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Thread: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

  1. #1

    Default Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    We don't see many bowlbacks that are known to be Harmony made. Sears, Roebuck bought Harmony in 1916 and this model was advertised as a Supertone back then. On the surface, it looks like a "de-blinged" Washburn 1648 which was introduced at that time. The trouble I have, is that the Washburn had a fretboard extension over the sound hole and a very different volute. Likewise, where the ribs meet the neck was finished very differently. On that basis, I do not believe this was made by Lyon & Healy but I may be wrong.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/20400846085...UAAOSwIo1ivZPF


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  2. #2

    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    The illustrator indicates, as well as I can see from the page, that guitar and mandolin share identical decoration, and likely same manufacturer. Of course, as an engraving, this may not represent reality, but you might get identification if you also post on a vintage guitar forum, for all four Ivies.
    Good marketing gimmick!

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    We've actually seen more than we probably realized. Over the years a few different resources that show bowlback mandolins in production have popped up like this one. There were a few more. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot of detail but we have had pictures of bowls stacked in the factory.

    This is from an article on the Made in Chicago Museum site. There is another one here someplace that had more pictures.

    https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/...rmony-company/
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    Found the one I was looking for.

    Take a 1904 Harmony Factory Photo Tour
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    Richard, the Columbia guitar is a Harmony product- it has that unique iron bridge that Harmony used on Supertone guitars into the 1920s. The Harvard mandolin has a fingerboard extension- unlike the other three and this may mean a different maker- and possibly the same for the guitar. I think that these are in the main Harmony made instruments in the advertisement. We know that Harmony began making mandolins that look a lot like those made by the Larson brothers- but as discussed here, there are obvious differences that can be seen and that's what I think we see on the mandolin I have posted. It looks like an L & H mandolin but there are differences apparent on the outside- and probably a fair few more on the inside and I assume that Sears, Roebuck sold mandolins made by L & H and then got Harmony to make them while copying many of the earlier instruments in style.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    Richard, the Columbia and Cornell guitar type are a Harmony products- they have that unique iron bridge that Harmony used on Supertone guitars into the 1920s. The Harvard mandolin has a fingerboard extension- unlike the other three and this may mean a different maker- and possibly the same for the guitar. I think that these are in the main Harmony made instruments in the advertisement. We know that Harmony began making mandolins that look a lot like those made by the Larson brothers- but as discussed here, there are obvious differences that can be seen and that's what I think we see on the mandolin I have posted. It looks like an L & H mandolin but there are differences apparent on the outside- and probably a fair few more on the inside and I assume that Sears, Roebuck sold mandolins made by L & H and then got Harmony to make them while copying many of the earlier instruments in style.
    We can see in the photo that Mike has posted that the completed Harmony mandolin we can see does not have a fingerboard extension.

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    The metal Harmony bridge can be seen more clearly on the middle guitar in this ad- the one shown as mahogany.

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  11. #8
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    The illustrator indicates, as well as I can see from the page, that guitar and mandolin share identical decoration, and likely same manufacturer. Of course, as an engraving, this may not represent reality, but you might get identification if you also post on a vintage guitar forum, for all four Ivies.
    Good marketing gimmick!
    As a proponent of public university education (of which I am employed) I find the Ivy League pricing very funny...particularly if they really are the same instruments...which now Nick has unfortunately debunked.

    This would make an interesting link to another thread on the history of Mandolin Orchestras where Robert Margo raises interesting questions viz relative social class and mandolin orchestra participation...and by extension the instruments used.

    Contemporary students at The East Southeast New Jersey Junior College of Mining, Aeronautics and Dance might not be bum rushing the Sears catalog for a Harvard model.

    That said, the collegiate branding approach is preferable to the "Hegemony" line that Ditson was marketing maybe 10 years earlier post Spanish American War: Victory, Conquest, Empire.

    I think they opted out of the "Domination" model. Wisely so.

    I've owned a few Empires of my own.

    They were Vega-made mandolins. Very nice.

    Mick
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  13. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bowlback- Harmony? Supertone

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...Contemporary students at The East Southeast New Jersey Junior College of Mining, Aeronautics and Dance might not be bum rushing the Sears catalog for a Harvard model...
    Actually Mick we very much preferred the Gibson mandolins with the South Jersey Pickguard.
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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