Ephemera: Russian Mandolin Orchestra (1938)

Before you say: Russian -- but all the Gibsons? -- that's because the eBay auction for this photo states that "Russian Mandolin Orchestra, 1938" is written on the back. Wow! Check out the gear, right? This picture ties a lot of "oddball lost link" instruments together.

Here's the cool stuff: a Kalamazoo mandobass (!) is pictured at right along with a Kalamazoo mandocello (!) next to it and various Kalamazoo mandolins in the crowd. On the left you have a Cromwell-style (Gibson) archtop, too and in the middle-right the headstock of one of those super-rare Kalamazoo/Cromwell "lump scroll" mandolins is peeking-out. After that are the usual Gibson suspects -- various A-style and F-style mandolins plus a mandocello. There are a couple Weymann mandolins in there, too, and the "back row" has three 6-string balalaikas that look very, very close to Favilla-made examples I've both had the honor of working-on and browsing on fleaBay as well.  The remaining guitars look to me to be an Oscar Schmidt 00 tailpiece box, an indeterminate "parlor" 12-fretter, and a Kay-made archtop.

This 2nd photo is from the auction itself and is higher-res for reference (click on it to see). The one I posted first is closer to the original format and I did a bit of de-skewing to get it more "true."


NickR said...

Are these American resident Russians? At that time I find it hard to believe that there was a touring orchestra from the Soviet Union. I was also led to believe that after the Russian Revolution the mandolin was frowned upon and the balalaika was played to its exclusion as it was seen as a Russian instrument. I would imagine that this was a group of emigre Russians and their offspring and the Gibson instruments may have been part of some publicity event.

Jake Wildwood said...

Yes, that was what I figured -- Russian-Americans. Often Gibson-full orchestras like this were the result of teaching/dealer gigs.