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Thread: Ventage Wahburn Bowlback Mandolin - serial number 17575

  1. #1

    Default Ventage Washburn Bowlback Mandolin - serial number 17575

    Hello All,

    I was wondering if anyone could help me determine the age of a mandolin. It was my great great grandfathers and all I know is that he purchased it in San Francisco before the big earth quake of 1906. The story goes that he survived with just the mandolin and his underwear. It is a Washburn bowlback. The sticker inside shows the serial number as 17575. It is in it's original case and has sat in my uncle's closet for some time. I've attached pictures. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm surprising my husband next week with it as his birthday present (after I have it cleaned, restrung and set up).

    Thanks!
    Cristin
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    Last edited by ckmusca; Jan-28-2011 at 5:32pm.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ventage Wahburn Bowlback Mandolin - serial number 17575

    It looks like a style 115 from about 1903. Make sure that you have it strung with very light gauge strings.
    Jim

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  3. #3
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ventage Wahburn Bowlback Mandolin - serial number 17575

    Jim is pretty fast on the draw....

    Hello Cristin, I am no expert on this by any means and much of what I have learned has come from our dear friend Hubert "Keef" Pleisjer's great book "Washburn: Prewar Instrument Styles" (which I highly recommend for your very luck husband's next birthday gift.)

    What a great story about your gggfather and his mandolin. It appears to be in very good condition. I have had a few Washburn mandolins and they are typically very good quality with quite beautiful wood selection. Considering how many of these were made (very many) the quality and craft is of a very high nature. The history of the Washburn mandolins, made by the Lyon and Healy company in Chicago, is a bit disjointed, but Keef has done a great job of sorting through it. From the appendix in his book which includes serial numbers of Washburn mandolins, it seems like yours was made between 1910-1915. His breakdown doesn't get any finer than that in this time period, and it is a bit hard to discern which model you have from your photos. Keef's book has a very comprehensive reference to catalogs and model types of the various Washburn mandolins. With some additional photos (of the back in particular,) we might be able to divine which model you have.

    We always caution folks to use only the LIGHTEST string gauges on these old bowlbacks. Tell your repairperson to use .09-.32 gauge strings at the heaviest. These were not built to resist the tension of larger diameter strings. If this mandolin survived the SF earthquake I'd hate to see it succumb to the tragedy of neck-warp-from-over-stringing.

    Welcome to the Mandolin Cafe. Your husband is a very lucky guy.

    Mick
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Vintage Washburn Bowlback Mandolin - serial number 17575

    Thank you very much for your advice!! I will ensure that they put a light gauge string on the mandolin. Also, thanks for your warm welcome; my husband will probably be coming here after he receives the gift. He is a lucky guy! Here is a pic of the back.
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