1/10/2013

c.1915 Harmony-made Victoria Hawaiian Parlor Guitar


This little "size 2" guitar was more than likely (I'd say assuredly) made by Harmony in Chicago between 1915 and 1920 (though it's got a mid-teens "Victoria" label in the soundhole). It was almost certainly intended to be played in the "Hawaiian" fashion (hence the rope binding and mahogany body) with raised strings and a steel/slide and looks like it had been for most of its life (considering the wear marks at the nut area of the board for a slipped-on raised nut).

Despite that, I reset this guitar's neck, cleated up the (reglued) center seam, installed a new bone nut, and leveled and dressed the frets so that if desired, this could be used in regular "Spanish" play. Unfortunately, though, the neck has a 1/32" warp down its length which makes action at the 12th fret for "regular" style playing roughly 1/8" high. This means it's a fine "blues slide" guitar but wouldn't be all that fun to play except for cowboy chords otherwise. So, after all that work, I popped the raised nut on and settled this down to play as a lap (Hawaiian/Dobro-style) guitar -- and, surprise -- that's where it shines.


The finish is a beautiful pumpkin-brown color and the guitar is 100% original save an endpin that looks like a later replacement. The only crack on it is a tiny (not-through) hairline to the bass of the soundhole and a previously-repaired center-seam separation to the top which I cleated up as well.


The rope binding and inlaid soundhole rosette is super pretty and follows the trend of mainland instruments copying the look of true Hawaiian-made instruments. This is the exact same trim that was also found on many Harmony ukes of the time (sold mainly through the Sears catalog) as well. Hawaiiana was all the rage in the teens and 20s!


Original pyramid-style bridge and inlaid-dot pins. I shaved the front of this down slightly to improve "Spanish"-play action and then recolored and sealed my work to match the original dyed-black finish when done.


Pearl dots in a mystery-wood board. Frets are brass and thin/small.


Good old slotted headstock. The tuners work just fine and turn smoothly after a shot of WD-40.



The mahogany on this guitar is just stunningly pretty in the sunlight, isn't it? It almost looks like koa, but it isn't. The guitar itself is also ladder braced and very lightly-so. The top has a small amount of deflection but the hardwood construction helps. Still, I suggest only extra light (46w to 10) strings for "high bass A" or open D/E tunings unless one is detuning a bunch. The top should be fine but the poplar neck is on the thinner side and will warp more than it is with heavier strings.







Note the slightly discolored leavings around the heel edges of a previous amateur neck reset. When I do mine, I properly shim up the (almost always slightly too-open) joint so future resets are unnecessary.


Nice, pretty rope backstrip as well.



Endpin -- yup, you sure can play this standing up Dobro-fashion!

3 comments:

Charlie said...

Hi Jake, I too bought one of these all mahog guitars but sadly the soundboard was badly damaged during transit, not sure what to do with it. The difference is mine has a one piece mahog back and has a late 1920's black scroll type Supertone label. Same rope binding on the front edge and around the sound hole. Everything else the same. Black and Gold Victoria labels (if that's what's on your guitar) changed over the years slightly, different fonts and decorative scrolls etc. Can you post a picture of the label please?

Regards Charles

Antebellum Instruments said...

The label is pretty damaged (2/3 gone and torn in half). It's the black background with silvery-gold script. Not much point in grabbing a photo but I knew what it was right away since the Victoria labels are pretty distinctive. These are fun guitars, for sure, and pretty!

Charlie said...

No problem. Seems like B & J had many suppliers for their Victoria brand guitars. Oscar Schmidt, Regal and Harmony for sure.
Regards Charlie