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Thread: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

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    Default Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    When did Lyon and Healy begin to manufacture mandocellos? When did they stop and how many did they make during that relatively short period?

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    The earliest mention I can find for a mandocello manufactured by Lyon & Healy/Washburn is the Leland #707, available in 1912. It would have been a flat top or canted top instrument.

    The carved Lyon & Healy 'cello was introduced in 1917, and was offered until 1928. Very few were actually made. I have only heard of 5 or 6 of them over the years.
    I played one in George Gruhn's shop about ten years ago. It was an impressive instrument.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    A friend of mine has one of the carved cellos. It is truly
    beautiful and has a nice voice. But my friend says, to him, the neck feels like a baseball bat. I don't play mandocello, so I'm just relaying what he said.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Leland and L+H and Vega mandocellos for posteriority.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    I have recently acquired a Lyon & Healy carved top mandocello, which is why I posed the questions. Mine has a serial number: #10, suggesting it was the tenth one made. The seller informed me that it dates to 1915. I don't know what his source of that information was. The instrument with serial #1 was on the market about four years ago. I don't recall if a date of production was announced for it. Several others have come on the market since then, about one per year. I think that it is probably correct that the carved top instruments were offered until 1928. The questions remain: how many were made and who has them? I bought mine to play in an orchestra (rehearsals in progress). How many others are in museums, unplayed collections, symphony orchestra instrument lockers or just forgotten on shelves?

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    As far as I can tell from the information that is available to me, the L & H carved instruments were introduced in 1917.
    Whether or not the carved instruments were all under a single sequence of serial numbers, or there were seperate number sequences for different models, I do not know.

    Any surviving factory records from the company are very sparse if they exist at all. What little information we do have is mostly based on catalog pages, advertisements, a few old sales receipts, and in-hand observation of the instruments themselves.
    As a result, the construction date and the number of instruments that were shipped is only an estimation.

    All we can say for sure about how many 'cellos were made is "very few." My guess would be that a generous estimate of surviving 'cellos would be a couple of dozen or less. As far as who the owners are, it is up to them whether or not they wish to be known. If any lists exist, those lists cannot be considered to be complete and comprehensive.

    Look at it this way-- if you go to the archives and look up Loar signed Gibson instruments, those lists will contain many instruments with "anonymous owners," and not every surviving signed instrument is accounted for in those lists. And we have much less info available on L & H instruments.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    My first mandocello was a Vega cylinder back, which looked very much like the L&H, but had a rebuilt neck, probably from a guitar. People at a CMSA convention kept asking me if it was a Lyon & Healy; at that point I didn't even know what they were talking about. It was a good looking instrument and played well, but I moved on to a K4.
    The L&H's are an elegant design, interesting departure from the A and F styles.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    As far as I can tell from the information that is available to me, the L & H carved instruments were introduced in 1917.
    Whether or not the carved instruments were all under a single sequence of serial numbers, or there were seperate number sequences for different models, I do not know....
    In Brother Keef's tome on Washburn instruments on page 236 he writes:

    "Research data on surving instruments suggests.....that Style A mandocellos and mandolas were also numbered separately from the standard A style mandolins."

    He also notes the start of L+Hs carved instruments to be in 1917, but fwiw he doesn't make note of a carved top mandocello until 1922.

    Clearly there must be gaps in the available information leading to differences of opinion.

    My opinion is that these Centerstream publications, while welcome compendiums of information, share the same appalling graphic layout, organization and editing.
    Hunting down information is a mystery game.

    Kudos to Centerstream for taking on and publishing these collections just the same.

    I can't lay the blame on Keef. I've got a number of these books and the layout / editing woes in all of them are really really bad.


    When Jim and Mike finally publish their book on Weymann, Schmidt, Ricca and the NYC / Mid-Atlantic Rim builders I trust they'll demand better work....

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Gochfeld View Post
    I have recently acquired a Lyon & Healy carved top mandocello, which is why I posed the questions. Mine has a serial number: #10, suggesting it was the tenth one made. The seller informed me that it dates to 1915. I don't know what his source of that information was. The instrument with serial #1 was on the market about four years ago. I don't recall if a date of production was announced for it. Several others have come on the market since then, about one per year. I think that it is probably correct that the carved top instruments were offered until 1928. The questions remain: how many were made and who has them? I bought mine to play in an orchestra (rehearsals in progress). How many others are in museums, unplayed collections, symphony orchestra instrument lockers or just forgotten on shelves?
    Lyon & Healy wins the prize for the most confusing serial numbering systems of all the larger instrument companies in the US back around the tune of the 20th century. I believe the mandolins of the upper lines (Washburn and L&H) were numbered separately from the guitars and banjos but, for some odd reason they restarted numbering in 1922 and then again much later in 1935. Also, it is hard to tell whether they numbered all the carved L&H line separately or even numbered the mandolin differently from the mandolas and mandocellos. So you may have the 10th mandocello made or not.

    In any case, I have played maybe 3 or 4 of these mandocellos and IMHO they are exceptional instruments. When I played in the NY Mandolin Orchestra back in the 1980s one of the older folks brought in his L&H cello and played a Bach sonata on it. Very beautiful.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Jim
    Any memory of who that "older folk" was and any idea what might have become of his mandocello?

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    There is a beautiful two point carved L&H mandocello here in town. It is a very nice instrument, but the neck is the size of a telephone pole....

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    The earliest mention I can find for a mandocello manufactured by Lyon & Healy/Washburn is the Leland #707, available in 1912. It would have been a flat top or canted top instrument.

    The carved Lyon & Healy 'cello was introduced in 1917, and was offered until 1928. Very few were actually made. I have only heard of 5 or 6 of them over the years.
    I played one in George Gruhn's shop about ten years ago. It was an impressive instrument.
    Absolutely correct. I love the first set of models introduced in the 1917, amazing piece.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Gochfeld View Post
    Jim
    Any memory of who that "older folk" was and any idea what might have become of his mandocello?
    I do know remember his name and remember that he and his brother were both in the orchestra and were excellent musicians. They were from the Italian-American division of the NYMO. I think they were from Long Island. I haven’t a clue what happened to that mandocello.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    There is a beautiful two point carved L&H mandocello here in town. It is a very nice instrument, but the neck is the size of a telephone pole....
    Hah, James! And this comment is from a bass player! I don’t recall that the L&H mandocellos were more baseball-batty than teens Gibsons but it has been quite a while since I have played one. BTW not the easiest instrument in any case to play smoothly and easily. Just watch the current Mike Marshall video on Mandolin Monday. Mike looked a bit exhausted after playing that Bach. Imagine what we mortals would experience.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Hi, a note on the serial numbering system of the L&H/Washburn carved top models (I posted this information here before, so nothing new).

    At the time I did the WB book I had a number of Styles A-C on my master instrument data list with the same serial number. This led me to the statement in the book that these were numbered separately.

    Something did not add up though - as this would mean that about 6,000-7,000 carved top models would have been made in total, which to me seemed impossible.

    After the book got out I continued assembling data on these instruments trying to solve this, and then found out that I had been right - but also wrong.

    What actually happened now seems very clear to me:

    L&H started out in 1917 numbering all style groups (A, B, C, the mandolas and cellos) separately, and then - somewhere in the region after #100 - decided for some reason to continue using one single numbering system covering all of these instruments.

    This system clearly materializes after the approx #250 serial number, after which the instruments are numbered sequentially apparently in batches (e.g. 250-275 all styles C, 275-340 styles A, etc up to around the 2,300s range (the aforementioned batch numbers are fictitious and only to illustrate).

    Why L&H changed this must have to do with efficiency reasons - I guess they decided, possibly based on orders coming in, or based on past sales, to start manufacturing batches of individual styles, and assigned the corresponding serial numbers of these batches upfront, before the instruments were finished.

    What this likely means is that the actual total of carved top mandolins would be in the 2,500 ballpark over the 1917-1939 period. Hope this helps.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    My cello looks like a Style A (scroll head stock) but is labeled "Special" as the style rather than a letter A. You state 2,500 ballpark for all? the mandolins. My question was as to the number of carved top L&H mandocellos]. Were they still being made as late as 1939 or was production stopped much earlier?

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Gochfeld View Post
    My cello looks like a Style A (scroll head stock) but is labeled "Special" as the style rather than a letter A. You state 2,500 ballpark for all? the mandolins. My question was as to the number of carved top L&H mandocellos]. Were they still being made as late as 1939 or was production stopped much earlier?
    Can you post some pictures of your mandocello? There may be a reason that it is labeled Special. Some custom variation requested by the person who ordered it.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    The claim that a carved L&H cello dates from 1915 is simply not credible. 1917 would be the absolute earliest. Your orchestra's lucky to have you using this instrument in the environment it was created for.

    Keef's idea of a later switch to sequential numbers for all carved instruments, regardless of which model, explains why my mandola is numbered 1500. The first batch of mandolas goes up to 30 or so and then poof! there's nothing until mine, and there are a few scattered mandola numbers after that.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    My question was as to the number of carved top L&H mandocellos]. Were they still being made as late as 1939 or was production stopped much earlier?
    A BIG ballpark guess: about 80-90 mandocellos, and around 90-100 mandolas were made between 1917 and 1928.

    This estimate is only based on 286 carved top instruments I have listed to date (together representing an estimated total of 2,500 mandolins made), of which 10 are mandocellos, and 11 mandolas. My list covers a research period between 2001 and today, but I should admit I have not kept track of the market/internet anywhere as zealously after the book came out (2008) as I did before.

    From my list it also appears that the last mandocello would have been made in 1925, and the last mandolas in 1928 (based on their respective serial numbers). Since my list represents a mere 11% of all (estimated) carved top mandolins ever made by L&H, this is not necessarily the final word on this.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Quote Originally Posted by keef View Post
    A BIG ballpark guess: about 80-90 mandocellos, and around 90-100 mandolas were made between 1917 and 1928.
    I will suggest that the number is much smaller, based upon how rarely we see existing examples come to light.
    My very generous estimate would be no more than ~50 of each were made.

    Thank you for the update on L & H's serial numbering system.

  28. #21

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandocellos

    Jim
    I have misplaced the original ad with the description. I have photos of the instrument and the head stock and am still trying to photograph the label inside. I think I am going to have to sneak a powerful light into the instrument. So far the pictures from outside have been dark and focused on the strings, leaving the label out of focus and very dark.

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