Harwood Harp Guitars
   by Gregg Miner
Fully revised June, 2016


If you’ve never heard of “Harwood” guitars and mandolins, you’re probably not alone.

The first I ever heard of “Harwood” instruments was when the late Dan Most sent me images of, and later procured for me, the magnificent double-neck, double sound hole 18-course harp guitar that I used on my 1995 A Christmas Collection project (at top of page).  At the time, I just assumed Harwood was some obscure maker, and presented as such in my CD liner notes.  I would have never imagined it was actually a popular, long-produced name brand of a hugely successful and later completely forgotten musical instrument company, J. W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. of Kansas City, Missouri.

Once I had access to the Internet, in 2002 I found the (then) one and only “Harwood” reference.  Michael Holmes of Mugwumps Online included this trivia on his Q & A page:

"Harwood was a brand name used by J. W. Jenkins Company, a Kansas City, MO musical instrument dealer and wholesaler. They introduced the Harwood brand in 1885, which they may not have actually manufactured. Circa 1895 they established a factory and produced guitars and mandolins under the Clifford and the Washington brand names. Some guitars marked "Harwood, New York" have been seen. It is not known if these are also by Jenkins."

That’s when I discovered that “Harwood” wasn’t a person, or even a company, it was a brand name.  Today, we still don’t know where the name came from, but think it may have been inspired by a Harwood community near Chicago where company founder John Woodward Jenkins was originally from.  “Harwood” was the best of the five Jenkins instrument lines.

Since publishing my own Harwood page within Harpguitars.net in 2004, much dialog and discovery has taken place in the mandolin and guitar community, with an actual fifth-generation Jenkins descendant – Bob Jenkins – finally getting into the action.  The biggest questions were invariably “Who made them?,” “Where and When?” and “What’s the deal with that ‘New York’ stamp?!” 

Many of these mysteries are now solved, thanks to Bill Graham’s Fall, 2011 Fretboard Journal (FJ) article, which prompted my own web site update – turns out, Bob Jenkins and I had independently discovered some of the same clues and information during the years leading up to 2011.  After the article was published, Bob continued to uncover a huge amount additional information and “smoking gun” clues, which I have consolidated herein with his assistance.  I’m sure my own web article will be out of date the second I hit “send” – but can now be easily edited.

All along, a surprising number of different Harwood harp guitar models have turned up over the years, which I have methodically added to the site, necessitating a re-organization each time – that now continues with this latest complete re-write.

Most exciting for me personally was the discovery of a strange little story in an old Cadenza magazine that suggests that J. W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. may have produced America’s first harp guitars.  So read on!


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, not 1885. 

This 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.  For brevity’s sake, throughout this article I will abbreviate J. W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. as simply “Jenkins.”

Chronology:  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 block radius 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
  • June, 1878: Company founded by John Woodward Jenkins.

    • Name: J. W. Jenkins Music Co.

    • Store location #1: 615 Main Street, Kansas City, MO.

  • Sometime later: Oldest son, John, joined company.

    • Name change: J. W. Jenkins & Son Music Co.

  • August 22, 1885: First use of Harwood brand name.

  • January (presumed Jan 1), 1889: Jenkins contracts Haynes to build Harwood guitars and mandolins.

  • February 25, 1889: Harwood trademark filed.

  • 1890: Founder died, 2 younger sons joined company.

    • Final name change: J. W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Co.

  • c.1891: Store location #2: Store moves to 921-923 Main St.

  • 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.

  • January 1, 1895: Haynes contract cancelled, Jenkins exclusively manufactures Harwood brand themselves.

  • c.1898: Factory #2: New, separate two-story factory at 1417-1419 Walnut St.

  • January, 1901: Store location #3: Store moves to 1013-1015 Walnut St.

  • c.1901-1907: Factory #3: Walnut factory closed, relocated to share space with large piano warehouse at 1008-1014 Grand, behind the new store.

  • August, 1910: Fire at Walnut store, store rebuilt. Grand factory not affected.  Additional piano warehouse on West Sixteenth St.

  • ????: Grand factory closed.

  • c.1920: New warehouse at 2100 Wyandotte.

  • 1925: Store is still at 1013/1015 Walnut and has a 100-person repair shop.

  • 1932: Store location #4: Store moves to final location at 1217 Walnut.

  • Early 1970’s: Company liquidated, records lost, store and warehouse torn down.

The “Harwood” Story
  • 1878-1889: Pre-Harwood Trademark period

According to 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).

Regarding the 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 1800’s. 

Though we 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.

Again, 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

It 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 territories.)  The contract was 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 earlier).

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 25, 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.

The mid-late 1890’s catalog includes this image and also the “HARWOOD” engraving used on the neck inlays.

  • c.1894-c.1911: Kansas City (Jenkins) period

921-923 Main St.

While 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.

A 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:

Five 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.

1417-1419 Walnut St.

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) at 1417-1419 Walnut Street that took up two floors stocked with then-state-of-the-art machinery.

“Note 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 concerned.”

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:

1013-1015 Walnut St

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.

In 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. 

The 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.

1008-1014 Grand Avenue

The 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 instrument repair?).

Bob Jenkins found a rare postcard that, remarkably, shows this facility:

Bob 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 19071915.”

Bob 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.

As it stands now, Bob and Bill Graham theorize that 1911 was the last year for Jenkins-produced Harwoods.

The 1910 Fire

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 unaffected.  Various 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.

  • The Sanborn Maps

At 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 an explanation. 

Incidentally, 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.

All 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).

Blue dot is the 1417-1419 Walnut St. factory (c.1897-c.1904).

Green dot (left) is the 1013-1015 Walnut St. store (c.1901-1932) connecting through the back alley to:

(right dot) the 1008-1014 Grand Blvd. warehouse/factory (c.1901-c.1911).

Orange dot is the 1217 Walnut store (c.1932-1972).

Not shown: the original store at 615 Main Street, an additional c.1910 warehouse on W 16th St. and the final warehouse on Wyandotte.

At right is a Sanborn Map Symbol Key that might be of use or interest.

All maps below are aligned North.  For convenience, each will open in a new browser window.

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.

Prior 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. 

(Close-up of right map above)

We 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. 

Note that interesting connection between the two buildings; was it a covered path?  Overhead walkway?  Tunnel?!

Not 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!).

As 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).

The next Sanborn we know of is from 1939, when both these buildings had been long vacated by Jenkins.

The 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 careers.

  • Harwood Production Numbers

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?

Manuf 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 Total
Haynes         50 100 150 200 250 300                                   1050
Jenkins                   25 200 500 1000 5000 5500 5000 4500 4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 250 100 40075

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 wonder...several Cadenza 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...

  • The “New York” Stamp

harwood_cat,c1895-p38-jenkins.jpg (1630221 bytes)

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

I 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.

The 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.

Bob 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.

And the reverse:

·         Those with “Harwood” inlaid on the front of the headstock, but missing the fretboard block.

Whether 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

jenkins_c1929-wheelwright.jpg (236866 bytes)

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).  At this 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.

  • Final Years

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 was 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!

  • Cadenza Advertisements

I’ll 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.

Readers 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.

Interesting 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.


  • Catalogs

Early 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 site and which I’ve included a new PDF here. 

I 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!).  

catalog_cover,1895-jenkins.jpg (187922 bytes)J. W. JENKINS’ SONS Catalog, 1895-1899

This 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.

The 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 921 Main 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 editor Clarence L. Partee – were also in Kansas City nearby.  Note 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).

Some 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 strings...”  Note 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 catalogs.

With so many historical treasures found on just these few pages, one lusts to find a copy of the “Special Catalogue devoted exclusively to the Harwood Guitars...”!

This 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 in Boston.

Amazing 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.

Prominent 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.

This list of otherwise long-forgotten testimonial names includes several that will help corroborate the incredible story in the next chapter.

This 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!

While 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.

Prior 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.

J. W. JENKINS’ SONS advertisement, 1902

Between 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 reliable).  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.  

Since 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.  

J. W. JENKINS’ SONS Catalog, c.1908

This 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.

“The 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 sometime later.

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.

Also 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.
As 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.

Interestingly, Jenkins had also built a true standard bandurria (shown below), so the misnomer is curious.

J. 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 catalog.

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.

Other 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.


Fortunately, 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.

This 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).  

These 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.  

On 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 and here for more.)

We also now realize that all of the Harwood instruments seen here must have been built in Boston by John C. Haynes & Co.

Note also the unique harp-banjo!  A Jenkins experiment?
I’ll include all of these next instruments in the Harwood Harp Guitars chapter below as well.  It’s interesting how many of these images come from Minnesota.  The three dated images help us determine that these were all early models, perhaps appearing in a hypothetical catalog, perhaps just more transitional experiments.  Any of them could have been built by Haynes or Jenkins.

Minneapolis photographer's studio, undated

Minnesota college ensemble, 1897

Minnesota college ensemble, 1900

Unknown college ensemble, undated

The Aeolian Mandolin Orchestra, 1898

Unknown ensemble, undated


Now 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 early 1900’s). 

Mr. Flinn’s photo (of unknown age or date), with this short article appeared under the “Professional Teachers & Players” column:

Redlands, Cal.

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 cordial reception.

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 musical.

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 catalog.

“Dunk” Collins = A. D. Collins
Ed. Guckert = E. N. Guckert
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 these cities.).

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 doubled course)

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 it).

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 popping up.

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!

You may 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?

Quite possibly.  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 and Catalogs:

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 1899).

  • The exact catalog model, from a dated historical photo of the Aeolian Mandolin Orchestra, Guthrie, OK, 1898 (thanks to Barry Trott).

Bottom row:

  • 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.


Surviving Specimens:

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 instrument.

  • My specimen, that appears to match the pre-1895 Cadenza specimen above, but only 1 neck logo. 12 sub-basses, same headstock and tuners, two symmetrical 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 great instrument.

  • 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 details here).

  • An unusual specimen with the same headstock but only 9 sub-basses, and oval soundholes.

Bottom row:

  • 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 tuners (full details here).

  • 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 Johnson's Vintage Mandolins June, 2012).

  • (Not pictured) A third model of the above 6+6 parlor size instrument is in another private collection.


A presentation guitar, owned by David Jorgensen

A Kansas gentleman with a nice guitar

An incredible jumbo 6-string

A mandolinetto, owned by Bob Jenkins
harwood_bandurria-glenn.jpg (48038 bytes)
A rare "New York" stamped Harwood bandurria

The c.1908 so-called "Harp Bandurria," actually a lyre quint guitar

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!


payne,cadenzaMar-Apr,1898-c.jpg (273169 bytes)We 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 instruments though curiously, never with a Harwood harp guitar, only other brands.

Payne put together club after club, whose members played mostly Harwoods 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!

Here 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.


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!

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