Knutsen Harp Taropatch 

ht3.jpg (18427 bytes) A very exciting find the second surviving harp taropatch!
If "taropatch" is even the right term for this wonderful instrument...
As the other went off to Japan without any dimensions being recorded, we were extremely fortunate to find another. This instrument (and presumably the other) has a scale length of 16-1/2". The lower bout is 10" wide with an overall length of 27" (including the extra long peghead for the eight tuners). Thus, by modern categorization, we would more accurately call this an "eight-string tenor ukulele on a baritone body!" 
This is especially interesting because of the timeframe. Ukulele history expert John King tells me that (while firm dates are hard to prove), he believes that
"the first mainland made 4-course taropatch was probably made by Leonardo Nunes who relocated to Los Angeles from Honolulu in 1913. The first tenors were also probably made in L.A. by Nunes in the mid-1920s. I haven't researched baritones but they appear to be a much later phenomenon, late 1940s possibly. The first "tenors" are clearly based on the 4-course taropatch in so far as string length is concerned. L. Nunes' Radio Tenor (for example) takes its name from the male radio vocalists of the time, who were often described as "radio tenors," in distinction to operatic tenors. Were these tenors in the modern sense? Maybe, maybe not. Given the large numbers of instruments marketed as tenors in the late 20s and early 30s, which were descriptive of a louder more focused sound, but are smaller than current standards, there is plenty of room for overlap (and confusion if not taken in context). Longworth gives the dates of Martin's first 1-T tenors as 1928/29." 
The "Family Ukes" photograph dates to 1916-1917, and features a taropatch I estimated at 17" scale (before I knew what the existing specimens were!). I had also roughly guesstimated that HT1 (and now the similar HT3) were conceivably of the 1913 timeframe, because the distinctive style of binding so closely matches my  koa 1913 Seattle harp guitar (and doesn't seem to appear outside of this timeframe). I think it points to Knutsen being way ahead of the game, and creating possibly the largest known ukulele of its day!
I photographed it side-by-side with my harp uke (HU16, probably the smallest-bodied example known) for comparison. Unlike so many of the ukuleles, the two surviving taropatch/tenors seem to be cut of the same cloth near duplicates, even to the same back grain! Only the soundholes are different. Interesting that for both specimens Knutsen eschewed the common rope binding for the simple blonde/red/blonde binding pattern. Even more interesting are the top and back, both of which have a bow or arch built into them (on HT1 we can also see the arched back).

ht3arm.jpg (27519 bytes)
ht3left.jpg (19523 bytes) ht3sh.jpg (36017 bytes)
ht3right.jpg (17736 bytes)
ht3back.jpg (17241 bytes) ht3sizecompare.jpg (29305 bytes)

Click on a picture to enlarge
(images copyright Gregg Miner)

Knutsen Archives Inventory Number

HT3

                 Category

Harp Taropatches

                 Body Style

"Standard"

                 Current or last known owner

Folk Music Center, Claremont, CA / Ben Harper

                 Year (approx)

1913-1914?

                 Label

none

                 Courses / Strings

4 course: 8 strings

                 Scale length

16-1/2"

Woods

Top

koa

Back & Sides

koa

Neck

mahogany

Fingerboard

none (one-piece neck/fingerboard)

Bridge

mahogany

Headstock veneer

none

Binding, trim

Top

maple/red-dyed wood/maple?

Back

none

Fingerboard

none

Headstock(s)

none

Soundhole

multi-colored rope with many rings of various colors and 6 pearl dots

                 Inlay

no fret markers. 

                 Pickguard

none

                 Comments

 

 

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