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Thread: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

  1. #1

    Default bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Hi there! My family and I recently found an old mandolin at a grandparent's house on O'ahu, and we were curious if anyone can identify it. the strings on there are not the original, which were too broken to be playable. Grandpa (91 y.o.) said he remembers his dad playing the instrument, so we think it's similar age to him, if not a little younger. Thoughts?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Someone will be along with ideas about its identity, I’m sure. Please be aware to use only extra light strings. Heavier strings will damage these old bowlbacks.
    Pava S/N 21
    Calace Bowlback

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Yes, I’d second that. Looks to me that the o/p has simply bought what’s available at their local music shop (phophor bronze - probbaly EJ74s) which are far too heavy.

    Otherwise it looks to be a nice looking instrument in reasonable condition.

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Very similar to a mandolin I recently found at an estate sale. Mine is clearly stamped "Geo. Bauer Philadelphia" on the back of the headstock. This dates it to about 1900.
    The decorative binding around the sound hole and top edges are also similar although yours appears to be an upgrade, as is the pick guard. Also the inlay on the fret board is nicer. No labels inside or any other markings?
    Jim Garber is one of our resident experts on bowlbacks and helped identify mine. According to Jim, Bauer was bought out / assimilated into S.S. Stewart back around 1900 and Stewart made instruments for other labels, music stores etc. I would image Jim will be along shortly.
    And yes go to the ultra light strings ASAP. If you are not confident enough about doing it yourself have who knows what they are doing work on it. Might want to lightly oil the tuners to make sure they work properly.
    As I recently found out these bowlbacks are a really sweet sounding instrument when put in working condition. Well worth fixing up!
    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.


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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Oops, forgot the pics!
    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.


    "Don't cloud the issue with facts!" Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

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    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.


    "Don't cloud the issue with facts!" Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

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    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.


    "Don't cloud the issue with facts!" Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    With over 40 "barrel stave" segments to the body, it probably started life as a higher-end instrument (which need not necessarily translate to big bucks now, especially if there's no maker id'd). Assuming that it hasn't been re-finished, it looks pretty nice to this non-expert.

    To reiterate others' comments: Please loosen the string tension ASAP!

    Edit: Is that a scratch across the back of the neck, or an artifact of the photo?
    - Ed

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    While likely from the same era, Bob, there are quite a lot of stylistic and detail differences between yours and the OP's.
    So many so, that I wouldn't venture that they were made by the same folks.

    Of course, I've shot blanks on my last couple of US made bowlback attributions, so I'm easing forward on this one.

    To me it appears to be from the Chicago / Indianapolis orbit. This from the bowl shape, scratchplate, general trim details, headstock shape and pearl inlays.

    This appears to me to have much in common with the American Conservatory line from L+H...though as we have discussed elsewhere, L+H made mandolins to various specs and labeled them afterwards.

    Sometimes with their brand labels, sometimes as Lyon and Healy and often sold to be labeled by others, or, frustratingly, without labels.

    It's worth noting that L+H (and perhaps others) perfected a technique to produce a small groove and insert in a single bowlback stave in order for it to appear that it has twice as many as it actually does. I've had numerous L+H bowls apart to confirm this. You can often trace the same grain pattern on the rosewood staves to identify this sleight of hand.

    The photo of your bowl, Ed, is a little fuzzy, but there appears to be enough variation in the stave grain to suggest these are individual pieces.
    The OP's is suspect in that regard.

    That said, I don't think it compromises the quality of the mandolins in question one iota. The rosewood on both these examples is stunning.

    Very nice mandolins, both. A bit of fiddling with the bridge on the OP's will likely get it into playable condition.

    Mick
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    I think Mick is right about its origin. My feeling is that if it is not an L & H sub-brand, it was made to be retailed by Montgomery Ward or Supertone- that star was seen on Concertone, Wards- guitars and possibly Supertone as well- Sears, Roebuck. It's got that combination of fancy aspects with basic tuners- not covered with an engraved plate that makes me feel it was made for one of those mail order giants to be sold at a competitive price.

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Thanks all, I'm very new to bowlbacks and find all this history fascinating. My first was a yard sale wall hanger. Not at all playable but looks good hanging with wine theme above the dry bar. Now the Bauer has me going down another rabbit hole in the mandolin world. And they sound so sweet!
    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.


    "Don't cloud the issue with facts!" Groucho Marx

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Yes, I’d second that. Looks to me that the o/p has simply bought what’s available at their local music shop (phophor bronze - probbaly EJ74s) which are far too heavy.

    Otherwise it looks to be a nice looking instrument in reasonable condition.
    Nice mandolin, but I would echo what Ray has said: those strings looks too heavy for this mandolin. If left on, the tension may cause the neck joint to fail or the top to collapse, both of which are terminal in a bowlback as repairs would be more than the instrument is worth. Please take them off now, and replace with something like GHS A240 Ultra Lights.

    Martin

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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    Please take them off now, and replace with something like GHS A240 Ultra Lights.

    Martin
    What Martin said.

    Mick
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    I'm a little late to this party, but let me share my opinion.

    I am fairly certain it is a Lyon and Healy product, especially from the headstock profile, purfling, and pickguard. However, it is a later model, with the open tuners (not inset) and the elevated tailpiece. Be aware that all this talk of other brands -- Bauer, Supertone, Bruno -- were house names but being manufactured by large concerns. At the turn of the century, L and H was the largest producers of stringed musical instruments in the world. That's a LOT of instruments!

    Good find, though. Play that baby.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: bowl back mandolin attic find, help identify?

    I posted this same image the other day on another thread. I agree with Mick and Zookster. L&H and close to their American Conservatory line. See colog page from my 1912 catalog below. The 605, 607 and 608 have the same headstock shape and the pickguard shape is also pretty close though inlays might differ depending on what the retailer might have ordered.

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