Bohmann c.1899 Catalog (modified slightly from the c.1896 catalog)
(Harp Guitar Pages)

Text from page 70 (image at right)


     The New Contra Bass Harp Guitar is made to order only, in rosewood and best curly and birdseye maple, with double neck and Bohmann’s new patent machine bridge, and is positively the largest guitar ever made. Its measurements are: Length of body, 23 inches; across body back of bridge, 19 inches; and depth of body, 6 inches. A harp key is used for tuning the contra bass strings. The harp guitar is finished as No. 3.

     Price for 12-string harp guitar is….….....$163.00

                18                           ……....$175.00

     This guitar is made in 12 and 18 strings. Its tone has been tested with two harps at the same time, by the eminent Guitar Virtuoso, Sig. Emilio Calamara, of Chicago, for whom the first contra bass harp guitar was made in America by the world’s greatest musical instrument manufacturer, Joseph Bohmann. He claims that the strength and tone carrying power of the guitar was superior to two harps combined. The harp guitar will be made in regular guitar styles from No. 1 to 14, inclusive.

Immediately after the Contra Bass Harp Guitar, a "Grand Concert Contra Bass Guitar" is listed. It appears to be a large 6-string guitar, perhaps tuned down? Here is an image, just for reference (it is not a harp guitar).

The text at right is quite confusing - apparently a cryptic reference to himself.  Joseph Bohmann is the man with the harp guitar (his son being J. Frederick Bohmann).  He is indeed holding it well between his knees - would he have really played it at this angle? Note the guitar next to him which also looks to be about 6 inches deep, and appears to be another harp guitar.

Text from page 71 (image at left)

A Novelty Manufactured and Introduced by Mr. Joseph Bohmann
From “Music Trades,” January 4, 1896.

     Mr. Joseph Bohmann, the great violin, mandolin, guitar and zither manufacturer of Chicago, who was burned out a few weeks ago (Dec. 7, 1895), losing his entire stock and tools, has secured satisfactory quarters at No. 376 West Madison street, and is now turning out as rapidly as possible the above instruments, including his new harp guitar.

     The guitar has been limited as regards execution, and Mr. Bohmann has made a radical improvement in it, which opens up new possibilities for this popular instrument.

     As can be seen by the representation of the Bohmann harp-guitar, now published for the first time, twelve additional strings are added in the bass, and it is held between the knees similar to the cello. The harp-guitar in accompanying illustration is held by Mr. Bohmann’s best working man, who has originated this great American industry. By his side is Joseph Frederick Bohmann, who will succeed him in making Bohmann instruments in the coming generation.     

    The twelve additional strings are tuned chromatically, and the instrument being larger than common, has great power. In fact, its tone is said to be as strong as that of a full-size harp.

    Any guitar player can familiarize himself with the new strings, with half an hour’s practice, and this new instrument is also said to greatly facilitate execution. The Bohmann harp guitar is practically serviceable for mandolin orchestras, as one harp guitar will furnish an accompaniment for a flute, violin, two mandolins and two mandolas.

     As a sole instrument, beautiful sweeping arpeggios can be made on the chromatic strings, and also runs in thirds and fifths not possible otherwise. Accompaniments can be played directly from piano scores, the player reading both clefs at once.

     The six strings if the finger board are tuned as ordinarily. The instrument presents a very handsome appearance and does great credit to Mr. Bohmann’s workmanship and inventive genius.

Page 72
I have no additional information on Calamara yet (other than another appearance in the May Flower catalog - anyone else?

Here is a better image of Calamara and his Bohmann from an 1897 sheet music cover.
1899-p56.jpg (3266022 bytes)
Page 32 Page 55 Page 56 Page 92

As stated on the Bohmnn page, I believe most of these harp guitars may be be Bohmann's. The p.32 instrument is unknown, at least one of the p.55 instruments is suspect, and the p.56 Calamara instrument is almost certainly not Bohmann's. See The Harp Guitars of Emilio Calamara.

Original catalog from the collection of Rich Myers.
The catalog came from the re-discovered Bohmann factory in the early 1970s, which contained many old instruments.
A huge debt of gratitude to Rich for sharing this rare material with us!

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