Knutsen Harp Guitar    

hgs35.jpg (75783 bytes)    This is an exciting discovery! The black & white image shows a harp guitar pictured in the 1919 photo of Ingman Ivar Strum (see Historical Photos and also Anderson). The color image is of an instrument sold on Ebay in December, 2002. I believe they are one and the same!
The seller, Tanna Welch provides the only clue: "I was given this as a gift from a friend. He found it in the closet of the house his mother bought in Arlington, WA."
Ingman's grandson Bob has been unable to obtain additional evidence, stating, "I talked to my cousin. He remembers seeing the guitar around 1940. He said it was well worn then. He attributes it to Grandpa playing on street corners with an evangelistic service."
Jean Findlay adds, "The 1930 census gives Ingman's address as West Rose in Seattle. Arlington is a small town north of Seattle close to Mount Vernon, before you get to Anacortes or Bellingham--probably about 90 minutes north on the I-5 corridor."
Not much to go on - so what do the photos tell us?
Luckily, we have great photos of the guitar after it was restored by Danl Terry, and then additionally restored by Ken Miller.
I've gone over both of the photographs in detail and everything discernible matches exactly. The specific shapes of the body, arm, headstocks, bridge (tiny portion visible), inlays, tuners - everything. Note also that the guitar has a large amount of fingerboard wear - it was heavily played! The two sticking points are:
1. the lack of the purfling line separating the bass headstock from the arm - but resolution and film properties of the photo could easily be masking that (there are no known Knutsens of this style without a separation here).
2. a slight height alignment discrepancy between the two headstocks, which could be due to adjustment of the bracket and neck or changes over time (or simply the angle of the guitar to the camera).
Even if we accept the seeming discrepancies above, there is still no way to "prove" that Knutsen didn't make a second identical (or close) instrument. But while the odds of an exact duplicate are possible, the 200-plus instruments catalogued on this site show that, for Knutsen, this is extremely unlikely.  The inlays, specifically, are very unique and it is all but impossible that Knutsen would have repeated them exactly on an equally identical guitar.  After all due consideration, it is my opinion that this is almost certainly the same instrument. 
Note that the treble string back has returned - this time sloping in the opposite direction. This is the only one I've seen with eight, rather than the usual seven, treble strings. Repairman Ken Miller, who is setting up the guitar for the current owner, believes that someone (perhaps Knutsen himself) added the super-treble strings and pin block after the guitar was near completion - possibly doing the work through the soundhole.  My opinion is that they are all original.  The Strum guitar shows the bridge starting its slope and the first couple tuners, and the pin block of the existing instrument is just as crude as those in my Knutsen zither harp guitar (HGS40).  In fact, the whole mess of braces and poor construction inside is pure Knutsen all the way!

hgs35.jpg (75783 bytes) hgs35body.jpg (53008 bytes) hgs35neck.jpg (37575 bytes) hgs35back.jpg (21433 bytes)
hgs35backoff.jpg (44904 bytes) braces_hgs35front-ken_miller.jpg (56464 bytes) braces_hgs35front_close-ken_miller.jpg (92693 bytes) braces_hgs35back-ken_miller.jpg (32242 bytes)

Click on a picture to enlarge
(b&w images copyright and courtesy Bob Strum, top row color images copyright Danl Terry, bottom row copyright Ken Miller)

Knutsen Archives Inventory Number

HGS35

                 Category

Seattle Harp Guitars

                 Body Style

"Lower Bass Point"

                 Current or last known owner

Ingman Ivar Strum > ? > Tanna Welch > Danl Terry> anonymous

              Year (approx)

1906-1908

                 Label

unknown / C. KNUTSEN, Sole Patentee of the HARP GUITAR With 11 Strings.

                 Label Code SE1

                 Courses / Strings

19 course: 6 strings on neck, 5 bass, 8 treble

                 Frets

straight
                 Scale length 24-3/4"
                 Neck Joint no heel, bracket

Woods

Top

cedar

Back & Sides

mahogany

Neck

Spanish cedar

Fingerboard

dyed pearwood

Bridge

walnut
Headstock veneer walnut

Binding, trim

Top

multi-colored purfling, walnut

Back

pear or basswood

Fingerboard

unknown

Headstock(s)

none
Soundhole multi-colored purfling

                 Inlay

fancy fret markers and inlay in headstock

                 Pickguard

none

                 Comments

Treble strings and pin block appear to have been added to already completed guitar - possibly through the soundhole.

 

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