S. Nathaniel Adams

Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.


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  "4/8" Beading Plane sold by Julius Morisse & Co True manufacturer unknown About Julius Morisse was born on July 19th, 1821 i...

"4/8" Beading Plane sold by Julius Morisse & Co
True manufacturer unknown


Julius Morisse was born on July 19th, 1821 in Abbehausen, Germany (near Bremen). Immigrating to the United States in 1836, he found himself working for a successful immigrant by the name of Henry Shaw Shaw had been in the United States for about 20 years prior and amassed a small fortune in the hardware business. Shaw retired in 1840 and Morisse began working for Thomas F. Meier until 1847 when he set out to form his own company [1][12]. Julius's legacy was one of highest quality tools and was well regarded. Morisse would continue to expand and rub shoulders with like-minded men in St Louis such as Oscar J Schroeter, Charles Fach, and E. C. Simmons [7][11]. 

1850 Advertisement from St Louis Business Directory [8]


  • 1850 - 179 Third Street [8]
  • 1852 - 171 and 179 Third St (between Green/Christie St and Morgan St) [13][14]
  • 1860 - 164 and 285 Broadway [10]
  • 1864 - 165 and 285 Broadway [3]
  • 1870 - 706 Broadway [9]
  • 1872 - 708 Broadway [2]
700 Block of Broadway/Third Street
Bounded by Morgan and Green/Christie
1870 Whipple Map - Block 67  [16]
  • 1882 - 813 North 4th adjacent to the St Nicholas Hotel [5]
  • 1884 - St Nicholas Hotel destroyed by fire, Morisse suffers losses due to fire and water damage
  • 1891 - 811 North 4th [4]
800 Block of Fourth Street
Bounded by Morgan and Franklin
1870 Whipple Map of Block 94  [16]

Schroeter Bros and Death

Due to his declining health, Julius sold his company to employee and young entrepreneur Oscar Schroeter and his brother Charles who took over on July 23rd, 1891. They later purchased the company of E. C. Simmons when he retired [7].

Julius Morisse died on December 25th, 1891 from flu-induced pneumonia and his wife Caroline died two days later. Their funeral services were held at 3pm at the (long since demolished) Reformed Episcopal Church at 23rd and Pine Streets. It was described as having a long procession and the chapel being "far too small to admit all who attended". The pall-bearers were friends of the couple and include some relatively famous St Louisians: Frank Shapleigh, George S. Drake, James and E. F. Kaime, James Yeatman, Charles Scudder, (last names only from this point) Hayne , Saunders, White, Schroeter, Demcke, and Thuger. Their caskets were furnished by Smithers and Wagoner and taken to Mount Hope Cemetary in Rochester, New York for vaults. Their home at 2815 Morgan Street was willed to their housekeeper Catherine Kennedy [6].


[1] St Louis Globe Democrat December 28th 1891 https://www.newspapers.com/image/571302087/?terms=Julius%20Morisse%20%26%20colorado&match=1
[2] https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1093919239:2469?tid=182928970&pid=382472552489&queryId=76db245a16b3801a943eb6ff7662f96c&_phsrc=OTJ1583&_phstart=successSource
[3] https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1094463655:2469?tid=182928970&pid=382472552489&queryId=76db245a16b3801a943eb6ff7662f96c&_phsrc=OTJ1583&_phstart=successSource
[4] https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1097212879:2469?tid=182928970&pid=382472552489&queryId=76db245a16b3801a943eb6ff7662f96c&_phsrc=OTJ1583&_phstart=successSource
[5] https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1097463679:2469?tid=182928970&pid=382472552489&queryId=13c142abad828d5e419c08f0b4f8064b&_phsrc=OTJ1589&_phstart=successSource
[6] St Louis Globe Democrat December 29th 1891 - https://www.newspapers.com/image/571302181/?terms=Julius%20Morisse%20%26%20colorado&match=1
[7] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Reality_Record_and_Builder/I7dJAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=RA11-PA1&printsec=frontcover
[8] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Saint_Louis_Business_Directory/_nYBAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA109&printsec=frontcover
[9] https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Business_Directory_of_the_Missouri_Pac/LfQNAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA117&printsec=frontcover
[10] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Missouri_State_Gazetteer_and_Busines/s80yAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA521&printsec=frontcover
[11] https://www.google.com/books/edition/Encyclopedia_of_the_History_of_Missouri/tg_VAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA408&printsec=frontcover
[12] 1844 directory - https://www.google.com/books/edition/Green_s_St_Louis_Directory_etc/O_UBAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA127&printsec=frontcover
[13] https://www.google.com/books/edition/Morrison_s_St_Louis_Directory/VHhQTpx4Y7EC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA180&printsec=frontcover
[14] http://digital.wustl.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=whi;cc=whi;idno=whi1874.1874.001;size=s;frm=frameset;seq=34
[15] https://www.google.com/books/edition/Henry_Shaw_s_Will_Establishing_the_Misso/ThUPAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Julius+Morisse+%26+Co&pg=PA15&printsec=frontcover
[16] http://digital.wustl.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=whi;cc=whi;idno=whi1870.1870.001;size=l;frm=frameset;seq=186

Manufactured in Hudson, N.C. U.S.A Administrative Office: Palco Products 15 W. 20th St. N.Y. 10011 Image Source:  Ebay - lilmels  About Palc...

Manufactured in Hudson, N.C. U.S.A
Administrative Office: Palco Products 15 W. 20th St. N.Y. 10011
Image Source: Ebay - lilmels


Palco is a relatively unknown firm, I haven't seen many of their instruments come up for sale and, by all appearances, the instruments seem to sit in a tier below even Kay and Harmony.

According to a 1966 issue of Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries, Palco Products Co was established in 1962 and in the business of importing and manufacturing 'all types of guitars and amplifiers' with two 'featured' brand names: Douglas and Duke. That same issue lists their home office as being at 323 Oxford Road in New Rochelle, New York which is contradicted by the 1965 issue and numerous other contemporary sources which mention Room 829 of 15 W. 20th Street in New York [1][3]. 15 West 20th Street is the address that appears on the labels of all the existing instruments I can find and seems to be their primary headquarters.

Palco Products Co was run by Samuel Steele (or Steel) and besides the New York office also had two manufacturing plants in Granite Falls and Hudson, North Carolina [2][3]. Both of these towns are quite small and rural, I haven't been able to identify where the manufacturers were located. I think it is very likely that Samuel contracted the instrument building work out to furniture or carpentry businesses.

The only previous information I can find on these are from a blurb on Worthpoint from an Ebay auction. I can see a few inaccuracies just on the Kay and Harmony side and the rest of the information appears to be a bit far fetched or just incorrect. The measurements are useful but I wouldn't take the rest of this to heart
Up for bids is this VERY rare Palco all hickory "Blues Box" acoustic Parlor guitar. This guitar was made in Hudson N.C.. The company lasted only about a year and produced very few guitars. Their aim was obviously to compete with the big Chicago manufacturers of the day; Harmony/Stella and Kay, that pretty much had the market sewn up. Unlike the Harmonys, Stellas and Kays that were made of birch with maple necks, this guitar is hickory including the neck and the original finish still shines. On a scale of 1-10, I rate this an 8.5. Very few nicks and scratches for its age and the neck is straight as an arrow with a very comfortable grip...unlike the Stella "tree trunks". Zero fret wear. Original tuners have been replaced with brand new Ping machines. {The old originals will be shipped along.} I think much of its life has been spent put away. Dimensions are: 37" Length X 13" Width Lower Bout X 3 5/8" Depth. 19 frets; 12 clear of the body. Many more photos available upon request.....guitar will be pro-packed with original gig bag and shipped UPS insured. Lower 48 states only. Thanks for viewing. 

They also filed for a trademark on "Toys-A-Poppin" which was a novelty toy involving caramel corn, honestly [5]. 


As mentioned, the build quality and materials of these instruments seems to fit more in the realm of builders like Jackson-Guldan and United Guitar Co. These instruments, usually, aren't highly regarded as functional guitars and bring pretty low prices (< $150) when put up for sale. 
Common Palco guitar model
Image Source: Ebay - lilmels

I found a photo of a Palco guitar with a break on the top revealing a plywood construction. The neck on this instrument is also set quite crooked to the body indicative of poor quality control. The fingerboard is painted black with soft brass frets which was economical and easy to crank out.

Image Source: Imgur.com - CBL88

The neck is an anonymous hardwood painted opaque brown with no visible pores. I suspect the timber to be poplar or sweet gum as they were very common budget neck woods and required no expensive pore filling. Regarding the claim of a hickory neck, I don't see how that would be economical or even be the best choice for the job. A hickory neck would be heavy, require a pore filling step, is notoriously tough on machinery, and a billet large enough for a neck would be pricy. All that work just to paint it brown just doesn't make sense. The tuners are typical mid to late 60s import units from Japan

Image Source: Ebay - lilmels

This instrument has a scroll decal on the body with the word 'Hickory' written in black script and, honestly, I think is where the idea that these guitars were made of hickory came from. It's far more likely that Hickory was the brand name of a distributor selling these guitars. Again the body is sprayed in an opaque burst so it doesn't make sense to use expensive hickory veneer just to hide it. There are cheaper and easier plywoods to work with

Image Source: Ebay - lilmels

The back is also sprayed opaque brown with some color variation added. The neck heel is distinctive from other manufacturers of the era and left quite blocky.

Image Source: Ebay - lilmels


[1] 1966 Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries - I purchased a subscription to the Music Trades Magazine which gave me access to their limited digital archives
[1] 1966 Piano Trade Magazine - https://www.google.com/books/edition/PTM/n7lYAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=%22palco%20products%22%20
[2] 1966 Buyers Guide to the Piano Organ and General Music https://www.google.com/books/edition/Buyer_s_Guide_to_the_Piano_Organ_and_Gen/AY85AAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=palco
[3] 1965 Purchasers Guide to the Music Industries https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Purchaser_s_Guide_to_the_Music_Indus/csAgAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&kptab=overview&bsq=palco
[5] https://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn60789774&docId=ORC20060427211134#docIndex=0&page=1

Lion Banjo Ad from The Cadenza  from 1895 [2] About The Lion Banjo Manufacturing Company was incorporated in March of 1893 and settled in th...

Lion Banjo Ad from The Cadenza from 1895 [2]


The Lion Banjo Manufacturing Company was incorporated in March of 1893 and settled in the small town of Rock Rapids, Iowa[1]. Its officers were President H. G. McMillan, Vice-President F. M. Thompson, general manager H. C. Middlebrooke, and secretary H. B. Pierce. The stockholders were 16 individuals owning from $500 to $9000 worth  of stock in the company to comprise the initial capital of $35,000. McMillan boasted "We could have disposed of the stock just about as easily had the capital been placed at $50,000 instead of $35,000" in an interview for The Rock Rapids Review. He continued that the company had already gathered $10,000 in orders prior to the factory even being constructed [3]. The men brought with them some experienced luthiers for the purposes of training a local workforce to operate the plant [10].

According to a local genealogy website, Middlebrooke and McMillan went to Minneapolis around 1891 to find the financial backing to start the factory [3].

Gearing up for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Lion Banjo Mfg Co began building five ornate instruments to present along with their standard line. They were described as having necks made of Hungarian Ash, inlaid in mother of pearl, gold, and silver [4]. In total, twenty-one instruments went to Chicago on behalf of Rock Rapids and Lion Banjo Co [5].

The factory employed around 25-30 people and even had a small strike in July of 1893 when two men failed to show for work and were fired [13]. Seven other men, from Chicago, refused to work and were given the ultimatum of returning to their benches or losing their jobs. They went back to work [14].

In March of 1894, the factory reported building 46 instruments in the last week having shipped them to Los Angeles, CA, Galesburg, IL, and Mitchell, SD [12]. Since January 10th, they had built and shipped over 150 instruments [16]. In July, they had deemed their machinery and tools "too rough" for the quality of work they were intending and briefly closed to take stock and purchase replacements [11].

The Lion Banjo Manufacturing Company shut down for good in May of 1895 for reasons unknown [15]. But in December of 1896, Sherriff James Kemplay advertised in the local papers that a sale would take place on December 18th for the contents of the factory and the company's patents. The judgement was the result of a court case ruled in the favor of A. M. Getty and resulted in a debt of $2278.08 [8].

The Factory

Luckily, the very thorough, Sanborn map company had passed through Rock Rapids a number of times and the 1899 map captured the factory although they noted that it was closed. The main building was a two story, wood frame structure with a long single story warehouse and a small coal shed. The building was heated with stoves and there were no lights. Sanborn Co noted "Mach'y all in water power" which didn't mean much to me until I found a description in a 1960 issue of the Lyon County Reporter. The tools were powered by the municipal water supply using a 'special nozzle to produce pressure' which explains how a building 1000ft from the river accomplished that[7].

The factory appears on page 2 of the 1899 Sanborn Map
Situated on Boone St between 7th and 8th streets
Image Credit: Library of Congress

Now to find out where the factory was situated. 7th and 8th Streets both run through a neighborhood about a half dozen blocks south of the main strip which can't be right. So I overlaid the Sanborn map onto a satellite photo of Rock Rapids and figured that the East-West streets were renumbered. Boone and Greene are still there but 7th and 8th Streets have been renumbered First and N 2nd. Using that, I saw that the lot is currently home to a strip mall and the present location of the factory is parking lot.


Having shut its doors and gone to auction in late 1896, the building remained vacant  even up to 1899 when Sanborn surveyed the town. In 1902, Leicher Brothers opened a wagon and carriage shop in the "banjo factory" building [5]. By 1907, it was home to the Anchor Concrete and Stone Company [6]. The Sanborn company returned in 1913 to survey the town again and found the building occupied with a paint shop on the 1st floor, a carpenters shop in the warehouse, and all the unsold and incomplete inventory

1913 Sanborn Map
I can only surmise that there word didn't get out far enough (Sioux Falls is the closest city, 32 miles away), there wasn't enough interest among the locals, and America was on the tail end of a financial crisis. So the remains of Middlebrooke's grand venture and Rock Rapid's most promising business sat collecting dust for over 15 years.

In 1916, C. W. Bradley purchased the lot with the intention of renovating the building into apartments and stumbled across a cache of 100 completed guitars and banjos along with 'enough parts for that many more'. Allegedly, the remaining tooling was still up there as well 3 mahogany planks that were valued at $125. Bradley passed out (or sold at a pittance) many of the completed instruments and reached out to Chicago musical giant Lyon and Healy to sell the remaining stock. What else remained on the second floor is unknown but its likely that the factory closed abruptly as the court case was lost and everything unsold was shoved to the second floor and left. Bradley's apartments renovated the original factory building and added a white cement exterior [9].

The factory building managed to survive, hidden under the stucco and additions, until 1995 when the Rock Rapids City Council led a large movement for modernization and tore down the structure [17].


A description of an existing catalog found in the mid 1940s describes the Hawkeye banjo, in styles A and B, from $25-41 as well as the Middlebrooke banjo in two styles ranging from $25-60. The Middlebrooke Special sold up to $75 while a more affordable model, named the Columbus, retailed for $18. Lion also sold the Middlebrooke guitar banjo, Middlebrooke banjorine, banjorette, banjo mandolin, and a line of guitars.


So far, I have only found one reference on the internet to an existing Lion Mfg Co guitar which was sold at auction. This instrument has a spruce top over Brazilian Rosewood back and sides. The neck is mahogany, inlays are pearl, and the fingerboard could be ebony or dyed hardwood. The instrument looks professional and like a nice example of what they built. The auction house provided no specifics on the bracing inside the guitar.

Image Credit: Invaluable.com - Guernsey's Auction

Red ink stamp for the Lion Banjo Mfg Co
Image Credit: Invaluable.com - Guernsey's Auction


One of Middlebrooke's inventions was a banjo neck attachment that did not use the standard 'dowel stick' which he was not fond of. 


Hobart C. Middlebrooke, general manager, was a prolific inventor and held a number of patents for improvements in banjos. 


In 1891, Middlebrooke patented a banjo with organ reeds inlaid into the pot as well as up the neck which were designed to be tuned and provide sympathetic sounds.


At the same time, he also patented a fingerboard with a unique scallop intended to allow the instrument to ring out louder without fret rattle and make it easier to play.


In 1892, he patented a tailpiece which held the strings in a standard claw (Fig 3.) but passed them down through a plate (Fig 4.) which aligned the strings to the correct distance from each other and also added downward pressure.


In 1893, he patented a banjo neck fitted with a channel for the 5th string to pass through so it could be tuned at the headstock instead of its usual location. 


In 1894, he patented this wild banjo with a neck that folds in on itself at the 10th fret in order to facilitate transportation. The butt end of the hinge was actually designed to be the 10th fret. It also had a 5th string tuning peg that could recede into the neck of the instrument to keep it out of the way. He also designed these 'arms' which connected to the heel of the neck and supported the metal pot. He was not a fan of 'dowel stick' neck joints.


[1] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_National_Corporation_Reporter/gJRDAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22lion+banjo%22+co&pg=PA104&printsec=frontcover
[2] https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Cadenza-02-01.pdf
[3] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=review_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18930126_english_1&df=1&dt=10
[4] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18930602_english_1&df=1&dt=10
[5] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18930512_english_1&df=11&dt=20
[6] https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4154rm.g028071907/?sp=2&r=0.437,0.078,0.579,0.356,0
[7] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_19600822_english_5&df=11&dt=20
[8] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18961203_english_7&df=31&dt=40
[9] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_19560220_english_2&df=21&dt=30
[10] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_19430923_english_6&df=1&dt=10
[11] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=lion%20banjo&i=f&d=01011883-12312021&m=between&ord=k1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_19740722_english_2&df=11&dt=20
[13] http://iagenweb.org/lyon/bookhist/buncombe/blizz2.htm
[14] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&d=01011883-12312021&e=lion%20banjo&m=between&ord=e1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_20030723_english_5&df=11&dt=20
[15] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&d=01011883-12312021&e=lion%20banjo&m=between&ord=e1&fn=review_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18950523_english_5&df=11&dt=20
[16] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&d=01011883-12312021&e=lion%20banjo&m=between&ord=e1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_18940301_english_1&df=21&dt=30
[17] https://rockrapids.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&d=01011883-12312021&e=lion%20banjo&m=between&ord=e1&fn=lyon_county_reporter_usa_iowa_rock_rapids_19951227_english_1&df=21&dt=30

Image Source:  Ebay - wcmcsea About The seller, wcmcsea, began by pointing out that the label inside the instrument was difficult to read bu...

Image Source: Ebay - wcmcsea


The seller, wcmcsea, began by pointing out that the label inside the instrument was difficult to read but his best guess was 'Made by John E. Person, 70 Wega St., Jamestown, N.Y.' After doing a little preliminary digging and coming up short, I asked if I could get a closer photo of the label to which he kindly obliged. The label is faded and dirty but I fiddled around with some contrast settings and moved closer and further from my computer until my eyes started putting together the text.

Image Source: Ebay - wcmcsea

The first line reads "Made by:" which is fairly easy to see. The second line starts off a bit iffy, the first letter could be an "I", a "T", or a "J" and is followed by an "O" and two letters which look like "n". There is a space and then an uppercase "E" for a middle initial which was either circled in pencil or has been highlighted by a water spot. The last name starts with "Pers" and the last two letters have given me a lot of trouble in deciphering. I'm reading it as "Jonn E. Persea"

The third line reads "79 Wega St." which gave both the seller and I a bit of confusion as Wega Street does not (and has never) existed in Jamestown. It is likely referring to Vega Street which had been around since the late 1800s, at least, and does have a house numbered 79. Finally, "Jamestown, N.Y." is printed on the last line.

I don't have the instrument in my hands and can only go off of the photo I received of the label and what the seller had determined the label to say. I like to think, perhaps naively, that if I had the guitar in my hands I could discern more from the label with the proper light and angles.

Who is this man?

His Address

Trying to crack this case, I decided to delve into the one piece of information I knew for sure, the address. As I mentioned above, Wega Street does not exist and I searched city directories going back as far as 1891 and only ever found Vega Street. I do believe Wega to be a typo or a miscommunication stemming from an accent (Jamestown had a decent Swedish immigrant population). Vega Street is numbered, present day, from 2 Vega Street at the corner of Vega and Willard to 114 Vega Street (north of what is drawn on the Sanborn map).

The house currently at 79 Vega was built in 1895 and the street does not appear to have been renumbered (and old maps show that there was a structure in this same place) so I'm confident the address points to the same building.

1896 Sanborn Map
Vega Street is not mapped (lot 79 is marked with an X)
Library of Congress

I went through New York Heritage - Digital Collections who have a nice collection of city directories (1875-1916) and I jotted down the people who occupied the home at 79 Vega through the years.

Occupants of 79 Vega Street

  • 1900 
    • Andrew J Peterson
    • Charles A Carlson
    • Arvid H. L. Johnson
  • 1902
    • Andrew J Peterson
  • 1904
    • Andrew J Peterson
    • John Malm
  • 1906
    • Charles F. Danielson
    • John Malm
  • 1908
    • Charles Danielson
    • Mrs Adeline Malm
  • 1910
    • Elof G. Almeer
    • Mrs Adeline Malm
  • 1912
    • Charles F. Danielson
    • Mrs Adeline Malm
  • 1914
    • Same
  • 1916
    • Same

His Name

So the initial guess from the seller was John E Person and I saw something that looked like John E Persea. With a foolish amount of determination, I started combing through the city directories on Ancestry.com, which are consistently available from 1920 to 1960.

Unfortunately John Person only is listed in 1924 through 1928 and he lived at 315 W 8th which was downtown. So I expanded my search for Persson, Pearson, and anything else that seemed promising. I found a number of John and John E Pearsons who, quite confusingly, often married women named Hilda...

Johns of Jamestown

  • 1922 
    • John E Pearson - Carpenter -  Lived at 101 Johnson Street
  • 1924
    • John Person - 'lab' - 315 W 8th
    • John E Pearson - Carpenter - 101 Johnson St
    • John Pearson - Polisher at Crescent Tool Co -  200 E 2nd St
  • 1926
    • John Person - Furniture Worker - 315 W 8th
    • John Pearson - Finisher at Dalhstrom Metallic Door Co - 315 W 8th
    • John Pearson - Clerk - 27 Anderson 
    • John E Pearson - Carpenter/Contractor - 101 Johnson
    • John E Pearson - Crescent Tool Co - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Sheet Metalworker at Dalhstrom Metallic Door Co - 107 E 2nd
  • 1928
    • John Person - Furniture Worker - 315 W 8th
    • John Peason [sic] -Metal Worker - 107 E 2nd
    • John E Peason [sic] - Crescent Tool Co - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Junior Clerk - 27 Anderson
  • 1930
    • John Pearson - Metal Worker DMD Co - 45 S Main
    • John E Pearson - Machine Operator at Crescent Tool Co - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson -Metal Worker DMD Co - 112 W 7th
  • 1932
    • John Pearson - Toolmaker - 38 Chapman
    • John E Pearson - 73 Johnson
    • John E Pearson - Cabinetmaker - 206-1/2 Chandler
    • John E Pearson - DMD Co - 7 Beechview Avenue
    • John E Pearson - Machine Operator - 27 Anderson
  • 1934
    • John Pearson - Sander at DMD Co - 30 Anderson
    • John Pearson - Woodworker - 73 Johnson
    • John E Pearson - Carpenter - 73 Johnson
    • John E Pearson - Machinist - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Welder - 129 Johnson
    • John L Pearson - Cabinet Maker - 74 Forest Avenue
  • 1936
    • John Pearson - Carpenter - 73 Johnson
    • John Pearson - Sander - 59 Vega
    • John E Pearson - DMD Co - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Welder - 70 Sturges Apt 4
    • John L Pearson - Carpenter -74 Forest Avenue
  • 1937
    • John Pearson - 586 E 2nd
    • John Pearson - Polisher - 207 Prendergast Ave
    • John Pearson - Sander DMD Co - 59 Vega
    • John E Pearson  - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Assembler - 70 Sturges Apt 4
    • John L Pearson - Carpenter -74 Forest Avenue
  • 1939
    • John Pearson - Lab - 120 E 2nd 
    • John Pearson - DMD Co - 59 Vega
    • John E Pearson - 27 Anderson
    • John E Pearson - Lab - 337 Willard
    • John E Pearson - 74 Forest Ave
  • 1944
    • John Pearson - 207 Spring
    • John E Pearson - City Fireman - 1101 Ensign
    • John E Pearson - Inspector - 27 Anderson
    • John L Pearson - Die Maker - 16 Broadhead Ave
    • John L Pearson - Furniture Worker -74 Forest Ave
  • 1946
    • John E Pearson - Inspector - 27 Anderson
    • John L Pearson - Furniture Worker - 74 Forest Avenue
For posterity, I jumped ahead and checked some random years up until 1960 and John E Pearson (inspector), John L Pearson (furniture worker), and John E Pearson (fireman) were the only 3 John Pearsons in town. There were no people named John Person either.

John Pearson - 59 Vega Street

Finally, in the year 1936 we hit our first clue with Mr John Pearson (middle initial unknown) who lived at 59 Vega Street until 1939. It is possible that he lived at 30 Anderson as early as 1934 and moved to Vega Street later but I can't confirm that entry is tied to him and not another JP. His 3 to 5 year span in Jamestown managed to miss the US census, NY census, and WWII draft registration which I have found to be crucial for tying names to people, occupations, and locations. I've got nearly nothing from this guy except what he did.

His occupation was as a sander at the Dalhstrom Metallic Door Company in town which, unsurprisingly, produced doors and decorative trim out of sheet metal. It was quite innovative for the time and a copy of the 1923 Dalhstrom Metallic Door Co Catalog on Archive.org confirmed they did not work with wood. 

The vast majority of the luthiers I've researched came from an instrument building family (usually traced back to Europe), worked in an instrument factory, or had a strong background in fine woodworking like cabinet making. Having no discernable background in any of these makes it unlikely, in my opinion, that he would've had the knowledge or tools to build a guitar. 

That said, if we assume that he was the builder of this instrument then I'm going to say that whoever was working the printing press seriously botched this order. The label had John's last name misspelled, his street misspelled, and the wrong house number. Then John still decided to glue the blatantly incorrect label into his finished instrument? 


I don't know. This instrument has beaten me, I cannot definitively say I know who made it.


With proper identification unlikely to happen, I'm going to dive into the instrument itself because its fairly interesting.

The guitar has a mahogany neck with a slotted headstock that looks vaguely styled after a Martin. The slots in the headstock are nicely done but have a hint of human touch in their uneven sizing and tuner location. The top of the headstock is shaped quite crudely. The nut is roughly cut out of  a dyed wood.

The headstock slots are done quite nice and you can tell they were done by hand. Unusually, the headstock shape is quite crude and uneven which doesn't match the care taken on the body at all. Finally, the pattern of checking in the finish indicates a nitrocellulose and not shellac finish.

The tuning machines date to about the 1920s and are of a good quality, likely coming from New York City. They aren't a perfect fit on the headstock as you see they overhand over the back of the headstock near the bottom. Without seeing the wood underneath for extra screw holes, I cannot say for certain that they are original.

The back of the headstock again shows the nicely shaped slots which just a bit of variation in their size and shape. Interestingly, halfway down the headstock you can see a seam where the headstock was built from two pieces of mahogany glued end to end (hopefully using a scarf joint for strength).

Below that, around the middle of the 1st fret, is an unusual line of what looks to be putty or chewed up wood separating the headstock from the rest of neck. I pray it is just a decorative strip and not all the way through as that is a terrible spot for a butt joint (which are already a weak joint). Past that, is the main section of the neck comprised of two pieces of mahogany with a rosewood center strip and decorative quarter-circles at the corners. 

We haven't even passed the 3rd fret and already there are four pieces of mahogany used in the construction of the neck. Curious.

This pattern is replicated around the 10th or 11th fret where the center strip ends and the heel, another separate piece of mahogany, begins. The end of the heel has enough of a color difference that I think there is another piece of mahogany grafted on as well. I can see where the heel cap used to be (probably fell off) and the shiny residue of new glue that was used to reattach the neck.

Having seen and heard of no other instruments from this builder, its hard to say whether this whole neck construction is original or was part of a creative repair later on.

The top is spruce with black and white wood purfling on the edges, herringbone for the outer rosette ring, black and white for the inner, and rope wood binding on the soundhole. Simply and classy. The bridge is a replacement and other photos show it is lifting. It appears quite tall and has a 1/8" bone saddle with modern steel-string compensation filed into it.

The guitar has an upper bout width of 10-1/4" with a lower bout width of 13" which fits into the parlor guitar size except with a slightly wider upper bout than we'd expect from a steel string. Perhaps a bit of classical influence led to the larger upper bout.

The back is very nice flamed mahogany with a divided herringbone inlay and what appears to be evidence of lamination. So it would appear the back is a three piece laminate of mahogany-some white wood-and mahogany again. But John left the lamination edges exposed which does give the illusion of purfling.

 About William H. DeWick was born on December 15th, 1869 in Port Jefferson, New York to George and Aimee DeWick. His early life is unclear b...


William H. DeWick was born on December 15th, 1869 in Port Jefferson, New York to George and Aimee DeWick. His early life is unclear but being raised by a sailor must've imposed a level of discipline on William. Around 1896 he was working as a manager for George Clifton Dobson, son of the famed banjo manufacturer, in Brooklyn.

1896 Advertisement
Image Credit: Google Books

By 1900, he had married his wife Ruth and was working as a music teacher [1]. In 1910, he was a listed in the census as a manufacturer of musical instruments and a year later appeared in the Directory of Music Industries under both 'banjo' and 'guitars and mandolins'. His address was listed as 6 Halsey Street [2][3].

In 1922, William patented a banjo with a back cover and "sounding board" as well as a neck attachment mechanism for the same instrument.

Patent 1681148
Image Credit: Google Patents

Patent 1567359
Image Credit: Google Patents

He continued to work as an instrument maker through the 1930s and by the 1940 census had taken on a new occupation as a house painter [4][5]. Perhaps it was a change of pace 


[1] 1900 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7602/images/4114534_00349?pId=48572985
[2] 1910 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7884/images/4449833_01024?pId=17709524
[3] Directory of Music Industries - https://www.google.com/books/edition/Directory_of_Music_Industries/hMkwAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=dewick%20
[4] 1930 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4661128_00846?pId=122745017
[5] 1940 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-02686-00367?pId=6633697

About Louis Sutz was born in Friedrichsthal, Baden-Württemberg, Germany on June 17th, 1862 to parents Peter and Carolina. He moved to the Un...


Louis Sutz was born in Friedrichsthal, Baden-Württemberg, Germany on June 17th, 1862 to parents Peter and Carolina. He moved to the United States in 1880 and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio[1]. By 1882, was living at 530 John Street with Fred and Fred Jr Sutz who were blacksmiths [4]. Four years later he was married to his wife Philomena and working as a "body maker" while living at 614 Central Avenue [3]. In 1891, he was now listed as a woodworker living at 341 Clifton Avenue [2].

1904 map with Sutz's shop located at the corner of Huber and Vine
The building was demolished and is currently a parking lot
Image Credit: Cincinnati Library Sanborn Map

In 1895, he entered the musical instrument business and moved into 1616 Vine Street [5]. The 1900 census lists Louis as a music dealer while the 1910 census lists him as a music instructor [6][7]. In the 1920 census, Louis is a repairman of musical instruments and in 1930 is listed simply as the owner of a music store [8][9]. He had retired by the 1940 census [10]


Four different label designs have shown up on the internet however we do not have a date range for the use of any of them. 

I would wager this is one of his earliest labels
Image Credit: Mandolin Cafe user - Jim Garber - Found on a defunct Korean website

Image Credit: Invaluable.com

Image Credit: Invaluable.com

Same design now in gold text on blue paper
Image Source: Mandolin Cafe User - Andy G


As Louis' label explains, he made violins, mandolins, guitars, zithers, and likely other instruments if a customer requested. I'm having a hard time locating his factory, its entirely possible it was at 1616 Vine Street but the Sanborn map company was usually pretty good about documenting manufacturing in their maps and they mention nothing in the 1904 map.

I believe he built his instruments but it is not unheard of for a store to build some instruments and import others (Weymann and Sons, Gretsch, and Fender all did this)



Looking at Louis' surviving guitars, we can try to pinpoint some details to identify him from other builders. Headstocks are tough. Sometimes they can have little quirks that immediately set them apart, such as the shape of the slots, and other times they can look incredibly generic. 

Sutz's headstock with 3 extra holes for some reason
Image Credit: Invaluable.com


Louis was clearly influenced by Spanish classical guitar building as his heels are large and proud compared to the more diminutive sizing of the French and German instruments.  
Sutz's large heel
Image Credit: Invaluable.com

However, this early example of his work has a smaller heel which is more in line with American construction of the late 1800s

Unusually small heel from an earlier instrument
Image Credit: Blog.Daum.Net - Paul Song


Bridges from this era are tough, they were dainty and often didn't survive the advent of steel stringed guitars (and people putting them on guitars they weren't designed for). I've only found one guitar online that was in good enough condition for me to consider the bridge to be original. It was only advertised as being "full-height"

Possible Sutz bridge
Pyramid bridge with fretwire saddle
Image Credit: UMGF.com - MojoDreads


Sutz sold both traditional bowl-back mandolins as well as newer flat-back mandolins. 

Image Credit: Reverb - Mike's Music

Image Credit: Invaluable

Flat Back

His flat back mandolins are uniquely shaped. They are like an A-style but wider in the lower bout

Image Credit: Invaluable.com


[1] Grave - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/106179197:60525?ssrc=pt&tid=182251037&pid=312438174278
[2] 1891 directory - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/282808118:2469?tid=182251037&pid=312438174278&queryId=7e1d39640a307892ebdc95e625edc1e0&_phsrc=OTJ1244&_phstart=successSource
[3] 1886 directory - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/287090413:2469?tid=182251037&pid=312438174278&queryId=7e1d39640a307892ebdc95e625edc1e0&_phsrc=OTJ1244&_phstart=successSource
[4] 1882 directory - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/284154194:2469?tid=182251037&pid=312438174278&queryId=7e1d39640a307892ebdc95e625edc1e0&_phsrc=OTJ1244&_phstart=successSource
[5] 1895 directory - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1107350167:2469?tid=182251037&pid=312438174278&queryId=c1e433bb0786ccad13b25ba2062411c8&_phsrc=OTJ1253&_phstart=successSource
[6] 1900 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7602/images/4117737_00160?pId=40275446
[7] 1910 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7884/images/4449733_00454?pId=21828609
[8] 1920 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4383746_00452?pId=33797531
[9] 1930 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4639628_00607?pId=72375556
[10] 1940 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-03192-00704?pId=35754331

Portrait c.1912 Image Credit: [3] About Franklin Howard Griffith was born December 19th, 1867 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father Isaiah was ...

Portrait c.1912
Image Credit: [3]


Franklin Howard Griffith was born December 19th, 1867 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father Isaiah was a carpenter while his mother stayed home tending to the house [1][2]. He often signed his name as F. Howard indicating his preference for his middle name. According to a 1912 biography, Griffith began working at the largest music house in Baltimore in 1886 and shortly after was offered the position of manager of a Philadelphia music house. In 1888, Howard went into business for himself and by 1890 had begun manufacturing musical instruments

F. H. Griffith & Co - (1890-1897)

Howard opened his first music store at 1102 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia where he sold banjos, mandolins, and guitars. Whether these instruments were actually built by his company or were ordered from other firms requires more time spent inspecting the existing instruments.

1891 ad 
Image Credit: Google Books - The Étude Music Magazine

1891 ad
Image Credit: Google Books - Book News

In 1892, Griffith patented a package for instrument strings made of wax paper with separate pockets for each string intended to protect gut strings from being exposed to the environment and deteriorating.

Patent 488,005
Image Credit: Google Patents

By 1895, the firm had moved to 131 South 11th Street and advertised their mandolins and guitars almost exclusively. 

1895 Ad
Image Credit: Google Books - The Étude

In 1897, Griffith sold off his instrument manufacturing firm and spent the next 6 years seeking gold in Alaska. He moved back to the United States in 1903 and lived in Arizona and California, continuing as a miner, before moving back to Philadelphia where he continued to manage his mines across the country and became a director of three oil companies [3]


[1] Passport application - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1174/images/USM1490_580-0103?pId=1044623
[2] 1880 census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6742/images/4241604-00584?pId=49336657
[3] Notables of the Southwest - 1912 - https://www.google.com/books/edition/Press_Reference_Library/j-IDAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22f+h+griffith%22+music+instruments&pg=PA211&printsec=frontcover