c.1921 Lyon & Healy Early "Camp Uke" Ukulele

Browsing the archives of "Music Trade Review" the first reference to Lyon & Healy's "new Camp ukes" is in 1921. That puts this particular Camp Uke in that first year because it's the original version of this model from L&H. The difference with the more typical model(s) seen is that it lacks a front soundhole and instead has a turned, rear-mounted banjo-style resonator design which as far as I know is unique in the uke world for a wood-topped instrument.

To see some of the more typical Camp Ukes, check here, here, here, and here. They're old blog posts. And yes, blog followers -- I do work on a lot of these because I typically buy any of them up when I see them. They're one of my favorite curious uke designs from the '20s because they tend to sound like a nice Hawaiian uke with the addition of durability and a really, really accessible fretboard.

Anyhow, like most of these Camp Ukes, this one has a solid monkeypod wood body with black celluloid top binding and position dots. These have the cool "smile" bridge design and like usual this one needs no regluing. For whatever reason these L&H smile bridges hold on so much better than the competition's bridges. I've only had to reglue one of them on old L&H ukes out of a couple dozen L&H ukes I've worked on.

Note that the top has hairline cracks -- all cleated, some through, others not -- and all stabilized, now. This is typical for these thin monkeypod-topped instruments. I think it's just tropical wood shrinkage. I see at least one on most Camp Ukes.

Note the tiny hole in the headstock. There's another at the "end pin" area and there was a bit of twine left when I cleaned this uke up -- probably the vestiges of an original strap.

Note the ebony nut. Also, aside from crack repair, I've tightened up the neck to the "pot," given it a fret level/dress, and a setup. Fortunately all the hardware is also original, including the nice L&H patent tuner pegs.

Celluloid black dots.

Cute mahogany "smile" bridge.

Here you can see that resonator-back design. Nice!

The tone definitely changes with this build -- it's more midrangey and brighter vs. sweeter and mellower. It's great for chording (and I'd imagine for recording chord-playing) but isn't as nice a fingerpicking instrument, though plucking out chords with fingerpicking sounds nice.

Pretty monkeypod on that rear!

Various L&H stamps/model #s at the headstock back.

It's cute!


craig said...


Antebellum Instruments said...

I think so!! :)

Robert said...

Would you know of a set of plans try to make this type of uke? Maybe even something rough or at least showing how the resonator attaches to the unit. Great article and super photos. I SOOOOO want one of these now. Looks like great fun to build and play.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Hi Robert -- I have no idea where you'd find the plans. Basically... the design is really simple. It's a 3-ply rim (banjo style) in a circle and the resonator simply attaches via screws with spacers to the back of the rim, like on early resonator banjos. The neck is simply screwed on to the body on the inside.

Ted Kegley said...

I have this Uke but my resonating plate is completely flat.

Ben Reiman said...

How can you tell how old it is? I have one like the one in this picture. The stamp on the back is NO 1122.

Ben Reiman said...

Just got my 1921 Camp Uke restored! Loving it!

Unknown said...

I have one just like this one, but the pod on the back has a crack that was glued. Can I still play it? What is the tuning?