c.1940 Harmony Model 373 Archtop Mandolin

This Gibson A-5 inspired instrument is an odd duck in the Harmony line. It's stamped S-40 (some say "second half" of 1940 or "Spring/Summer" of 1940) and I own a copy of a 1940 Harmony catalog, so I tried looking it up, but its model number (373) falls between a few other mandolins and isn't in the catalog -- which is a good description of the instrument itself!

With a solid spruce top and solid birch (faux flame) maple back and sides and a maple neck with top celluloid binding, this approximates the Harmony "Vogue" arched mando offered in the 1940 catalog, but the appointments are slightly less fancy with a dyed-maple fretboard with no binding. In addition the headstock has the last vestiges of a plain "Harmony" decal, so the "Vogue" line is out of the question.

What I do know about it is that it's a great player's mandolin with nice chop and that good darker, cutting bluegrassy tone. It definitely isn't as refined as a proper Gibson-style instrument or as loud, but it's definitely on the same order as the Gibson-made Kalamazoo and Oriole branded instruments.

Aside from a missing original bridge (this is a replacement adjustable and a cheapie at that) the hardware is original.

My work included cleating and gluing up a small hairline at the bass-side f-hole, cleaning, a fret level/dress, new bone nut, and setup.

I just recently sold my own "gigging" F-2 mando to try to put some more funds away for various needs, so this is my "consolation prize." I have a couple very nice flattop instruments I love playing but always find need for an archtop mando for recording and whatnot because the tone cuts so nicely and in such a distinct way. The 12-fret body join and long scale is also nice to have, too, for certain lead work.

Note the Thomastik strings -- I love these guys.

The scale on this instrument is 13 7/8" -- standard nowadays, but "long scale" back then.

Pearl dots, dyed-maple board. Frets are nickel-silver and dressed up nicely but had some severe divots in them before.

A slightly abused, cheapie rosewood adjustable bridge. When I find the time I'll probably cut a fixed-position bridge for thise.

The faux-flame birch sides and back are cute.

The instrument itself is in surprisingly good shape -- I didn't need to do any seam gluing which I typically do need to do.

After lubing these tuners they work flawlessly. I also had to replace a couple gear screws.

Nice tailpiece & cover as well.

S-40 and model/batch stamp.

It came with the original case and a bunch of old Black Diamond and Gretsch string packs. Typical!


ron mcmillan said...

Thanks for this fine tale. I am only an occasional visitor to your blog, but have to make more time to come by and read what you are up to. I love these stories of renovations/rescues of nice classics.

ron mcmillan

Antebellum Instruments said...

Hi Ron, thanks much! I know how time is, though, man am I shortchanged on it. :D