W. JENKINS’ SONS MUSIC CO. HISTORY
I will leave it to Bob or others to write a more thorough history
of the company, which, amazingly, lasted from 1878 to 1972 –
nearly one hundred years! We
now know that the “Harwood” brand instruments were first
built for the Jenkins Co. by John
C. Haynes & Co. in Boston, and then at Jenkins’ own shop
and factories in Kansas City, Missouri. Combined, this
represents the 1889-c.1911 period. During
this time, it is of course possible that Harwood guitars and
mandolins were additionally jobbed out elsewhere, but I see no
reason why they would have needed to be and suspect that these
two facilities, especially Jenkins’ own, satisfied the demand
and built the quality instruments most players and collectors
are familiar with. Then,
from 1912 until they petered out before 1930, many believe that
Jenkins jobbed out their “Harwood” instruments from Chicago
area companies like Regal, Harmony, etc.
Still of possible interest to diehard researchers would
be the years between 1885 and 1889, when the “Harwood” brand
was apparently first used (per the trademark filing).
It’s most likely, however, that if
used, it was applied to other instruments and not
guitars or mandolins. Later
Jenkins circa-dated catalogs include “nearly X years ago”
statements in reference to Harwood guitars and mandolins that
invariably point back to 1889,
article will not include much about the other, lesser quality
Jenkins brands – Washington, Clifford, Standard and Royal –
which were also more likely to have been outsourced elsewhere.
brevity’s sake, throughout this article I will abbreviate J. W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. as simply “Jenkins.”
Making sense of the
myriad clues provided by Bob and others was extremely
challenging, but it finally coalesced.
I’ll start with a bulleted timeline, as abbreviated as
possible, which gives the chronology of every key fact or event
concerning the Jenkins Co. and/or Harwood.
All key addresses are within a 6
of downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Following that is a more detailed explanation of some of
the more important events (including partial sources; for
complete sources, contact me and/or Bob).
Though this is my own work (and occasionally my own
theories and conclusions), the bulk of it comes from the
research of Bob, through collaboration.
We all owe him our gratitude!
|Jenkins Co. Timeline
Company founded by John Woodward Jenkins.
J. W. Jenkins Music Co.
Store location #1: 615 Main Street, Kansas City, MO.
later: Oldest son, John, joined company.
1885: First use of Harwood brand name.
(presumed Jan 1), 1889: Jenkins
contracts Haynes to build Harwood guitars and mandolins.
25, 1889: Harwood
Founder died, 2 younger sons joined company.
location #2: Store moves to 921-923
c.1893: Factory #1: Jenkins begins building their own Harwoods, starting
with “two experienced men” in a small shop on the top
floor of 921 Main St.
1895: Haynes contract
cancelled, Jenkins exclusively manufactures Harwood
separate two-story factory at 1417-1419 Walnut St.
1901: Store location
Store moves to 1013-1015
Walnut factory closed, relocated to share space with large
piano warehouse at 1008-1014 Grand, behind the new store.
Fire at Walnut store, store rebuilt. Grand factory not
piano warehouse on West Sixteenth St.
Grand factory closed.
New warehouse at 2100 Wyandotte.
Store is still at 1013/1015 Walnut and has a 100-person
moves to final location at 1217 Walnut.
1970’s: Company liquidated, records lost, store and
warehouse torn down.
|The “Harwood” Story
- 1878-1889: Pre-Harwood Trademark
Bob Jenkins, the company’s original founder, John Woodward
Jenkins, came to the Kansas City area from the Chicago area.
The patriarch opened his small music store
in Kansas City in 1878.
This was the beginning of J. W. Jenkins Music Co., which
would grow and transition over to his three sons in 1890 as J.
W. Jenkins’ Sons, the father/founder passing away that year.
It quickly grew to become the largest musical instrument
firm in the Midwest (outside Chicago).
Harwood name, Bob says, “At one time, the company sold an
‘Elburn’ brand piano, probably named after Elburn, Illinois,
just west of Chicago. There is also a town called Harwood
Heights in the same area, although the town was not incorporated
until the 1950's.” This
is where we theorize that the “Harwood” brand name probably
came from – assuming this town was called Harwood back in the
don’t believe that there were any pre-Haynes
mandolins or guitars, the 1889 trademark filing for the
“Harwood” brand intriguingly states that the name had been
in use “since August 22, 1885.”
That’s a pretty specific date!
What does it mean? It
was about 3-1/2 years earlier, and not, apparently, an estimate;
it must have been tied to a specific event that Jenkins and his
first son could easily recall.
Now is as good
a time as any to mention that “Harwood” was used on many
other types of instruments sold by Jenkins; perhaps this first
use applied to one of those.
Jenkins didn’t actually produce any of these
instruments, but contracted their various suppliers to brand
them as such. According
to Bob Jenkins, the band
instruments were made in Indiana, the violin family instruments
were probably imported from Germany, and the pianos were made in
Rochester, New York in the early days, and much later, by
Aeolian in Memphis. Similarly,
Harwood banjos seen in the early catalogs were probably made on
the East Coast.
we doubt that Jenkins had introduced the Harwood brand in the
form of guitars or mandolins in 1885.
But the writing was on the wall: In 1880, the “Spanish
Students” had instigated the inexorable mandolin craze in
America, which the now-successful Jenkins Co. must surely have
taken notice of. They
needed mandolins to sell – and fast!
But who would build them?
- 1889-1894: Boston (Haynes) period
was the discovery of this announcement in the January 19, 1895 Music Trade Review that finally
revealed to us that John C. Haynes & Co. built the
“Harwood” brand mandolin and guitars for the J. W.
Jenkins’ Sons Company under an exclusive contract from
January, 1889 through the last day of 1894.
(Interestingly, the agreement forbade Haynes from
marketing their “Bay State” instruments in certain
cancelled “agreeably” on January
1, 1895, and Jenkins announced that they would subsequently
manufacture them on their own Kansas City premises (though they
had probably already started building them a year or more
This information was exciting news for Harwood aficionados, who
had been frustrated in not knowing who built these instruments,
or where. However,
the Haynes-built period of course only includes instruments
built within those six short years, and the serial number code
has yet to be cracked. It
is more likely – depending on the style of instrument – that
any given instrument encountered today was built in Kansas City,
albeit by similarly skilled hands.
Almost immediately after contracting Haynes, the Jenkins Co.
filed a trademark on “Harwood.”
This was filed on February
1889, and granted on July 23 (this date known from the 30-year
renewal of the trademark in 1919).
There was a specific logo design attached to the
trademark as well: the well-known stamp appearing on the neck
blocks of specimens.
mid-late 1890’s catalog includes this image and also the
“HARWOOD” engraving used on the neck inlays.
the Haynes Co. was producing Harwoods for the Jenkins Co., the
latter moved its store to a 4-story building at 921 Main St.
(around 1891). Before
long, Jenkins would turn the top floor into a workshop to try
building guitars and mandolins themselves.
fascinating and important source of information regarding
Jenkins’ Harwood production is in the form of an article in
the Kansas City Journal of December 13, 1898.
For easier study, I created a PDF of the photocopied
2000-word article with a readable transcription in the previous
link (thanks to Bob Jenkins for providing the scans for us).
The reporter wrote a very thorough and presumably
accurate piece, and even if an “inside job,” I suspect that
there is little hyperbole to the account, which gets only
slightly flowery at the conclusion.
The story told fits perfectly with the Music Trade
Review’s revelation of the Haynes contract, opening with:
years ago the J. W. Jenkins’ Sons’ Music Co., whose
large retail store is located at 921-923 Main street, decided
there was an opening in Kansas City for a factory that would
turn out a good grade of mandolins and guitars. Up to that time
all such instruments sold in this city came from the East, which
also supplied all the territory west and south of here.”
Doing the math – five years back from
December 1898’s article compared to Haynes’ contract
termination of January1, 1895 – suggests that 1894 was an
overlapping year, and indeed, 1893 is corroborated by an
in-house Jenkins historical account written in 1968.
So by late 1893, Jenkins had turned the top floor of
their Main St. store into a workshop and started producing their
own Harwood instruments “with two workmen, but the workmen
were the best and most experienced that could be hired.”
As we have found so many Swedish names associated with
the Jenkins factory, we hypothesize that some of the Haynes/Bay
State workers wound up working for Jenkins.
Indeed, these first two skilled workmen may very well
have been poached from Haynes.
In 1896, the Kansas City directory lists
one Frank Swenson as "foreman, J. W. Jenkins' Sons.”
In later years he is listed as a cabinetmaker. Other
Swedish names of c.1900 workers (Claus Holm, Ludwig Johnson) are
revealed in a 1950 Jenkins newsletter. It’s not known if any
of these are related to the Haynes workforce in some way.
The FJ article pointed out that Harwoods are very similar
to Bay State instruments, and Harwood instrument quality
certainly supports the idea that disciples of Haynes shop
foreman Julius Nelson – who, with his brother Carl would later
start Vega, and were themselves disciples of famed Swedish
guitarmaker Pehr Anderberg – may have been the talent behind
the Kansas City Harwoods. However,
all of this is of course speculation. My
point here is simply that there is no reason to expect the
Jenkins-built instruments to be inferior to Haynes factory or
other East Coast instruments.
And these days, more and more collectors are quoting
Frank Ford’s long-ago observation on Harwood guitars: “They
were built with nearly the same delicacy and craftsmanship as
Martin guitars, and they sound great.”
At right, a
1900 envelope which formerly contained a Jenkins' violin E
string, listing the Main St. address and the five lines of
guitars and mandolins.
Meanwhile, back to our
1898 Journal account, which goes into wonderful detail about the
new Walnut Street factory, but doesn’t offer any clues on how
long this factory had been in operation.
In checking the Kansas City Directories, Bob Jenkins
found that “guitar
and mandolin manufacturing” was listed at the original 921
Main address in 1895, 1896 and 1897.
1898 did not include any “mfg” listing, and 1899
listed the new address. If
we knew which month/season the directories were printed, we
could better pin it down, but the move likely happened in 1898
(perhaps that year’s directory was being prepared while
Jenkins was in transition?).
By December of that year the KCJ article appeared which
showed they were up and running like clockwork with (presumably
new) state-of-the-art equipment.
The workforce had by then increased to twenty-five
men with a reported 500 instruments a month and annual output of
5,000 instruments. This
is certainly not farfetched, especially when one pictures the
assembly line process described in the article.
A telling statistic appears eight months later, when an
August, 1899 article appeared in The
Kansas City Manufacturer that consisted of two verbatim
paragraphs from the earlier KCJ article, with one
distinct change: someone went to the trouble to update
“...while the annual
output is 5,000 instruments...” to “...while the annual
output for this season
will exceed 5,000 instruments...”
This wasn’t a random figure – someone was counting!
The article reveals the
general wood types and sources and that Jenkins decided to make
their own purfling. Curiously,
there is no mention of shell or celluloid inlay.
I was also impressed
with not just the 150-degree drying room for raw boards, but a
second drying step, when the instruments (sans strings) were
“hung up for another seasoning, for no guitar or mandolin is
ready for the player until it has aged several months and gotten
its ‘tone’.” Also
impressive was their dedication to finish – three separate
(very grueling-sounding) workstations
from filler to varnish to polish where “for hours he rubs and
rubs until the instruments reflect his features like a looking
glass.” And the
writer was not describing the high-end custom instruments but
the base models.
The article included
these several scenes from the newly-established factory (c.1897)
1417-1419 Walnut Street that took up two floors stocked
with then-state-of-the-art machinery.
the three double-soundhole harp guitars being assembled!”
I found the spinning metal body shaper
fascinating; how exactly did this work?!
“The shaper is an ingenious piece of machinery that
removes any imperfections in the shape that remain after the
instrument has left the mold. Two rapidly revolving iron
uprights move over and around the guitar body and in an
incredibly short time make it perfect as far as shape is
Though the images are
only engravings, they were obviously made from photographs or
real scenes, depicting the actual Walnut St. factory activities
from 1898. The 1899
article included these two new photographs:
At the end of 1900, with
the new factory in full production, Jenkins found a new location
for their rapidly expanding retail store: a brand new 6-floor
building at 1013-1015 Walnut Street, which they moved into on
January 1st, 1901.
December, 1903, the Music Trade Review editors write
about receiving a new “beautifully printed brochure” from
the Jenkins Company. Its
many illustrations of the Walnut Street establishment included offices,
warerooms, piano parlors, 4th floor recital hall and
piano repair department. Later,
a report on the August, 1910 store fire listed then-current
details about what each floor contained.
Ground floor: sales room; 2nd floor: organs
and smaller musical instruments; 3rd floor: pianolas
and piano players, 4th
floor: cheaper pianos; 5th floor: high priced
pianos; top floor: repair shop (containing “5 or 6
pianos” at the time of the fire).
There was also a basement. Accompanied
by this rare image of the building from the c.1908 catalog
(courtesy of Lynn Wheelwright), these descriptions help
to give us a nice mental picture of the Jenkins facilities at
the turn of the last century.
1903 MTR clipping also mentioned “interior views of the
Jenkins factory, which is devoted to the manufacture of the
Harwood guitars and mandolins.”
Unfortunately, its location is not given.
Around this time, they had moved the factory to its final
site on Grand.
catalog from c.1908 (shown below) reveals that Harwoods were
then still in full production, with new instruments and models
being introduced. Even
without catalog references, historical photographs and surviving
instruments tell us that they continually experimented with all
of their stringed instruments, harp guitars perhaps even more
so. These c.1908
instruments were being made in the third and final factory
location, which we now know was in their 4-floor warehouse,
located just behind the new store which opened in 1901 at 1013-1015
Walnut St. This
factory fronted Grand Avenue, and between Grand and the
store’s Main St. was an alley separating the buildings; there
also appears to have been some sort of connection between the
two buildings. We
don’t know which floors contained the factory.
The 1907 Sanborn map (shown next) states only “Piano
Storage” on the 2nd and 3rd floors;
however, by August, 1910, they had an additional separate piano
warehouse. The 1909 Sanborn map lists “Musical Institutes 2 &
3” (which could mean almost anything) and include “Buffing
and Plating Room” on the 4th floor (brass
Jenkins found a rare postcard that, remarkably, shows this
says, “The tall building in the center is the R. A. Long
Building, 928 Grand, built in 1907. The tall white building to
its left is the Commerce Trust Building at 922 Walnut built in
1906. What we're looking at here is the intersection of Tenth
Street and Grand Avenue, looking north down Grand. The tall
white building down the street is the Scarritt building, 818
Grand, built in 1907. In the foreground, facing Grand Avenue, is
a (multi)-story brick building. If you look closely, above the
(top) floor windows, you can see that there is a sign that says
"J.W. Jenkins Sons Music Co." This postcard dates from
Jenkins has so far hit a dead end in determining how long
Jenkins may have manufactured instruments in this facility, as
city directories are missing from this decade.
Even if not producing, they probably kept this building
for storage and repair until about 1920, when they moved to
their final large warehouse at 2100 Wyandotte.
it stands now, Bob and Bill Graham theorize that 1911 was the
last year for Jenkins-produced Harwoods.
Did this event have any
bearing on the discontinuation of Harwood production?
I doubt it, as they were fully insured, but who knows?
The newspaper clippings about the fire provided the first
of many clues that pointed Bob to the Grand Ave. factory
location, but otherwise remain interesting only in the context
of Jenkins history.
At one o'clock in the morning on
August 24, 1910, lighting struck the roof of the 1013 Walnut
building. The sixth
(top) floor quickly caught fire, and considering the fact that
it was their piano repair shop, it’s amazing that things
didn’t quickly disintegrate.
By 2:30 am, the fire was under control but had already
cost the life of a young firefighter. Though
it never progressed below the sixth floor, water from three
hoses made its way all the way down to ground level, causing
extensive damage on every floor.
Fortunately, the factory building only an alley away was
loss figures were reported ($100,000, $25,000).
The next day’s article mentions employees moving pianos
from the company’s warehouse on West Sixteenth St. to a
neighboring store that offered to help Jenkins out while they
rebuilt – which they did.
The store remained there for another twenty-two years
before moving two blocks down into a larger, brand new building,
their final location.
this point, I thought I’d take a trip through the Jenkins’
physical locations discussed above via the Sanborn maps.
This provenance came about from the help of various
Mandolin Café Forum users, after which Bob Jenkins tracked down
the crucial Sanborn maps of the area (in our great good fortune,
these are now digitized!). For
those unfamiliar with Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, here’s
Jenkins had several other store outlets (per Bob Jenkins), which
aren’t part of this discussion, specifically: 3 cities in
Kansas, 2 in Missouri, 2 in Oklahoma and 1 in Arkansas.
There were also piano and organ stores in Amarillo and
Lubbock, Texas, and Roswell, N.M.
of the key Kansas City addresses were in a 3 block by 6 block
area of what is now smack in the middle of Kansas City.
In the modern map at left:
Red dot is
the 921/923 Main St. store (c.1891-c.1901).
the 1417-1419 Walnut St. factory (c.1897-c.1904).
dot (left) is the 1013-1015 Walnut St. store (c.1901-1932)
connecting through the back alley to:
1008-1014 Grand Blvd. warehouse/factory (c.1901-c.1911).
is the 1217 Walnut store (c.1932-1972).
shown: the original store at 615 Main Street, an additional c.1910 warehouse on W 16th
St. and the final warehouse on Wyandotte.
a Sanborn Map Symbol Key that might be of use or interest.
maps below are aligned ↑
North. For convenience, each will open in a new browser
||The first map of note was
created in April, 1896. It
shows “Mfg Musical Instruments” at 921 Main St. and
(seemingly) the adjoining 923.
Note that the map
specifically states “MFG MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 4TH.”
Bob and I take this to mean that there was a shop
established on the 4th floor of the building, which
fits with our premise that this is where they began their own
Harwood production experiments in late 1893.
Note that there is a skylight on this top floor and the
elevator in this building. The
store would naturally be on the street level of 921, 923 or
both. Jenkins likely
leased the entire building, with floors 2 & 3 for offices,
storage, pianos and other instruments.
They moved out of this building in January, 1901.
Our next search is for Jenkins’ first
dedicated 2-floor factory at 1417-1419 Walnut St.
– which unfortunately
came and went within the eleven years between Sanborn
documentation. These two “Before” and “After” maps
at least show the size. At left: In the April 1896 Sanborns we see a “Carpenter’s
Shop” at this location. Seems like the perfect spot to
take over! As discussed above, Jenkins’ shop was still
in the top floor of 921 Main at this point, moving into this
Walnut spot sometime before December, 1898. We don’t yet
know when they left this location – only that it was by 1907,
as the next Sanborn map available
shows the factory taken over by “Mort Hall’s Livery” (at right).
||Meanwhile, while the new factory was
churning out Harwoods, they relocated the store, moving a block
over and down into a new, larger building.
This was at 1013-1015
Walnut St., four blocks north of the factory.
They got the keys on January 1st, 1901, ending
their store’s ten year stay on Main St.
to their move, nothing much existed in the middle of this
section of Walnut and Grand per the 1896 Sanborn map (at
left). But on
the 1907 map we see the new building, marked “Wholesale and
Retail Music.” Note
that this building consists of six floors (plus additional
basement) with two elevators.
of right map above)
also get a glimpse of Jenkins’ final Harwood-producing facilities.
The large building covering 1008-1114 Grand is labeled
“Piano Storage 2nd & 3rd”.
There is also a fourth floor, as we can deduce from the
window symbols. We
don’t know which floor or floors the factory took up.
that interesting connection
between the two buildings; was it a covered path?
Overhead walkway? Tunnel?!
unsurprisingly, the c.1908 catalog (shown in the next chapter)
lists both the Walnut and Grand addresses shown above.
Two years later, a 1909 Sanborn map
lists “Piano Varnishing and Tuning 5th”.
This is in discrepancy with the 1910 fire report I mentioned
above, which listed piano repair on the 6th floor and
“high priced pianos” on the 5th (but close!).
mentioned above, the 4-floor warehouse/factory contains new notations
that remain cryptic. But,
we can now see that same alleyway connection which again has doors at
each end and says “Pass 2-3” (an external, connecting
“hallway” for floors 2 & 3, I would presume).
next Sanborn we know of is from 1939,
when both these buildings had been long vacated by Jenkins.
working theory is that at some point Jenkins farmed out Harwood
instruments to various Chicago firms.
Alternatively/additionally, they may
have moved part of the shop across the alley to one of the floors on
Walnut Street. We know
that in 1925 there was a 100-person repair shop there (which
seems awfully large), and that some of the skilled Harwood luthiers
had moved into repair where they stayed for the remainder of their
Where to place the end of Jenkins’ production of Harwoods? For now, I’ll take 1911 (Bob and Bill’s theory). All told, if we count 1894 as the start of their Kansas City production, through 1911, that’s 18 years of Jenkins’ production of Harwoods. And that’s after six years of production by Haynes. This is a very long time, and if we accept the numbers given in the Kansas City Journal profile, the numbers are staggering. Incidentally, that article seems quite unambiguous and I am confident that the “5000
instruments” refers just to guitars and bowlback mandolins (along with harp guitars and the occasional mandolinettos and bandurrias). I’ve counted
significantly more surviving Dyer harp guitars than Harwood anythings, and we know there were less than 600 Dyers produced...what gives with the Harwoods?
The chart above shows my completely theoretical
ramp up from small 2-man shop to full factory assembly line of 5000
guitars and mandolins a year, and subsequent ramp down before stopping
production (subsequently farmed out to others).
It also includes a completely random guess at Boston
production. The numbers
add up to over 40,000 mandolins and guitars!
Even if we presume that my numbers are much too generous and we
halve that number, we’re
still at 20,000. Where
are all these instruments?! One
thing to remember is that we’re not sure if the “5000” count
included all the lesser Jenkins brands along with the Harwoods.
Some think Jenkins didn’t build anything but Harwoods –
even the K.C. Journal article mentioned only “Harwood” instruments
quite specifically. But I
ads describe Washington and Clifford instruments being “manufactured"
by Jenkins, at least hinting
that they could have built all these brands (we know full well that
many companies frequently advertised their jobbed-out instruments as
self-manufactured, so it’s rarely proof).
As far as there being so many “lost” Jenkins instruments,
remember that such lesser-quality instruments may have become much
more quickly unusable and discarded.
The mystery continues...
Speaking of mysteries...it
seems that the information above seems to have put to rest our age-old
“red herring hunt” for a mythical New York factory that produced
Harwoods. It’s now
generally believed that the “New York” stamp found on instruments
from a certain period was simply a marketing ploy to give the Harwood
brand more cachet. Curiously,
Jenkins proudly announces in their 1895-1899 catalog “The
Harwood American Guitars, manufactured in our own factory, under our
personal supervision, in Kansas City, Missouri.”
Then on the very same page, in discussing the stamps and
trademarks, they exclaim:
“Every Genuine Harwood Guitar
is stamped...‘HARWOOD, New York’....”
...but without any explanation
for it (!).
The early catalog demonstrates
that this New York stamp, burned into the wood on the inside center
seam and on the back of the headstock, was used on all Harwoods made
by Jenkins during their first years of manufacture.
Unfortunately for curious Harwood owners, we
don’t yet know if this stamp was used on any of the Boston-built
Haynes instruments. It
could turn out to be that any Harwoods marked “New York” came from
the Jenkins factory from c.1895-1900; we simply don’t know.
They clearly stopped
using it at some point, but as yet, we have no firm idea when.
- The White Block Fretboard Inlay
am so happy that Jenkins
decided to add this very visible additional trademark to their
original instruments, for it enables us to identify Harwood
instruments in old photographs with a very high degree of certainty.
No one has yet to identify any other maker’s instruments that
used a similar white block inlay during
that time period.
material is the white celluloid commonly known today as “ivoroid”
(some may be bone), engraved as shown in the Jenkins 1895-1899 catalog. An
interesting (and very subtle!) clue about this well-known Harwood
feature came from Mandolin Café Forum member “HarHolz” (still
hasn't told me his name!), who noticed on his New York-stamped parlor
guitar (serial # 10351) that “there is in very tiny type the words
‘BALDWIN & GLEASON LIMITED NY PAT’.
This is nearly impossible to read, and directly on the lower
edge of the white (block). I
can well imagine that this telltale text was trimmed away on most
examples. They were a fine
engraving company in NYC, from ca.1860-1901. There is a NY Times
article of December 23, 1901, describing the fire consuming their
facility in NYC. Presumably
they stopped engraving at this point.”
Like HarHolz, I also imagine that Jenkins would have purchased
a large quantity of the ivoroid blocks (in
multiple sizes) and thus have a big supply on
hand that could have lasted well beyond 1901. Below,
we’ll see that all the Harwoods in a c.1908 Jenkins catalog have the
white block inlays as well. So
when did they stop? We
don’t yet know.
Jenkins points out that the high quality early Harwoods – those we
suspect were made in the Jenkins factory (and including the Haynes
factory for the white block logo) – seem to fall into these
two broad categories:
Those with the ivoroid block
trademark inlay at the end of the fretboard, “New York” (usually)
stamped into the back of the headstock, and nothing on the headplate.
Those with “Harwood” inlaid on the front of the
headstock, but missing the fretboard block.
1911 or much later was the end of Jenkins factory production, surely
the blocks must have ran out well before then.
Or they might have simply been phased out to change it up; Bill
Graham in the FJ article wonders if the more visible headstock logo
may have been in response to some of their more popular competitors
like Gibson. Or
– are we certain that the white block does not
coincide with Haynes-Jenkins production and the headstock logo for
later jobbers? Clearly,
more research into this topic is required.
- c.1911-c.1920s Ramp Down Period
||Harwood guitars and mandolins
and even possibly harp guitars were still seen and presumably built by
someone as late as c.1930, as new Harwood custom guitars appeared in
Jenkins catalogs from 1929 and 1930 (at left). These have no
logos showing, and the text suggests but in no way proves that Jenkins
workers may still have been making them. Most
believe they were built by Regal or others.
A c.1926 catalog owned by Jim Garber shows mandolins with the
headstock logo and no white block (at right).
point in history, it is nevertheless doubtful that many could have
sold – not only due to the incredible amount of competition, but
because the mandolin club era had at this point all but disappeared.
|Perhaps another reason Jenkins
decided to scale way back on production of Harwoods after 1911 was to
concentrate on sales of other, more popular brands like Martin and
Gibson. In the 1920’s
(per the FJ) they
were one of Gibson’s biggest sales outlets.
This wonderful image of a Jenkins store window from a Gibson
Mastertone catalog of Oct, 1926 doesn’t contain a single Harwood,
it’s given completely over to an all-Gibson display. Note
the harp guitar, which was by now already something of a dinosaur.
Even though the guitar and mandolin
market was petering out, the Jenkins Co. continued to carry and offer
stringed instruments of other companies.
They also concentrated on their enduring staples of pianos,
orchestra and band instruments and repair services.
Numerous catalogs are known from the 1930’s into the next
decades (a helpful fellow at the NAMM archives kindly checked all of
theirs for me), but none have Harwood guitars or mandolins.
Bob Jenkins’ father, J. W. Jenkins IV,
sold the nearly century-old company in 1972, after which the company
liquidated. The warehouse
was sold and later torn down due to hazardous contamination on the
site. The store was torn
down to build a parking garage for the AT&T Pavilion – though
due to its historic status, the art deco facade was retained.
Worst of all, there are no
surviving records – only what scant ephemera happens to turn
up. For instance, in the 1960s, mandolin collector Jim Reynolds
acquired the estate of an ex-Jenkins employee.
Amongst the files was this rather unusual design for a true
(6-sub-bass) harp mandolin! It's unlikely that one was built, but it
just goes to show that almost anything could be out there!
continue now with the Cadenza
advertisements, as they may have bearing on the production and
physical location timelines above.
I’ve got nearly a complete run and did another
semi-thorough search; this revealed no new smoking gun bits of
evidence, but a few possible clues.
Here is a PDF of each Jenkins ad that includes
anything about the instruments (ads for sheet music only not
included). They ran
somewhat continuously from May, 1896 (soon after they took over
production from Haynes) to October, 1903.
There may be additional ads or references in later years.
will have their own observations or analysis of these ads; I didn’t
find anything too compelling. None
of the frequent “Manufacturing” statements gives any real clues
about any factory timing. Occasionally
they list their bargain brands (Washington and Clifford) and always
with “Manufactured by us” or similar text.
As I said above, this is not proof that they made them, but on
the other hand, why couldn’t they have?
It would better explain the number count.
Often their address is not listed (just send a letter to
Jenkins in Kansas City and it would obviously get there!) – other
times it is.
that for the first several years they advertised themselves as
"J. W. Jenkins' Sons, Mf'rs." - perhaps an
attempt to alert the public to their new production capabilities,
rather than just being known as a large full service music store.
Jenkins catalogs are incredibly rare.
We now know of one each from 1895-1899 and c.1908.
Then we jump to c.1918 and others spanning 1925-1930.
The NAMM Archives also contain several post-1930, none of which
contain Harwood instruments. The
first catalog is owned by Bob Jenkins who has previously shared the
guitar and mandolin portions of this important document on his web
and which I’ve included a new PDF here.
won’t go into details on all the mandolins and guitars (that’s for
someone else), concentrating now solely on the harp guitars (what
my article was originally supposed to be about in the first place!).
W. JENKINS’ SONS Catalog, 1895-1899
undated catalog includes a facsimile of the then-current warranty
card. As Bob Jenkins
pointed out to me, the document has a spot to fill in the
date of purchase: _________ 18___. As
Jenkins terminated their agreement with the Haynes company at the
close of 1894, this catalog must
have been printed between 1895 and 1899, otherwise the warranty card
would have the purchase date 19___ printed on it.
Various clues lead Bob to believe c.1895 is accurate, while I
question the timeline of taking over from Haynes while working with a
small workforce well before the new dedicated factory was set up, as
profiled in the 1898 article. The
catalog is chock-full of a ready-to-go full line of Harwood mandolins,
guitars and harp guitars – how did they prepare all these so
quickly?! Note also the “ten years” reference below.
endorsement comes from E.
N. Guckert, “Acknowledged to be Best Guitarist in America.”
I’m not sure how they determined that, as I have found little
on him in the early Cadenzas; there is nary a profile of any kind as
they did for most players of note.
He did create a guitar chord book that was apparently a big
seller, and later a folio of his own compositions, entirely forgotten
today. Though he ran his
own publishing business and guitar activities in Bucyrus, Ohio, this
was from about 1898 on.
Interestingly, for a few years beginning in September, 1894,
Guckerts address in the "Prominent Teachers” Cadenza list was
Street...Jenkins music store! So
it seems Jenkins did what they could to elevate the status of their
store guitar teacher! It
is also interesting to note that the Cadenza offices – and home of
L. Partee – were also in Kansas City
in the final Cadenza ad in the above PDF Jenkins’ statement that
“editor of this magazine (Partee) has used our instruments for twelve
years” (i.e., since c.1891).
of the descriptions about Harwood construction – which apply to harp
guitars as well – are worth noting:
The claim their wood is
“seasoned longer before use than of any other (manufacturer),”
emphasizing that “It is Ten Years since anyone ever
heard of a Harwood Guitar splitting or cracking.” This
claim – if accurate – would imply that the catalog was written in
1899, ten years after Haynes first started building them.
They also point out their
dovetail (was this that rare at the time?), wedge-shaped necks,
“slightly rounded” (radiused) fingerboards, and natural, solid
wood including spruce top, rosewood back and sides (Brazilian), and
mahogany for the neck and all blocks and braces.
Speaking of bracing, they
kindly share with us their unique pattern, pointing out that this type
of ladder bracing allows that “the
Guitar will stand being strung to concert pitch with steel
their use of separate blocks in place of kerfing.
Perhaps Harwood owners should be looking inside for these
features – or absence of – for clues as to when and where built. My
own 1890’s-style “New York” harp guitar has kerfing – does
that mean it was built by Haynes?
Similarly, my later c.1908 “harp bandurria” has kerfing
also, meaning that they must have switched over to it between the two
so many historical treasures found on just these few pages, one lusts
to find a copy of the “Special Catalogue devoted exclusively to the
image represents one of several variations of the large-bodied (19”
wide), 12 sub-bass Harwood harp guitars.
An identical surviving specimen is
shown below. Though
this catalog represents the very beginning of the period that Jenkins
built their own instruments, and thus these harp guitars (as seen also
in the shop engraving above), the dated Cadenza photograph below
proves that this same harp guitar had been built previously by Haynes
that Jenkins already lists 20 players who play Harwood harp guitars!
These are not just a list of guitarists – those get an
entirely different list
elsewhere, with only a few of the names common to both.
names include Guiseppe (Joseph) Bistolfi, who in a year or so would
order a harp guitar from Orville
Gibson, and W. C. Stahl, who would eventually offer his own line
of instruments –
including various harp guitars –
built by the Larson brothers of Chicago.
list of otherwise long-forgotten testimonial names includes several
that will help corroborate the incredible story in the next
curious instrument is a standard parlor guitar with "sub-bass
attachment." Below you’ll see the sole surviving
specimen. When it turned
up some years ago, no one believed it to have been an original,
unmodified instrument. When
Bob shared the catalog with us in January, 2012, we then learned that
it was completely authentic!
it is undoubtedly a quick and inexpensive way to create and market a
harp guitar, I believe it may also represent a “missing link”
between “America’s first harp guitar” shown in a following
chapter and more standard harp guitars.
to this find, we assumed that it was Gibson who first coined the term
"sub-bass" for floating basses in 1903; I now suspect that
Jenkins first introduced the term.
W. JENKINS’ SONS advertisement, 1902
the late 1890’s catalog and the next, this news clipping appeared
(unfortunately, I long ago misplaced the records of it, I only
remember that it came from a known colleague and "1902" is
Up until this point, the Harwood harp guitars had only friction tuners for
the sub-basses (and probably piano pins for the “neck slab”
style), and even simple friction tuners for the neck strings. This
rare ad introduces a “new 14-string” instrument.
they had already built Harwood 8-sub-bass harp guitars
(shown below), the “new” probably refers to the new design and/or
a switch to geared tuners for the sub-basses. Note in this
“transitional” instrument that the elaborately-carved bridge
remains from the earlier large 12-bass models.
This is the last time it will be seen.
W. JENKINS’ SONS Catalog, c.1908
catalog contains an “1908 model” guitar
and harp guitar, so was probably produced in 1908 or at the earliest,
during the transition into that year.
These pages are courtesy of collector/historian Lynn Wheelwright.
Celebrated Harwood 1908 Model” is probably meant to imply that the
Harwood brand was by now
“celebrated” – otherwise, “celebrated” would have to be
referring to an already-popular instrument, putting this catalog
The “New Improvement for Tuning the Bass
Strings” may refer to the switch to geared tuners for the
sub-basses, even though this had first occurred six years earlier, as
seen in the 1902 ad for Jenkins’ “14-string guitar” above.
note the text “The ‘Harwood’ was the first Harp Guitar on the
market. Imitators have
tried to duplicate it...” I’ll
return to this very interesting and bold claim in a following chapter.
first described in my blog
of 1/16/2015, Jenkins’ fascinating “Harp Bandurria” is
neither a bandurria, nor a “harp-something.”
It is, in effect, a “lyre quint guitar.”
Its six double-courses are tuned a fifth above a guitar.
Jenkins had also built a true standard bandurria (shown below), so the
misnomer is curious.
W. JENKINS’ SONS Catalog, c.1918
This catalog, again generously
shared by Lynn Wheelwright, includes Harwood bowlback mandolins with
different features and model numbers than those in Bob’s early
It also contained not a
Harwood harp guitar, but one from their budget “Washington” line.
It is of a common design
copied throughout the early 1900’s by many different manufacturers.
It’s possible, if not likely, that one of those factories
simply supplied the instrument for Jenkins to re-brand.
catalogs from c.1925, 1926 (left), 1929 (right) and 1930
owned by Lynn Wheelwright or Jim Garber include Harwoods, but no harp
guitar offerings, as its heyday was then over.
some of these next incredibly rare historical images can be dated,
which helps tremendously with Harwood harp guitar chronology.
Note that in most cases, I am making an educated guess that the
instruments shown are in fact Harwoods from the telltale white block
in the fingerboard and other features.
spectacular image is a full page photo from the Jan/Feb 1895 issue of The
Cadenza magazine (with grateful thanks to the late Ron Purcell of
the IGRA at CSUN).
are all Harwood guitars and
harp guitars, plus a mandolin or two. The giveaway is the white
ivoroid block between the last frets. And there is the classic
Harwood harp guitar on the right, with 12 chromatic sub-basses, a
single soundhole, and that distinctively-shaped slab headstock.
the left is what may be the earliest Harwood harp guitar style created
(more in the next chapter). At
first glance, I mistook it for the c.1900
Wulschner "Regal" harp guitar, but it appears that the designers at Regal copied
this from Jenkin's Harwood! (See my earlier blogs on this here
also now realize that all of the Harwood instruments seen here must
have been built in Boston by John C. Haynes & Co.
also the unique harp-banjo! A
FIRST HARP GUITAR?
that you’re familiar with what we know of the Jenkins Company and
some of the instruments through historical evidence, I’d like to
tell you a fascinating story, as originally told in my
blog of January, 2014.
Remember the c.1908 catalog blurb that
claimed “The ‘Harwood’ was the first Harp Guitar on the
market”? Normally I would
ignore such statements, chalking it up to marketing hyperbole.
But when I saw this catalog page in early 2015, it cemented a
conclusion I had recently come to.
Though we’ve known of many earlier harp guitars, including
c.1890 instruments from Hansen and Bohmann in Chicago and Dahlman in
Minnesota, I believe that it was
in fact the Jenkins Co. that produced America’s first commercial
harp guitar, under their “Harwood” brand.
In fact, it is entirely possible that it was someone at the
Jenkins establishment who first called these instruments “harp
guitars” (i.e: the organological term we all use today).
What did this first Jenkins harp guitar look
like, and what was the impetus behind it?
I believe that it came – not from the expected European
immigrants, nor the couple Martin 10-string guitars of c.1860
– but from a new “novel invention” by a young guitar player by
the name of J. Hopkins Flinn. Remember
that name, as he’ll certainly be going into the history books.
Until discovering it in 2013,
Flinn’s short and cryptic story had long lain buried in the August,
1917 issue of The Crescendo (along with The Cadenza, one
of the two leading BMG [Banjo, Mandolin & Guitar] journals of the
Flinn’s photo (of unknown age or date), with this short article
appeared under the “Professional Teachers & Players” column:
J. HOPKINS FLINN
While on a business
trip in Kansas in 1885, Mr. Flinn, having purchased a very good
home-made guitar to play accompaniments for the harmonica, thought
that a low C was very necessary for good harmony in that key, so he
nailed a wooden block on the neck of his instrument, about midway
between the body and the head, and used a violin peg and an extra
bridge to add the desired tone (string-GM). The result was so
satisfactory and the dimensions of the block being so generous, a low
D and a low G were added.
Being quite proud of
such a novelty and being able to demonstrate the value of the tones,
he went to the J. W. Jenkins Sons store, in Kansas City, and showed
his new idea to the “boys,” who were at that time “Dan” Polk
and “Dunk” Collins (the original Polk and Collins Banjo Team), Ed.
Guckert, Lew Geisch, Prof. Best, and later showed it to Wm. C. Stahl,
then at St. Joseph, MO. The first demonstrations were quite
amusing, but the extra string attachment did not meet with a very
After a time the
Jenkins Co. made one of their grand concert-size instruments and added
six bass strings, after a design which Mr. Flinn furnished them.
Mr. Flinn has used this instrument for years all over the
country. It is still in his possession and in fair condition.
He now uses a 19 string harp-guitar, 7 strings on the
fingerboard and 12 sub-basses.
He has also used low E
or octave string below the little E string, and he believes that a
great deal of good work can be done with the guitar and concert
harmonica by one person, not meaning on the simple idea of blow and
make a tone but with the careful consideration of the artistic and
Mr. Flinn is
undoubtedly one of the first players in our fraternity to handle a
harp-guitar, and, as will be noticed by the above, the first being the
one which he made himself.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
Is it true? I think, yes – it all
rings true and sounds entirely plausible, inasmuch as we can decipher
the timeframe and sequence of events – which I believe I have done.
Here’s how I break it down:
One curious aspect is how the article reads like
a “time capsule” – as if written much earlier (about even
earlier events), and in fact, his photo seems to show a youngish man
(for example, if he was 20 years old in 1885, he would have been 52 at
the time of the Crescendo article). It may simply be that Flinn
supplied an old photograph with his story, written or supplied by
himself, and edited in 1917 by the small Crescendo staff.
I’m going under that assumption.
Let’s move on to Flinn’s invention – his
crude, but sufficiently effective, harp string attachment.
It’s described as “a wooden block” nailed to “the neck of his
instrument, about midway between the body and the head,” with a
“violin peg” and “an extra bridge.”
Here is my
“artist’s rendering” of the simplest way Flinn could have
constructed his instrument (with its
single, then three, sub-basses):
Perhaps (clearly, Flinn played only
in first position and/or wasn’t a thumb-wrapper!) – but we then
have the testimony that he showed it to the Jenkins Co., who later built
him a better, 6-bass version of Flinn’s own design. This
is provenance handed to us on a silver platter! It doesn’t
take much imagination to propose that Flinn’s crude creation was the
prototype of the “neck slab harp string attachment” style of
Harwood harp guitar.
Here are three
examples of the original “neck slab” Harwood that I propose was
designed or suggested by J. Hopkins Flinn.
His original harp guitar could easily have been one of the
first Harwood instruments built by Haynes in 1889, or it could have
even been built in the 1885-1889 timeframe by builders unknown.
And what of Flinn’s “name dropping”?
Interestingly, while virtually none of the names
of “the boys” at the “Jenkins store” are known today, four of
the five are listed as Harwood endorsers in the 1895-1899 Jenkins
“Dunk” Collins = A. D. Collins
Ed. Guckert = E. N.
Lew Geisch = L. J. Gesch
Prof. Best = W. T. Best
Nice corroboration there!
As discussed in the catalog chapter above, before
Guckert became a music publisher in Bucyrus, Ohio (after 1897) he was
Jenkins’ in-house guitar teacher.
The very first issue of The
Cadenza of Sep/Oct 1894 lists him there under “Prominent
Teachers,” and of course he could have been there for some time.
None of the other “boys” turn up in Cadenza or elsewhere,
possibly because their heyday had already passed.
All this points to earlier than later.
Far more interesting is that Flinn “later showed
it to Wm. C. Stahl, then at St. Joseph, MO.” St. Joseph was just
50 miles north of Kansas City, where Jenkins Co. was located, and Stahl
was teaching mandolin (and later guitar) there by
1885 at the tender age of sixteen (source:
Paul Ruppa’s Mandolin Orchestra thesis). As most harp guitar fans know, Stahl would
soon become a successful music publisher and also a prominent
“maker” (actually only distributor
& marketer) of fretted stringed instruments, most (all?) of
which were built by the Larson brothers of Chicago. Stahl
relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin about 1898, well after his encounter
with Flinn and his harp guitar prototype, which could
have occurred as early as 1885.
This seems wonderfully coincidental.
Was the first harp guitar Stahl ever saw Flinn’s prototype?
Surely he either saw that or Flinn’s better, Jenkins-built
instrument. Either way,
it’s likely that Stahl was ultimately aware of the latter.
It’s thus easy to imagine Stahl possibly being the person who then
suggested to the Regal Company in Indianapolis to give this “new
invention” a try (my Harwood and Regal
sections demonstrate that the Regal was clearly inspired by – or
copied from – the earlier Harwood). Note that Bob Hartman
believes that the Regal harp guitars could have been built by the
Larsons (a Stahl referral?). This purely hypothetical event would
have transpired about the time Stahl relocated to Milwaukee (Hmmm…with
some research trips to Chicago and Indianapolis first? Seems
likely – and there were certainly easy train routes connecting all
Meanwhile, Flinn kept playing (“all over the
country “) and eventually upgraded to a 19-string harp guitar,
with twelve (presumably chromatic) subs going all the way down to a low
E. This could have been made by a number of builders, but I’d
like to think that he stuck with the Jenkins firm (hopefully by then he
had graduated to full-length subs and not the silly mid-neck set up!).
Perhaps it was one of the familiar 12-bass models, like the one at
right? (albeit with seven strings on the neck, perhaps with one
Before stumbling upon this
story, I would have imagined that many immigrant builders in America
were already familiar with the harp guitar concept through its various
European examples and began to sporadically explore the idea.
But aside from the brief Martin examples (discussed below) they
seem to have been completely absent and/or forgotten...until they
virtually exploded in the Midwest and then quickly in a few other major
and minor population centers.
And so this begs the question:
To what extent did Flinn’s harp guitar idea (and the subsequent
Jenkins Sons “Harwood” models) pre-date
or influence other Midwest builders like Joseph
Bohmann and so many others? Bohmann’s background –
including birth date, location, when and where he learned his craft, and
when he emigrated – remains extremely cloudy.
We deduce that he was building at least violins and zithers (and
probably guitars), and know that he was in America by the mid-1870’s.
It is entirely possible, if not likely, that he was familiar with
bass- or kontra-guitars, and the concept of domed backs to many of these
instruments (and there is one
apparently original example of a Bohmann harp guitar with a typical
kontra neck and tuner set-up). Even
if he had not yet been exposed, he would have learned of the harp guitar
through his client Calamara, who originally played an Italian-looking
instrument (of unknown make) before commissioning one from Bohmann.
However, we can’t know if Bohmann got a look at Calamara’s
instrument before 1890. Of
course, we don’t if he got wind of the Harwood harp guitars either,
nor if that convinced him there was a possible market for “kontragitarres”
(which Bohmann would also immediately refer to as “harp guitars”).
When he did begin building them, he used his own wholly original
ideas, but they did have designs and configurations much closer to
Harwoods than Austro-German-style instruments.
However, we don’t yet know the precise timeline of either
Bohmann’s earliest harp guitars (at least by 1890) or the first
Jenkins/Flinn instrument (anywhere between 1885 and 1894).
Interesting questions for harp guitar historians!
Before I end by awarding Mr. Flinn the “Earliest
American Harp Guitarist” and “American Harp Guitar Invention”
prizes, alert readers may well point out that these honors technically
go to C. F. Martin’s earlier (c.1859-1860) ten-string
harp guitars and their players (customers). True, those
appeared well before Mr. Flinn; but I look at those more as Martin’s
“early American” versions of his homeland’s established Viennese instruments – even though Martin’s instruments were by
1860 well on their way to becoming the quintessential “American
guitars” (in fact, Flinn's own original 6-string might have been a
"Martin copy"!) and Martin’s surviving10-string harp guitar
shows his own unique design. According to Inventing the Guitar,
they were custom ordered by one Olaf Ericson, a music teacher in
Richmond, VA, who received “at least 4” “10-string” or
“2-neck” guitars in (or about) 1860. Nothing further is known
about Ericson, but we can imagine that he was presumably familiar with
10-string guitars from his native Sweden (see Selling
and others) and perhaps wanted to explore their possibilities with his
guitar students. Concerning
these rare early Martin 10-string guitars, whatever their
instigation, I suspect they were re-creations of a then-familiar
European idea. And there doesn’t seem to be any connecting
thread from Martin’s c.1860 harp guitars to other American makers (the
next Martin harp guitar models, usually given as “circa 1900” or
later, seem to have followed the 1890’s harp guitar vogue, not led
Flinn’s invention, on the other hand, appears to
have been a wholly original idea to him and the musicians and
manufacturers he shared it with. In my speculative scenario above,
it was soon adopted and adapted into several different Harwood models by
the Jenkins’ Sons Music Co., copied by Regal and likely inspiring
others, and – quite possibly – could have been
responsible for jump-starting the 1890-1900’s harp guitar craze in at
least the central part of the United States –
all just before the hollow arm instruments of Knutsen started
The Cadenza article ends by saying “Mr. Flinn is
undoubtedly one of the first players in our fraternity to handle a
harp-guitar”…and in the Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar world of early
American music, he certainly was!
recall my earlier allusion to Jenkins quote in the c.1908 catalog; “The ‘Harwood’ was the first Harp Guitar on the market.” Could
this have any connection to the Flinn story?
Again, this is all speculation, but their claim could mean that
Jenkins built and publicly offered their neck-slab Flinn model Harwood
before Bohmann, Hansen
or Dahlman came out
with their respective harp guitars between 1890 and 1892.
The time frame points definitively to the early 1890s.
Not only is the “Flinn model” neck slab harp guitar seen in
the 1894/1895 Cadenza photo, but so is the more advanced full-size
12-bass model. It’s hard
to imagine Flinn’s “novelty” so quickly advancing to the way-ahead-of-its-time large 12-bass
instrument. There must have been some significant development time in between, not to
mention performer experimentation and feedback.
Of course, if Bohmann
or others had beat them “to
market” without Jenkins learning of them until some dated advertising material from these competitors crossed their
desk, they might have still brazenly made this claim.
The neck-slab Harwood may indeed have been the
very first production harp guitar in America.
Not only that, but someone at Jenkins may have actually
christened the instrument with the very name "harp guitar"
that it goes by today. Evidence
shows that it was either them, Bohmann or Hansen.
It strikes me that Jenkins’ 1895-1899 catalog
harp guitar model consisting of standard parlor guitar with
"sub-bass attachment" could be related to Flinn also.
It could even be representative of the first instrument they
built for him; after all, it is similar in concept to Flinn’s premise
(a quick experiment of attaching a piece of wood to hold sub-basses).
But the subs are full length, so I suspect it was – at less
than half the price of the full size harp guitar – more of a way to
offer an inexpensive option. I still find the weird model with the
short sub-basses on the neck slab matching the description of Flinn’s
experiment much more closely.
Harwood Harp Guitars
Below are all the Harwood harp guitar specimens I am
currently aware of (the
number continues to grow). Most extant specimens appear to be made with stunning Brazilian rosewood
back and sides. Amazingly, my specimen has a perfectly flat top,
strung with 18 steel strings, yet is only ladder braced. Perhaps
this is helped by the fact that amongst the evenly-spaced braces (~ every
2-1/2"), one is situated directly above the bridge, and the bridge plate
itself appears to be a solid thin piece of ? that completely fills the
space between the braces and from side to side.
I'll start with all the Harwoods I've identified from
historical photos. In some cases, I am "attributing,"
i.e. making an educated guess that these are Harwoods, either from the
white rectangle at the end of the fingerboard or other similar features.
From Historical Photos
Left to right, top row:
The Regal-style "neck-slab harp string
attachment" model, with 6 short sub-basses on separate bridge, built before 1895.
Basically identical to the above, from a different,
undated photograph. It has a smaller soundhole, no binding, a slightly
less pitched sub-bass scale, and note that the
first sub-bass is not installed.
A third "neck-slab" model with details obscured,
from an undated photograph.
12 sub-basses, one soundhole and main neck centered over
soundhole, straight continuous bridge, from the pre-1895 photo.
12 sub-basses, same headstock and tuners, but two symmetrical
soundholes, the main neck centered over the right hole, 2 neck logos,
fancy curved bridge, from the 1895-1899 catalog (which I put closer to
The exact catalog model,
from a dated historical photo of the Aeolian Mandolin Orchestra,
Guthrie, OK, 1898 (thanks to Barry Trott).
The Artist's Grand Guitar with
Sub-bass Attachment, from the c.1895-1899 catalog.
An 8-bass instrument with a
different type of bass
headstock, a different scroll-end bridge, with fancy fret markers and
a squatter body.
Seemingly the same carved 8-bass headstock, and now we
see the other side of the same (?) bridge. A different specimen,
due to the dot markers showing.
Possibly the same model, in fact, it could be the same
instrument, as it appears in another Minneapolis college glee club 3
years later. Note that it has 9 basses, the "extra"
one is nearest the fingerboard.
Is it possible that a student added it?! (Other 9-bass Harwoods
are seen below.) This
enlargement shows these 3 instruments side by side.
8 sub-basses, 1 soundhole with symmetrical necks, geared tuners, 2
neck logos, from 1902 Jenkins ad.
6 sub-basses, 1 soundhole with symmetrical necks, geared tuners, 2
neck logos, from c.1908 Jenkins catalog.
Left to right, top row:
12 sub-basses, one soundhole and main neck centered over soundhole,
bass neck terminates at body, friction tuners, no neck logo, from
American Lutherie Journal #29, Spring 1992. Owned by William
Cumpiano (in need of major restoration, he said).
Another single soundhole with main neck centered over
it. The bass neck was removed and patched to turn it into a
6-string. The bridge (if original) looks simpler than the previous
My specimen, that appears to match the pre-1895
Cadenza specimen above, but only 1 neck logo. 12 sub-basses, same headstock and tuners,
soundholes, the main neck centered over the right hole. 19"
wide. On this and the next 2 specimens, note
that the main neck is centered over its soundhole, but the bass
"neck" is not (i.e.: the soundholes are symmetrical on the body, but the necks are not
quite centered on the body. However, the strings almost
are). Note that neck logos do not always occur on the same fret.
Other than the unbelievably annoying 18 friction tuners, this is a
Basically identical specimen to the previous, except that it has 9
strings on the neck. The top 3 strings are doubled; though the
tuners all match, the 3 extra strings seem a later add on (full
An unusual specimen with the same headstock but only 9 sub-basses,
and oval soundholes.
Initially, this instrument’s
owner (and I) thought that this was
someone's later modification to a Harwood parlor guitar. It's
not – it's an all-original late-1890s "Artists' Grand with Sub-Bass
Attachment" from the catalog! (or almost – sadly, its latest
owner chose to replace the original bridges with something different.
I have images of the original condition.)
A parlor size (14-1/2" lower bout) specimen, 6-sub-basses, geared
Same model as above, replaced bridge and added
pickguard. Inlaid headstock lettered logo instead of fingerboard logo,
slightly different shaping to headstock array (available at Charles
Mandolins June, 2012).
(Not pictured) A third model of the
above 6+6 parlor size instrument is in another private collection.
||Then there are the dozens of surviving Harwood
mandolins - nowhere near the tens of thousands I estimated above, but
common enough and with enough variety to keep a potential Harwood
mandolin historian plenty busy!
Here are just a couple fanciers ones:
- a "No. 60" that sold for $80.00 in
the 1895-1899 catalog
- an odd mix of plain and very fancy
- a "lute model" mandolin somewhere
between the two shown above in the 1926 catalog
And a final intriguing bit of history! In
the 1960s, collector Jim Reynolds acquired the estate of an
ex-Jenkins employee. Amongst the files was this very unique design
for a true 6-bass harp mandolin! It's unlikely that one was built
and frustrating to imagine how close we came to a
Harwood harp mandolin!
can’t leave our Harwood study without mentioning our old
friend Lester Payne. He’s
been a recurring part of my harp guitar research from the very
beginning, always popping up in conjunction with Harwood
though curiously, never with a Harwood harp
guitar, only other brands.
put together club after club, whose members played mostly
obviously supplied by the dealer/endorser Payne. His
story peaks with the meeting of Chris Knutsen, when he added
almost a dozen Knutsen harp guitars into the mix!
is his full story,
which includes the world record historical harp guitar photo
of his orchestra of Harwood mandolins and guitars supported by
Knutsen's harp guitars.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Robert Jenkins, Bill Graham, Jim
Garber, Lynn Wheelwright, Barry Trott, Paul Ruppa, Darrell Urbien, and
the dozens of collectors who have shared information with us!