Chris Knutsen's Instrument Labels  

by Gregg Miner, as part of

Update, February, 2011:

"Smoking Gun" provenance found on Ukulele "Patent Applied For" labels!

As far as we know, Knutsen was, for the most part, a one-man operation (the early "Otto Anderson" years the one confirmed exception), and often, it seems, trying to make ends meet. Couple this with his ever-evolving line of instruments, plus his continual change of home/shop addresses over the years, and it's easy to see why his labels were never standardized for any length of time.

We see all manner of labels, from the printed "New Hawaiian Family" label containing four photographs of period instruments, to scraps of paper written on by hand, and even a few which appear to be bits of paper cut from typed envelopes addressed to Knutsen! It's also possible that some instruments without a label may never have had one to begin with. And, of course, Knutsen never bothered with serial numbers!

I'm compiling the information from the Noe/Most book, along with new examples into the chart below. Though this will be useful in dating instruments, in some cases, we're still dating the labels themselves. Despite the great detective and deduction work by Noe & Most, it's likely that we'll be tweaking some of the dates as we learn more.

For example, we still can't say exactly when and where the "New Hawaiian Family" labels first occurred, nor how long they were used. My working hypothesis is that the "New Hawaiian Family" was created around 1914, before or right about when Knutsen left Seattle - and may have been a clever marketing concept intended to coincide with and capitalize on the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo. These labels were then continued in Los Angeles, and may have gave way to the "1542 Temple St." and other L.A. labels, or they may have been used concurrently, even up to the end (1930).

Likewise, the precise start date of the 1542 Temple St., L.A. address is still unproven. 1920 is the first confirmed date at this location, though there is suspicion of an earlier date of 1917, or even 1914.

Further adding to the confusion is Knutsen's use of many different labels during the same time period.

I'm happy for any input of thoughts, clues or facts, to help fine tune this important study.

UPDATE 10/15/03: I decided it was time I start assigning codes to the labels, so each instrument listing can include an accurate reference to the specific label (instead of just generic text). It's becoming crucial to the continuing dating study. This new code appears to the right of the images, and will be used on each applicable instrument page.

Approximate year Appears on   Label Code Text/Description Comments
Harp Guitars Hawaiian Guitars Harp Mandolins Harp Ukuleles
1895 HGP1       labelhgp1.jpg (17686 bytes)   none. #4 in pencil under inside neck joint on one example Dan Most theorized that #4 may have signified "instrument # 4."
1896-1897 HGP2, HGP5         PT1 Rubber stamp of both patent instruments Need an image, somebody!
1896-1897 HGP8, HGP13, HGP14, HGP18, HGP19, HGP20, HGP22, HGP28, HGP29       labelhgp13.jpg (24768 bytes) PT2

MANUFACTURED BY
C. KNUTSEN, 
PORT TOWNSEND, WASH
PATENTED SEP. 15, 1896

Note that the patent date listed is for the original One Arm Guitar. But this label also appears on three of the 1898 Patent style guitars.
1897-1898 HGP17, HGP21, HGP22       labelhgs17.jpg (21476 bytes) PT3

MANUFACTURED BY
C. KNUTSEN, 
PORT TOWNSEND, WASH
PATENTED SEP. 15, 1896

Either realizing the above labels were false advertising, or because he now filed for the new patent (May 17, 1897), Knutsen crosses out the date and hand-writes over it, "applied for.
1897-1898 HGP6, HGP7       labelhgp6.jpg (9195 bytes) PT4 "Patent applied for" in pencil Probably similar, if not identical, to above.
1898-1900 HGP27, HGT15, HGT17, HGT45, HGT53, HGT57       label_hgp27.jpg (49807 bytes) PT5

"THE ONE-ARM HARP GUITAR.
Patented United States, England and Canada.
Infringements will be prosecuted to the fullest extant."

 
1899-1900 HGP3, HGT2       labelhgp3.jpg (16688 bytes) PT6 "Patented United States, Canada, and England" Same label as above with "The One-Arm Harp Guitar" cut off.
1898-1900 HGT10, HGT17       knutsenfamily2.jpg (52057 bytes) PT7 Family portrait taken about 1898  
1898-1900 HGT1         PT8

CHRIS KNUTSEN
SOLE PATENTEE OF THE
SYMPHONY HARP GUITAR
WITH 11 STRINGS.
THE 5 EXTRA BASS STRINGS BEING TUNED TO D,C,B,A AND G, ONE OCTAVE LOWER THAN REGULAR PITCH.
This HARP GUITAR
is the deepest tone instrument made.

Only example known is extremely faded. Rare example of printing his name as "Chris."
1900-? HGT30       labelhgt30.jpg (12323 bytes) TA1 Illustration of a Symphony Harp Guitar. Text (if any) faded. This label was positioned against a back brace with the image horizontal. This positioning and the lack of paper around the image suggest that it is different from the next label.
1900-1902 HGT48       TA1/2

MR. C. KNUTSEN
SOLE-PATENTEE

OF THE
SYMPHONY HARP GUITAR
WITH 11 STRINGS
The five extra Bass strings being tuned to D,C,B
A and G, one octave lower then regular pitch.
THIS
HARP GUITAR IS THE DEEPEST TONED INSTRUMENT MADE.
T
his is the only GUITAR with the slanted fret.
FOR PRICES AND CIRCULARS
ADDRESS
C KNUTSEN...

Unfortunately, the address is missing from the only known label. It is presumed to be the 1001 south J St., Tacoma address.
1900-1902 HGT13, HGT19, HGT23, HGT37       labelhgt37.jpg (35909 bytes) TA2

Mr. C. Knutsen
SOLE-PATENTEE
of the
Symphony Harp Guitar
With 11 Strings.
The 5 extra bass strings being tuned
to D, C, B, A, and G, one octave lower
than regular pitch.
This HARP GUITAR is the deepest tone instrument made.
This is the only GUITAR with the slanted fret.
For prices and circulars address:
C. Knutsen,
1001 south J St., Tacoma, Wash.

"Mr. C. Knutsen" is printed in a fancy italics script.
Note that this refers specifically to slanted frets.
1901-1904 HGT3, HGT4, HGT5, HGT7, HGT18,
HGT22,
HGT26, HGT29, HGT52
      TA3

C. NUTSEN, (misspelled)
Sole Patentee of the
Symphony - Harp -Guitar
With 11 Strings
The five extra bass strings are tuned to
D, C, B, A, and G, one octave lower than
regular pitch. 

Was this a misprint - or was Knutsen trying a different phonetic spelling for some purpose?

See What's in a Name?

1903-1906 HGT16, HGT18, HGT35, HGS47, HGT49, HGS64       labelhgt35.jpg (23743 bytes)
labelhgt18.jpg (34638 bytes)
TA4

C. KNUTSEN,  
Sole Patentee of the
Symphony=Harp=Guitar
With 11 Strings
The five extra bass strings are tuned  to D, C, B, A, and G, one octavo lower than regular pitch. 

Same era, same words - but with the correct spelling (though "octave" is now misspelled)
1906-1908 HGS16, HGS25, HGS33, HGS35, HGS53, HGS72   HM21   label_hgx.jpg (91093 bytes) SE1

C. KNUTSEN,
Sole Patentee of the
HARP GUITAR
With 11 Strings.
The five extra bass strings are
tuned to D, C, B, A, and G, one octave lower than regular pitch. 

Notice that Knutsen has dropped the "Symphony" name. Perhaps because he transferred the rights to Dyer?
1910-1913 HGS5, HGS6,  HGS7, HGS8, HGS9, HGS10, HGS11, HGS12, HGS15, HGS19, HGS22, HGS28, HGS31, HGS37, HGS40, HGS48, HGS49, HGS50, HGS56, HGS61, HGS62, HGS63, HGS66, HGS69, HGS73   HM28 (cut down)   labelhgs31b.jpg (18630 bytes) SE2

C. KNUTSEN
SOLE PATENTEE
OF THE
11 STRINGED HARP GUITAR

The five extra bass strings er

tuned to D, C, B, A, and G, one octave lower than regular pitch. 

"11 STRINGED HARP GUITAR" in red letters. The word "are" is misspelled "er."
1909-1917   HCW1, HCW2, HCW6, HCW11, HCW12, HCS1,
HW27, HW33
  HU20, HU21, HU25, HU27,
HT4
labelhcw1.jpg (15387 bytes) SE3

Patent Applied For
C. KNUTSEN

Now believed to refer to a patent for the "convertible" feature (never granted). See SE9 below for another version.
1906-1913 HGS3, HGS2, HGS42   HM4, HM5, HM10, HM13, HM18, HM20, HM24, HM29   labelhgs2.jpg (7372 bytes)

labelhm13.jpg (10492 bytes)

SE4

C. Knutsen,
Sole Patentee of the
(Knutsen simply cut off the "HARP GUITAR With 11 Strings," from above labels when using for mandolins or harp guitars with less than 11 courses! Sometimes "sole" and "of the" are scribbled out)

The first we see of Knutsen's label cost-savings.
1910-1914 HGS4   HM2, HM7, HM9, HM19, HM22, HM27   labelhm2.jpg (26324 bytes)

labelhm19.jpg (23578 bytes)

SE5

C. KNUTSEN
SOLE
PATENTEE
 blue-bordered label

 
1910-1914 HGS65   HM8   labelhm8.jpg (9104 bytes)

SE6

C. KNUTSON (misspelled)
Sole Patentee.

Another misspelled label.
Strangely, these seemingly identical cut labels (same typewriter?) are different: "Sole" lines up under the "KN" slightly differently
1913-1914 HGS1, HGS34 HTD4 HMA2 HU15 (photo cut off) labelhgs1.jpg (44790 bytes)

labelhu15.jpg (11656 bytes)

SE7

THE BEST TONE MANDOLIN AND GUITAR IN THE WORLD
Harp Guitar Factory
C. KNUTSEN, PROP.
ALL KINDS OF STRING INSTRUMENTS MADE
AND REPAIRED
 1200 STEWART STREET
CORNER OF MINOR
SEATTLE                      WASH.

The harp guitar pictured is the same one shown in the "New Hawaiian Family" label. On the uke's label, the photo is cut off, and Knutsen has hand-written "Patent aplod."
1913-1914 HGS31, HGS45       labelhgs31a.jpg (15258 bytes) SE8

Nearly identical to above 

This is a different printing, with the word "MADE" moved down to the next line.
1910-1917   HCW13   HU11, HU12, HU23, HU24 labelhu12.jpg (20662 bytes) SE9

Patent
Applied
For
C. Knutsen

Now believed to refer to a patent for the "convertible" feature (never granted). See SE3 above for another version.
1909-1930
(possible time frame)
      HU7 labelhu7.jpg (21366 bytes) SE10

ERNEST KAAI
DEALER
 UKULELE
HONOLULU, HAWAII

When and how many instruments did Kaai distribute in Hawaii?
1914-?       HU26 labelhu26.jpg (47724 bytes) LA1/2 PATENT APPLIED FOR

C. KNUTSEN

Los Angeles

A new label discovered in 2006 - Knutsen is printing a new "P.A.F." label in L.A.!
1914-1920s    HCP1, HCP8, HCP10, HCP16,  HP1, HP2, HP3, HP4, HW3, HW4, HW5, HW18, HW21, HW24, HW29     labelhcp1.jpg (41934 bytes) LA1

C. KNUTSEN
NEW HAWAIIAN FAMILY
C. Knutsen's Patents
full "New Hawaiian Family" label, white

The "patents" he refers to seem to have never been granted.
1914-1920s    HCW3, HCW7, HCW10,  HCP11, HCP13, HCP15, HCP17, HCP21, HP5, HW7, HW8,  HW9,  HW10, HW23, HW24, HW25, HW34     labelhcp11.jpg (22122 bytes) LA2 full "New Hawaiian Family" label, yellow The yellow and white "runs" of this label may or may not coincide with different time periods.
1914-1920s     HM3 HU1, HU18 labelhu1.jpg (23897 bytes) LA3 half "New Hawaiian Family" label, yellow  
1914-1920s     HBA1 HU2, HU30 LA4 half "New Hawaiian Family" label, white  
1920-1930?   HW11

 

    LA5

HAWAIIAN
THE MELE
UKULELE
 B & J, New York

Another strange one - when and how many instruments did B&J distribute in the East?
1916   HTD3     LA5-1/2 C. Knutsen
1600 Temple St.
Los Angeles
While we don't know exactly when the famous 1542 Temple St. address began, we know that Knutsen was listed at this address for only one year - in 1916.
1920-1927 or 1928. Possibly earlier (back to 1914?)   HCP5     labelhcp5.jpg (19541 bytes) LA6 Chris Knutsen
1542 Temple
 Los Angeles
                  Calif.
handwritten (believed to be in Knutsen's own hand - though could be just from an envelope addressed to him as below)
Still unsubstantiated is when Knutsen first moved to this address. The earliest verifiable date is 1920.
1920-1927 or 1928. Possibly earlier (back to 1914?)   HCP2, HCP6, HCP20, HHW4?     labelhcp6.jpg (26582 bytes) LA7

(Chris) Knutsen,
1542 Temple St.
Los Angeles (Calif.)
various examples from typewritten envelopes

The quickest, cheapest possible labels Knutsen could find!
1920-1927 or 1928. Possibly earlier (back to 1914?)   HCP12, HHW4, HHW11, HHW12, HHW15, HW20   HU4 labelhhw11.jpg (17546 bytes) LA8

C. KNUTSEN
MANUFACTURER OF
ALL KINDS OF
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS
1542 TEMPLE ST.,
LOS ANGELES, CAL.

This is the complete label. There is a large space before address at bottom.
1920-1927 or 1928. Possibly earlier (back to 1914?)    HCS3,  HCN1, HCN3,  HHW1, HHW14, HHW19, HHW20, HHW21, HHW24     labelhhw1.jpg (33984 bytes) LA9

C. KNUTSEN
Manufacturer of
ALL KINDS OF
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS
1542 TEMPLE ST.

 
1914-?   HTD1     labeltd1.jpg (8441 bytes) LA10

C. KNUDSEN (misspelled)
Los Angeles

Bottom portion appears cut off.
1927-1930   HHW7, HHW8, HHW22     labelhhw7.jpg (39451 bytes) LA11

C. KNUTSEN
Musical Instruments Made and Repaired
1306 McDuff St.,(Cor. Sunset) Los Angeles, Cal.
                                               Phone MUtual 1678

Knutsen's labels improved in the last few years of his life and career.
1927-1930   HW32     LA12

TEL MUTUAL 1678
C. KNUTSEN
MANUFACTURER OFALL KINDS OF
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS
1306 McDuff St.,(1400 BLOCK ON SUNSET BLVD.) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.

 

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