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Thread: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

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    Default Antique mandolinetto - guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    A lady friend gave me this and her story was it was given to her grandfather when he was a prison guard and it was made in prison. Her memory is not good and due to the tedious inlay around the edges I'm questioning her recollection. The tailpiece appears to have a patent date in 1885 and the tuners are patent 1895 by Streicher.

    Thoughts?
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    Last edited by CSIMelissa; Jul-24-2022 at 8:38pm.
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    To me, it has a kind of Latin American vibe.

    I'll suggest a construction date sometime rather early in the 20th century. Her story could be accurate-- at least some correctional institutions had wood shops. For someone who knows how to make it, the fancy wood inlays can be made with simple tools. Whoever did make it knew something about instrument building.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    That is a standard tailpiece probably purchased from a music store. I have seen that tailpiece on regular production mandolins. It certainly doesn’t resemble any factory mandolin so likely could have made by a hobby maker or even possibly in a prison shop. Unless there are any markings inside or on the underside of the top we probably will never know who made it
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    Kind of hard to imagine having access to Brazilian Rosewood in prison but who knows? It always amazes me when I see prisoner art or instruments on Antiques Roadshow and how creative they are. Mandolins and fiddles made out of matchsticks for example.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Kind of hard to imagine having access to Brazilian Rosewood in prison but who knows? It always amazes me when I see prisoner art or instruments on Antiques Roadshow and how creative they are. Mandolins and fiddles made out of matchsticks for example.
    You kind of have to put things into perspective as to when this was built. The value of some woods has skyrocketed. I have a Brazilian serving tray and knick-knack box with a rudimentary pearl inlay that I bought at a flea market out in Pennsylvania near a famous guitar manufacturer that I assume were made from scraps of unwanted wood that most likely came from the scrap pile of that guitar manufacturer or a furniture maker nearby many years before. I use the wood to make patches when I need them for repairs. It's totally possible that they had pieces of Brazilian rosewood that was big enough to make this instruments from scraps at the time. That doesn't mean I think it was made in prison. I had a dear friend that played the bowed psaltry that used to come to the same bluegrass festivals as I did. I would generally announce to the crowds that stopped to listen to us that Judy had learned to play that instrument in prison where it was made by an inmate.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Jul-26-2022 at 12:36pm.
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

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    This rosewood and boxwood plane was built in Auburn NY, by prison labor. The Auburn Tool Company, and it’s successor, Ohio Tool, exploited prisoners, male and female for a good part of the 19th Century, and the works at Auburn were huge, as the prison’s original funding was partly based on this, plus some nastier practices.
    Skill, machinery and materials were definitely abundant there, and probably other prisons using similar models. Not all rock-breaking chain gangs!
    I collect woodworking tools, and happened to look up Auburn after once staying nearby.
    Now, the Ohio Tool prison labor may have ended before this mandolin was made, but I imagine that this kind of thing lingered into the 20th Century, and involved many other products. Auburn is still doing license plates.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    I worked for a industrial supplier for 5 years when I was young in Oregon. I shipped a whole lot of different supplies to The Oregon State Prison Industries for that entire time. I believe they were making office furniture that was used by the state and sold elsewhere as well at the time. They could have manufactured pretty much anything I suppose. I have to assume that's fairly common.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Antique guitar shaped mandolin - info??

    These guitar-shaped mandolins are often called "mandolinettos." The prison-labor attribution is believable, but the inmate would have had to obtain the tuners and tailpiece commercially; since I doubt that the prison wood shop would be making mandolinettos for sale to the public, it would more likely have been an individual inmate's project, with some cooperative prison administrator finding the hardware to complete it. Perhaps the "prison guard" to whom the inmate gifted it? Maybe he knew the guard played mandolin, and wanted to get on his good side?
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