all will get a copy of Hartman's book, you can learn to recognize a Larson. It's easier if you've seen a few.
    To be honest the book has a few Larson's that are questionable. That is the problem. Everything that might look like it could be has been identified as one. Even in the Gruhn book there is a Larson reverse scroll that I suspect came out of the Regal shop. The Regal book kind of opened folks eyes as to what that shop could do. The rule of thumb used to be "If it's nice and you can't identify it call it a Larson. If it's not so nice and you can't identify it call it a Regal". I think we've all been guilty of that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  20. #16

    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Or, as I once overheard two women asking a vendor at a flea market..."Is this pewter?" His seasoned reply, "Do you want it to be pewter?"

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  22. #17

    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    I think the word "Larson" should be changed to "MacGuffin." In many Hitchcock movies, and other thrillers (and, as Wikipedia points out, the holy grail in Arthurian legend), it's an object or device that is necessary to the plot but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself. I have a Stahl-labeled bowlback that, with a gun to my head, I would say Regal likely made. I have a Stahl-labeled flatback that, gun to head, I think maybe stands a little better chance of being Larson-made. Incidentally, the bowlback is the better instrument (louder, brilliant tone—it's a ringer!), while the flatback is really easy to play and sounds pretty good in its own right.

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  24. #18
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    The majority of Larson mandolins have the distinctive semi-triangular body shape. Despite design variations, all that I have seen have a peghead with radiused sides and without a concave curve at the center of the peak. The single wide diagonally checkered purfling band around the top is uncharacteristic of Larson work, as is the "ebonized" hardwood fingerboard.

    The peghead shape of the OP's inquiry has been used by other Chicago makers, and the purfling pattern and the stained hardwood fingerboard have been used by both Chicago and east coast makers.

    This looks to be a well-built mandolin, but there is little, if anything, that resembles Larson work. There is a lot that resembles the work of others.

    Scot, does your Stahl bowlback have a paper label? It is generally accepted that Stahls with paper labels are not Larson products.

  25. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Quote Originally Posted by 383roller View Post
    As others have noted, this mandolin resembles the Harmony-made mandolins sold by Sears-Roebuck under the Supertone label. Before we lose the photos of the OP's post altogether:
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    As for the identifying true Larson creations, I think there are multiple characteristics for the guitars that don't really work with the mandolins. Mandolins AFAIK do not have laminated braces or necks. And though Hartman notes that the guitars were built under tension, frankly I thought many guitars of other makers of that period were built that way and certainly you find it in the cant-topped mandolins (both bowlback and flat-back) of many makers.

    The Larson Brothers Registry site does have a page discussing Defining Characteristics.

    One characteristic—and there may be others—does carry over from the guitars (from the Larson Brothers Registry Web site):
    Next, check out that unusually thick ebony fingerboard. Most Larson fingerboards are bound, and always in an unusual way: The brothers bound only the top half of the edge of the fingerboard, leaving a strip of ebony running lengthwise below the binding. They did the same when binding the soundhole.
    In any case, the only possibly Larson-made mandolin I own is this one with a paper label from a music store in Milwaukee called Rohlfing. I bought it on eBay almost a decade ago because it resembled Larson-made bowlbacks I was familiar with. When I examined it i saw the Maurer branding on the inside neck block. This one does have the tell-tale(?) ebony strip under the fretboard binding and it does seem to be made well. Another feature that would not be characteristic of guitars and so ignored in the litany of Larson identifying features is the collar at the neck joint. I don't know if all the bowlbacks had that but some of them do.

    Here are some pics of mine:
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    Last edited by Jim Garber; Dec-06-2019 at 5:42pm.
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  27. #21

    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Jim, those attachments do not seem to open. This is a shame as I would like to see these definitive identifying aspects of the Larson made mandolin.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    NickR: I am not sure why those uploads didn't take but I re-uploaded and added a few more. I hadn't played that one for awhile and I want to put some time into it. I would raise the nut and the bridge a hair and restring it with Calace Dogals. My Vega #3 still sounds amazing with those strings. What a bowlback should sound like.
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Link worked for me Nick. Try this one.

    Interesting discussion, but this page is mostly focussed on guitars which seem a bit more characteristcially definable.
    I enjoy the discussions of Larson guitars as the talk generally drifts to how good they sound.
    The Larson mandolin discussions here tend to pivot around the inlay or fretboard detailing.

    I've had Bob Hartman's book for a number of years. It is both wonderfully helpful and frustratingly broad-brushed in its attributions.

    Like splinters from the True Cross......enough to build a skyscraper.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Here are a few more collars from various Stahl mandolins:
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  32. #25
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    Default Re: Is this a real Larson?

    Link worked for me Nick. Try this one.

    Interesting discussion, while this page is mostly focussed on guitars which seem a bit more characteristcially definable.
    I enjoy the discussions of Larson guitars as the talk generally drifts to how good they sound.
    The Larson mandolin discussions characteristically tend to pivot around the inlay or fretboard definition.

    I've had Bob Hartman's book for a number of years. It is both characteristically helpful and also definitely broad-brushed in its attributions.

    Like splinters from the True Cross......enough to build a skyscraper.

    BTW, Jim, I've had L+H bowls with that collar detail as well. Not suggesting yours isn't from the LarBros because of that, just that it isn't a DefChar in and of itself.

    Mick

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