Otto Anderson  

by Gregg Miner, as part of

Jeanette's Story of Her Grandfather

The Knutsen - Anderson Connection

The Andersons and Ingman Ivar Strum

Knutsen was always believed to be a one man operation . . .until the fall of 2002, when, out of the blue, an incredible untold story emerged. The revelatory words jumped out of an unexpected email - "Dad made 200 instruments for a man named Knutsen."
"Dad" is Otto Edward Anderson, an award-winning cabinet maker from Port Townsend and Seattle, the words were his daughter Ellen's, from her carefully kept notes, and the email came from his granddaughter. Her name is Jeanette Detlor, and she is our new contributing "Knutsenologist."

Jeanette with her "Knutsen" harp guitar built by her grandfather, Otto, in front of the family home that he built in 1898 in Green Lake, WA. The home, like the guitar, is still owned by the family! I got the chance to see this remarkable instrument when John and Jeanette Detlor brought it to the 3rd Harp Guitar Gathering in Salem, Oregon in September, 2005.
(images copyright John Detlor)

Otto's instruments

hgp16.jpg (42205 bytes) hv1-s.jpg (24233 bytes)

Click on image for full discussion and photos

The four specimens on the left were the first confirmed instruments of Otto's. His daughter's notes (in granddaughter Jeanette's possession) also specifically mention four additional harp guitars he built for his other children. Fortunately, Jeanette managed to track two of these down, still in the family of one of her cousins! She obtained photos of these in 2005 (the two right images), and they only add to the mystery! Unfortunately, she also discovered that the other two personal Anderson instruments have long since vanished. Jeanette also believes there was a mandolin. It is certainly possible that some of the Port Townsend harp guitars on this web site were built by Otto also, and is a question all of us should be asking about these instruments from this point forward. For example, Tom Noe, who has inspected both Jeanette's guitar (HGP15) and the #4 "prototype" guitar (HGP1), felt the latter was a definite candidate. However, short of disassembling every one of these instruments (which still might not prove anything), we may never solve the identification mystery. I agree with Jean Findlay's suggestion that we simply change Knutsen's title from "inventor" and "builder" to "manufacturer" (Knutsen himself lists himself thus in various years). This term suggests one who holds the creative vision and runs the business, while hiring experts to do portions of the work. Anderson would be labeled a "subcontractor" (for lack of a more artistic word), defined as an artisan equivalent in stature and an expert in his own field. His instruments would still be considered "Knutsens" - even those he specifically built for his family's personal use - because they follow Knutsen's designs.


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