12-String Guitar, Meet the 1901 Harp Guitar

Well, this was a nice discovery.

Finally, someone scared up an original Bruno catalog from the 1901-1902 season (it recently sold on eBay via a well-known vintage catalog collector…unfortunately, I chose not to compete with the $270 closing bid…).  So I wasn’t privy to most of its contents, but…

UPDATE July 10, 2013: Great news!  The winning bidder was my friend Lynn Wheelwright (early electric guitar historian/collector), who kindly scanned all the guitar pages for me.  He confirmed what I had guessed: Bruno only offered a harp guitar with a 12-string neck, not a 6-course standard version.  Bolsters my wild theory a bit.  I inserted his improved scan below.

The now-confirmed 1901 catalog contains one critical photo: the Bruno “1901” New Model Contra Bass or Harp Guitar with Sixteen Strings.”

Note that it has “twelve strings on fingerboard, double strung, tuned in octaves.”

Why was this so particularly exciting?  Simple – because, until now, I was certain that the “1901” harp guitar didn’t actually come out until c.1912-1914.

You’re probably thinking, “Idiot! Isn’t it obvious?!“…but no, it wasn’t at all.

If you recall from my 2011 article The Birth of the American 12-string Guitar, this instrument was originally discussed under the “Red Herrings” chapter.  Specifically, I referenced both its then-only-known catalog appearance (c.1912) and more importantly, this 1914 Music Trade Review article that seemed to indicate that this “1901” model (note how it is always in quotes) was a recent, new instrument at the time (1914).  I had a whole elaborate theory of why they may have used the older date for a new instrument, but of course the point is moot now.  So the “1901” Bruno harp guitar came out in 1901 – go figure!  (I at least know my friend Dan Pease, who owns two, will be happy!)

Going back through my Bruno folders, I was reminded that these instruments were typically stamped “1901” on the back of the headstocks – perhaps not indicating year, but the model name (as they clearly offered this instrument from 1901 to at least 1914).

Now that we could finally date this well-known instrument properly, I of course had to completely re-think my 12-string guitar article!

Especially after I was reminded about this previously-posted, fantastic Bruno specimen in my Kerry Char folder:

Actually, my 12-string article was already in the queue for updating, ever since I finished the piece on George Dudley and the discovery of the incredible 12-string-neck Holzapfel & Beitel harp guitars.  I also had the new, early Bohmann 10-string-neck harp guitar to add.

So anyway, long story short, I just published the updated article (another 2500 words!), with some new twists:

The (Re)Birth of the American 12-string (Harp?) Guitar

I can’t wait for the buzz my next version of American 12-string guitar historical hypothesizing creates…

  1. Dan & Bettie Says:

    We plan to have “Brunhilde,” our Bruno 4-12 harp guitar in CT in October for perusal and musical bonding by one and all comers. I might still be a work in progress, but will eventually take its proud place beside “Hula Lula,” our Bruno 6-6 harp, that shoed up in Dallas in a state of dishabille (and Texas).

  2. Dan & Bettie Says:

    Actually, the guitar might be a “work in progress,” and I am ALWAYS a work in progress. We actually SHOWED Hula Lula in Dallas last fall. She remains visibly unshod.

  3. Gregg Says:

    Just updated the blog (in red) with news from the new catalog owner…and updated my 12-string article accordingly. Compelling reading (if I do say so, myself!)

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