NMM 13502. Mandolin-banjo by Charles Stromberg and Son, Boston, ca. 1920.
No serial number. Board of Trustees, 2007.
Note: Click on any image below to see a larger image.
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."
Inscriptions: Metal plaque attached to dowel stick with two pins, black ink background with unpainted lettering: CHAS. A. STROMBERG & SON / DRUMS, HARPS AND [sic] / MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MFRS. / BOSTON, MASS.
Written in black ink on underside of head: Jan. 15. 1920
Written in pencil on underside of head: F. M.
Written in pencil on underside of head: D.G [sic]
Stamped on underside of head in black ink: Jos. B. Rodgers Jr. [signature] / BRAND WARRANTY
Bridge stamped in black ink: GROVER NONTIP
Front and Back Views of Body
Body: Rim: three-ply maple and nickel-plated steel; lower edge lacquered black. Bracket hooks: 26 nickel-plated steel. Tension hoop: nickel-plated steel. Neck: maple. Peghead: ebony veneer.
Interior: Tone ring: nickel-plated steel. Dowel stick: maple; nickel-plated brass neck angle adjustment hardware.
Front and Back Views of Peghead
Front, Sides, and Back Views of Neck
Inlay: Neck: center strip comprised of single-ply dark brown tropical hardwood strip, possibly mahogany. Peghead: inlaid abalone diamond with black-ink-filled incised line decoration.
Trim: Heel cap: ebony. Fingerboard: ebony; festooned lower edge; 17 nickel-silver frets; single abalone diamond with black-ink-filled incised line decoration behind 3rd and 7th frets; two abalone diamonds with black-ink-filled incised line decoration behind 5th, 9th, and 12th frets. Nut: bone. Tailpiece: nickel-plated steel with scalloped edge. Tuners: gold pair of nickel-plated steel worm-gear machines with white celluloid heads. Lacquer: clear.
Neck Heel and Neck Angle Adjustment Hardware
Bridge and Tailpiece
Measurements (actual): Total instrument length: 582 mm (22-29/32″)
Vibrating string length: 370 mm (14-9/16″)
Fingerboard length: 225 mm (8-7/8″)
Fingerboard width at nut: 28 mm (1-3/32″)
Fingerboard width at body: 34 mm (1-11/32″)
Head diameter: 267 mm (10-1/2″)
Vibrating head diameter: 257 mm (9-31/32″)
Rim diameter: 278 mm (10-29/32″)
Combined rim and bracket hoop depth: 58 mm (2-9/32″)
Strings and Bracket Key
Accessories: Tan canvas case with black fabric trim, ivory cotton flannel lining, and black leather fasteners. Three Bell Brand A-strings in packaging. Nickel-plated brass bracket key.
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