Charles Stromberg Banjo Mandolin 1920s

$ 1,200.00

13 ¾ inch scale length. Replacement tuners. All other metal parts original with minor corrosion. Original skin head with nice straight neck. Metal tab on the dowel stick reads, Charles Stromberg of Boston. Very playable instrument. Non-original hard case included.

Condition: Very Good.

Mandolin-banjos have the same tuning as mandolins, but the banjo-type body produces a louder, more percussive sound than a wood-bodied instrument. This example is one of the earliest extant instruments made by Charles Stromberg’s workshop. While the business was called "Charles Stromberg & Son" from at least 1920, the son indicated in the name may have changed. The family is most famous for its output in the 1940s and 1950s, during which Charles and Elmer produced archtop guitars. However, the 1920 census suggests that Charles' principal collaborator might have been his elder son Harry during that time. The Strombergs were recorded in that census as living at 170 Lowell St., Somerville, Massachusetts, on January 16, 1920, only one day after the head of this mandolin-banjo was dated. Charles is listed as a manufacturer of drums, working on his own; Harry, aged 29, as a musical instrument manufacturer; and Elmer, aged 24, as a helper in the manufacture of drums. In the 1910 census, Harry was listed as an apprentice banjo maker, so it is likely that he is the one who brought those skills back to the family business. If he had followed the same training schedule as his brother, Elmer should have been more than a "helper" by age 24. However, the 1930 census reveals that he was a veteran of World War I, so it is likely that his education in the trade was delayed. Elmer quickly demonstrated skill in the construction and design of instruments, patenting a banjo tone ring in 1926, which can be seen on NMM 10874. By 1930, Harry was no longer working with musical instruments, but was listed as a "buffer, Razor Mfg."

 ~ National Music Museum, University of South Dakota

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