S. Nathaniel Adams

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


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  About      Gustav Adolph Carlson was born in April of 1869 in Sweden. As is often the case, his early life in the old country is unclear. ...



    Gustav Adolph Carlson was born in April of 1869 in Sweden. As is often the case, his early life in the old country is unclear. He immigrated to the United States in 1891 and settled in Chicago, a booming city with a considerable Swedish population. In 1895, he married a fellow Swede named Alma Malinquist and by Februrary of the next year they had their first and only child, Pearl Lillian Judith Carlson [1].

1895 Sanborn map showing 6011 S. Halsted
Two families lived at 6011 and a large outbuilding would've been ideal for a workshop.
Image Credit: Library of Congress

    The earliest reference to Gustav is found in the 1896 City Directory where he was working as a guitar maker and living at 6011 South Halsted Street in the Englewood neighborhood [5]. In the absence of surviving literature from the years prior, his formative years in Chicago are unknown. I can reasonably assume, from my research on other luthiers of the period, that he would've had been apprenticed to a carpenter, cabinetmaker, or joiner as a boy and brought those, marketable, skills to the new world. Chicago had one of the largest populations of musical instrument manufacturers in the country, rivalled only by New York, which would've offered a wide selection of large firms and independent builders with whom to learn from.

The Storefront

    By 1897, he was operating out of 741 West 63rd Street, a few blocks south of his house, and listed as working with musical instruments [2]. Interestingly, his building number changes to 750 in 1898 and 753 in 1899 [3][6]. I can't say I entirely understand why it changed each year but perhaps numbering was more a loose suggestion until Chicago standardized and renumbered their streets a decade later. Perhaps Gustav was actually moving his shop and tools to the neighboring building each year but I find that hard to believe. By the 1900 census, his residence was listed as 755 West 63rd Street and he was working as an 'instrument manufacturer' [4]. I do believe he moved into this building as it was three stories, compared to the single level at 741, and would have plenty of room for a family to live above a business. 

1895 Sanborn Map showing the 700 block of W 63rd Street
Image Credit: Library of Congress

    I won't suggest drawing a connection between the address on the label, his address in the directory, and try to conclude the date of manufacture unless a Carlson instrument surfaces with an altered label or different address. I believe the story behind this to be far more simple if we place ourselves in his shoes. Gustav, having just signed the lease on a storefront, would've sought out a printing shop in the directory and placed an order for a stack of paper labels with his name, occupation, and address. As an investment, tossing the inaccurate labels would've been foolish and a customer walking down the 700 block of 63rd Street would've found him anyways.

Taking the 9 to 5

The Chicago trail ran cold after the census but surprisingly there was a hit in Denver, Colorado for Gustav and "Emma" in 1910. Gustav was working for the Pullman Company, the railroad giant. It took a while to detangle the mess of information and it turned out that Pearl, their daughter, was the link connecting the families. It's a unique name. They first appear in Denver in the 1903 city directory living at 399 Williams Street and working as a carpenter. By 1905, they are living at 3406 Humboldt Street and by 1910 they are living at 3408 Humboldt [8][9].

Manufacturing instruments is a tough business. Its expensive in materials, tools, and time building for a clientele that often makes their living with gigs. I believe Gustav learned of an employment opportunity, utilizing skills he already had, and simply couldn't refuse an opportunity for a steady paycheck. Or perhaps he was chased out of town for cheating at cards. I'm just speculating.

Gustav worked for the rail company until his retirement and when Alma passed, in 1944, he moved in with Pearl and her husband Albert Sorenson. His date of death is unclear and, through this research, I really understood how even paper records are prone to human error or omission. Alma was thirteen years younger than Gustav and nine years younger than what was originally claimed in the 1900 census. That age difference is supported in each census from 1910 to 1940 but her tombstone references her, likely incorrect, birth date. Their daughter Pearl Lillian Judith and Gustav's birthdate are the only consistent facts.


I would safely place the production of G. A. Carlson's instruments, on 63rd Street, between 1896 and 1902.

Gregg Miner's incredible website, www.harpguitars.net, features two articles about Carlson's instruments. His knowledge pertaining to harp guitars and how they evolved makes the articles very well informed. He has a collection of black and white photographs showing harp guitars with the bands and musicians that played them and was able to connect historical photos with photos of Carlson instruments that have surfaced in the modern era. He notes four possible Carlson instruments including two that he knows to have survived. I am in the process of repairing a previously unknown example, the fifth G. A. Carlson harp guitar to be identified on the internet.

Construction of one Carlson harp guitar

Gregg Miner includes images and descriptions of the details and structure of the Carlson guitars that he has seen, including the Carlson that he currently owns. This instrument differs in a few ways from the guitars that Gregg has observed but it still shows enough of the tell-tale signs of Gustav's hand. He didn't build each guitar exactly the same, there was some experimentation and evolution.

This instrument was sitting in a damp environment, the tail end has water damage and the back has fallen off. There are previous repairs and modifications which need to be addressed but the core of the instrument is still there. The top is constructed from four pieces of spruce, I'm no good with identifying specific species, and finished in a french polish. The back and sides are birdseye maple and finished in a varnish, like a violin. It has the most curious bridge, its a large piece of mahogany (likely cuban) with integral through holes which connect to the tailpiece. The bridge is secured to the tailpiece with split nuts.

I was surprised by the bracing inside this guitar, it's the largest bracing I have ever seen in an instrument and I couldn't be happier. Instruments from this era were, primarily, built for gut strings and were braced very lightly. Once steel strings became mainstream, they found their way onto many guitars including those that definitely weren't built for it. This guitar was built stout enough to support the extra tension and I am certain that helped guarantee the survival of this guitar. Each longitudinal brace is 9/16" wide by 3/4" tall with about 1/16" in variance. These braces are rectangular and burnished to a dull sheen. The bridge plate is a 1/4" piece of walnut. The tail block reinforcement has since fallen off and been lost. 

Here is a closeup of the upper bout. The dovetails were cut with a handsaw and don't quite meet the centerline of each neck. The soundhole reinforcement braces are large, which is excellent. And the 'popsicle' brace between the neck block and first brace is a nice addition. Martin wouldn't use it until the late 1940s.

Here is a bug I found in one of the braces, not cool little buddy. You can also see that the back braces are carved very flat and the edges are more crude. This will come up in my restoration blog as I believe the braces to be original but tampered with.


[1] 1900 Census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7602/images/4113743_00583?pId=11420534
[2] 1897 City directory - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2469/images/4710924?pId=368304793
[3] 1898 City directory - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2469/images/4734708?pId=372934718
[4] 1900 Census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7602/images/4113743_00583?pId=11420534
[5] 1896 City directory - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2469/images/4703606?pId=372934718
[6] 1899 City directory - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2469/images/4706343?pId=368304793
[7] 1910 Census - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7884/images/31111_4328173-00526?pId=130307002
[8] 1910 Denver city directory - https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/27620/images/dvm_LocHist011768-00166-0?
[9] 1905 Denver city directory - https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/928121728:2469?tid=&pid=&queryId=5d778592-a70d-4fef-bdff-0c0539fc71b3&_phsrc=EUo129&_phstart=successSource

Eau Claire Lumber Company advertisement c.1875 [1]  About The Eau Claire Lumber Company was founded by Joseph G Thorp and his brother-in-law...

Eau Claire Lumber Company advertisement
c.1875 [1]


The Eau Claire Lumber Company was founded by Joseph G Thorp and his brother-in-law, N. C. Chapman, in 1866 [4]. Joseph Thorp had apprenticed with a merchant, Ira Wilcox, in New York from the ages of seventeen until he was twenty-one. After his apprenticeship, Wilcox brought Thorp on as a partner and they continued until 1846 when Wilcox retired and sold his interest to Thorp's brother-in-law, N. C. Chapman. Chapman and Thorp operated for another ten years before making the decision to leave New York and head West in search of prosperity. It was June of 1856 when Thorp first visited the new town of Eau Claire in Wisconsin and saw plentiful forests, strong rivers, and endless opportunity. Before leaving, he purchased 3,000 acres of land which included trees, a saw mill, and water to power it. This began a new leg for the partnership of Thorp & Chapman [3].


In 1858, N. Chapman travelled down the Mississippi to St Louis, leaving Thorp in charge at Eau Claire, to open a lumber yard in which to distribute the logs they floated. In 1866, they formally established the Eau Claire Lumber Company with a capital of $200,000 [3]. They primary dealt with Pine. In 1878, their shipping yard at the end of Salisbury Street received a shipment containing 800,000 feet of lumber, 500,000 shingles, 50,000 lath, and 300,000 pickets. Their office and yard appear to have been located at the northwest corner of Cass and 14th Streets [8]. In 1883, flooding from the Mississippi threatened much of downtown St Louis and the levees were being constantly maintained by Captain Christopher Smith, superintendent of the yard [9]. 

By 1887, the company sold their mills in Eau Claire as well as Standing Pine, Minnesota to the Mississippi River Logging Company [7]. Their remaining stock was to be floated down the Mississippi to be sold in St Louis. In 1888 or 1889, the firm dissolved and paid its shareholders handsomely [2].

"Eau Claire Lumber Board(?)"
Stamped on a rafter in an 1800s structure in St Charles, Missouri


[1] "Compiled Statement of the Lumber Trade and Manufacture for the Year 1874" Northwestern Lumberman, 1875 https://books.google.com/books?id=ApzXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA105&dq=%22eau+claire+lumber%22+st+louis&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjgsJX1p4GFAxWkmokEHX5kB34Q6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] "Annual Statement of the Trade and Commerce of Saint Louis for the Year" Merchants' Exchange of St Louis 1885 https://books.google.com/books?id=jP1FAQAAMAAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&dq=%22eau+claire+lumber%22+st+louis&source=gbs_navlinks_s
[3] https://books.google.com/books?id=KuoqAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA624&dq=%22eau+claire+lumber%22+st+louis&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjgsJX1p4GFAxWkmokEHX5kB34Q6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=%22eau%20claire%20lumber%22%20st%20louis&f=false
[4] http://eauclaire.wigenweb.org/histories/1914ecco/chapter21/index.htm
[5] "The Great Southwest" L. U. Reavis. Nixon-Jones Printing Company, 1882 https://books.google.com/books?id=a_kYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PT14&dq=%22eau+claire+lumber%22+st+louis&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjv-crQrIGFAxWqv4kEHV0RAxI4ChDoAXoECAkQAg#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] https://digital.shsmo.org/digital/collection/plat/id/6676
[7] https://stltoday.newspapers.com/image/138124318/?terms=eau%20claire%20lumber&match=1
[8] https://stltoday.newspapers.com/image/137797347/?terms=eau%20claire%20lumber&match=1
[9] https://stltoday.newspapers.com/image/139277230/?terms=eau%20claire%20lumber&match=1

Ogden Avenue      In 1890, at the 26th anniversary of Lyon & Healy's founding, a group of reporters were invited to tour the factory...

Ogden Avenue

    In 1890, at the 26th anniversary of Lyon & Healy's founding, a group of reporters were invited to tour the factory and report about what they had seen. This five-story factory was built on Ogden Avenue, facing Union Park, after the company outgrew their previous facility on Canal Street. 

    When you entered the front doors, you found managers' offices, drafting rooms where instruments and machines were designed, and a sample room containing examples of what Lyon and Healy produced. The rooms were paneled in oak and furnished with oak chairs, desks, and cabinets. As you left the offices and walked into the shipping department, one would be overwhelmed by the quantity of boxes and creates destined for stores and consumers all over North America and across the Atlantic. Even as far as Sydney, Australia. 

    Adjacent to the packing room was the sawing department located in the south wing of the first floor, likely the loudest room in the entire factory. Here, rough timbers from across the globe were brought to the factory and sawn, planed, and stacked to fully dry before craftsmen transformed them into instruments. One reporter made special note of the "graduating" machine which reduced the spruce, mahogany, oak, and rosewood to the uniform thickness required for instruments. The reporter doesn't mention whether the woods are sanded or scraped to thickness but does note that the bed of the machine sits on a large screw which can be adjusted to a thousandth of an inch. 

Two men passing wood through the "graduating" machine
(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    Another fascinating tool is the "fretting" machine which was invented by factory superintendent George V. Durkey, who was also responsible for the Durkey patent guitar bridge. 18 razor thin saw blades were mounted to an arbor at scientifically precise measurements and a board would be passed under the arbor to slice the slots for the fretboard. This machine would've been revolutionary for its precision and repeatability and the design remained in use for decades. I spoke with Dean Zelinsky, of Dean Guitars, who had purchased a similar machine from the auction of the Kay guitar factory and had used it to launch his brand. Another tool of note was a duplicating lathe, like those used for gun stocks, that turned billets of Spanish cedar or mahogany into a shaped neck ready for a guitar or mandolin.

Operating the duplicarver making guitar necks
 (Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    In the west wing were the blacksmith and metalworking departments. The blacksmiths made tools, fixtures, and repairs needed to run the factory while the metalworking department created the hardware for their products. A 400lb drop hammer stamped out cymbals in "two blows" before the metal was taken to a trip hammer which pounds a spinning cymbal to work harden the metal. A lathe is used to finish the cymbal for the correct sound and appearance. Banjo pots and tambourines were also formed in this wing using lathes and specially fabricated tooling. One quality that sets Lyon and Healy apart was that they also fabricated machine heads, or tuning machines as we know them, for their instruments in this wing. Most other manufacturers relied on companies to construct their tuning machines but Lyon and Healy retained control over every aspect of what went into their instruments. 

    Producing a machine head began with a sheet of metal, typically brass or steel, passing through a large press which stamps out the shape and holes of each tuner plate. A screw machine cuts threads into a rod of iron and another machine cuts gears into another rod; these will become mechanism that allow the string to be brought up to pitch and remain at that pitch. After all the pieces are assembled and the buttons attached via riveting (mushrooming the end over the celluloid button), the tuner is complete and ready for the next department. It was estimated that over 870,000 parts of tuners are produced annually for their instruments.

A craftsman likely scraping the sides of a glued-up guitar body
(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    Next along the tour was the guitar department with "no less than 7,000 instruments being seen here in various stages of construction". Similarly, around 2,000 mandolins were in the process of being bent, glued, and polished as they walked through the factory. Among the other instruments, Mr. Healy pointed out to the group that they had shipped 3,000 banjos to London in the past two years owing to its popularity. The reporter mentions the harp and organ department in a few sentences with little detail. After concluding the tour of the factory, all twenty-four members of the tour group were were seated in a banquet hall as speeches and small musical performances honored the twenty-six years in business as Lyon & Healy 

Chicago Daily Herald

In 1896, Lyon and Healy reprinted the description of the tour that originally appeared in the Chicago Daily Herald. This is one of the best descriptions of an 1800s guitar factory that I have ever read and will paraphrase the author's observations here. The article in it's entirety can be read here: Google Books - Lyon and Healy "Handbook of Music and Musical Instruments"

    The Lyon and Healy factory facing Union Park is five stories tall with fifteen rooms and 100,000 square feet of floor space. The building is powered by a 150 horsepower Corliss engine in addition to a 30hp engine for heating and ventilation. A tank on the roof holds 8,000 gallons of water and faucets spaced ten feet apart provide adequate coverage in the case of combustion. Within this factory, craftsmen build guitars, mandolins, zithers, banjos, banjorines, banjorettes, guitar-banjos, tamborines, drums, flageolets, harps, dulcimers, cymbals, fifes, bones, and organs. An equally staggering number of wood species are used including six varieties of maple, hickory, spruce, elm, whitewood, rosewood, mahogany, Spanish cedar, lignum vitae, ebony, and olivewood. Other raw materials include mother-of-pearl, tortoise shell, brass, zinc, copper, nickel, silver, gold, and platinum. The operations of a factory were described as a "beehive" with each craftsman working on their specialty before handing the instrument on to the next worker.
Drilling the bracket holes in banjo hoops
(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    In the wood room on the first floor, twenty different machines are found being operated by the same number of workmen. A steam powered lathe, invented by the superintendent of the factory, can transform a billet of wood into an instrument neck with a speed unheard of in the industry. Where a talented woodworker could make fourteen necks in a day, this machine can carve one hundred and sixty. The description of this tool matches that of a duplicating lathe as a pattern is placed in the machine along with a beam of wood and the cutting operation makes an exact replica. The reporter notes that it only takes about three minutes to fabricate a neck. Another man works at a lathe creating drumsticks. He inserts a cut of ebony, which strikes me as an odd choice but I am no drummer, between the headstock and tailpiece of the lathe and carves then sands a drumstick. The reporter clocked the operation at 1 minute and 8 seconds. Further down the hall is another craftsman soaking sheets of maple and hickory in boiling water before placing them in a brass mold to form a hoop. The ends are cut flush and then glued together.

(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    The tour steps into another room with a faint chemical smell where two men work among tubs dipping and transferring metal pieces into solutions for electro plating. Here, the hardware is plated in gold, silver, and nickel as needed. A bath of sulfuric acid is used to clean the metal, water washes away the acid, then into a tub of potash which leave the metal shiny and glistening. The workers are protected by "stout rubber gloves", I can only hope the room was well ventilated. The group proceeds into the polishing room where they are greeted by spinning cotton wheels in front of men and boys who are given boxes of materials that they are to polish. 

(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    Off to the inlay room to see how the pearl gets processed to adorn the instruments of Lyon and Healy. The room contains a large closet with shelves full of glimmering shells, primarily from southern California, that retail for eight cents a pound in the rough. More expensive shells from Australia cost fourty-five cents a pound. The workers handle the shells with care as they use a power saw to cut the raw shell into squares which are then taken to a steam-powered grindstone to flatten the pearl into slabs. The reporter mentions their astonishment at seeing how much shell was tossed out or lost in order to process the blanks. From here, boys (very often apprentices in their early teens) will sit with fine-toothed saws and cut the pearl to shape and perform rough inlay work. The more experienced men handle the finer artistry by carving lines and designs into the pearl.

    "A stout brass rod is feeing the yawning jaw of the machine, and it bites of chunks of it, seizes them with its teeth and claws and twists, twirls them and knocks them round and round, finally dropping the product in a basin underneath. You look at it and find it is a nut for a banjo bolt with the thread running around on the inside of it" 

    Passing into the machine room, no less than fourty-five machines are situated in a large workshop dedicated to metal. Many of the machines run their processes automatically but require a boy to stand within reach to swap parts and start the process. 

    The author notes a pleasant feeling leaving the "kingdom of rough, inartistic metal" as they pass into the woodshops. He notes a hundred or more men visible working on every stage of these instruments as they lay on benches, dry on shelves, and rest on floors. Describing a "row of funny-looking objects, with screws stretching out all over them" are the bowlback mandolins in their jigs meant to press the wood strips into shape. Bowlback mandolins are constructed from varying strips of hardwood that are steambent into a curve, glued on their edges, and form the "bowl" that is responsible for projecting sound from the instrument. An iron mold is used in this factory to keep the shape while screws hold everything in alignment for clamping. An odor of rosewood fills the room of instruments and, it is explained, that because rosewood is so gummy they iron each strip before gluing to remove as much resin as possible.

A 'library' of woods left in the open for proper drying before use
(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    In the drying rooms, Lyon and Healy airdries their lumber without artificial heat believing it to be detrimental to the structure of the wood. The room is filled with racks and each rack contains shelves with up to 2,400 pieces of wood sitting on wooden pins for adequate airflow. This is where the the backs, sides, and tops of future instruments are stored until they have seasoned for at least five years. Next to the drying room is a gluing room where the bent sides of an instrument are glued to the top and back by large presses suspended from the ceiling. Each piece is coated with hot hide glue and, in my observation, scraped with a "toothing" blade to promote adhesion, and then placed into a press where the author notes that they remain for one and a half hours.

A worker clamping braces onto the top or back of a guitar 
(Lyon & Healy, 1896)

    The job of slotting fingerboards is made easier by the invention of a machine that allows for a board to be affixed, a crank is turned, and precisely located saws cut the slots to an equal depth at a mathematically determined spacing. Another worker sits in front of a lathe spinning ivory and ebony to fashion buttons and keys. And without much fanfare, the article ends. 

Fullerton Avenue Factory

Image Credit: [3]

    In 1914, Lyon and Healy constructed a new piano factory at 4100 Fullerton Avenue in Chicago at a cost of $450,000. [2][3]. The structure was laid out in a shape similar to a capital "E" with each wing being 60 feet wide. The building was constructed with reinforced concrete, large windows, red brick, and a white terracotta trim to blend function with beauty. Much like the factory on Ogden, the first floor was dedicated to processing the lumber using the newest electric saws, planers, and sanding machines [2]. The most interesting detail of the factory was the attention paid to incorporating natural light through use of large windows spaced frequently around the structure.

Image Credit: [3]

    The "Daylight Factory", as it was known, was designed to capture light no matter the time of day with at least 50% of the wall space being window. The interior pillars were painted white, to reflect light, and skylights allowed for even more illumination on the top floor. R. H. Waud, the plant's superintendent believed that this attention to the needs of their workers was reflected in the work that they produced. I found it humorous that Mr. Waud noted his plant also suffered the "characteristic post-war tendency" of workers to "pick up their hats and leave if urged ever so politely and gently to speed up". To expedite construction, all of the operations were laid out to keep everything moving in a line with as little backtracking as possible. Once a craftsman finished a component, it left for the next department [3].

Image Credit: [3]

    The raw lumber enter the campus on a spur track from the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Pail railway and are loaded on trucks which haul them to the kilns for drying. The wood is then easily moved to the first floor where craftsmen use electric saws, planers, and sanders to process the timber. Still on the first floor, the dimensioned lumber moves to the the cabinetmaking room where veneers are glued, lumber is shaped into components, and the carcass of the piano constructed. An elevator on the southern end lifts the soon-to-be pianos to the second floor where the staining and grain filling can be taken care of. Here the benches are assembled and the pianos are fully assembled and tested. The pianos take another ride to the fourth floor "rubbing rooms" where they are finished and polished before being sent back down to the second floor to be prepared for shipping. The north end of the second floor opens onto an elevated track where the finished instruments can be loaded directly onto the train cars and shipped to their their distributors. The third floor contains the machinist shop and also doubles as a room for construction of harps, banjos, mandolins, and violins [3].

Interestingly, the equipment seen on each floor was listed.

First Floor
  • Back shaper
  • Automatic drill
  • Sanding Machine
  • Two belt sanders
  • Scraper
  • Trim Saw
  • Band Saw
  • Two Rip Saws
  • Grinder and emery wheel
  • Veneer splicing machine
  • Veneer cutter
  • Veneer hydraulic press
  • Veneer gluing machine
  • Sawdust blower
  • Three jointers
  • Rip saw
  • Glue Press
  • Swing saw
  • Two planers
  • One sticker(?)
  • Automatic turning lathe
  • Boring machine
On the third floor in the harp department:
  • Lathes
  • Drill presses
  • Punch presses
  • Etc
In the machine shop
  • Jig saw
  • Drill press
  • Table Saw
  • Grind Stone
On the fourth floor
  • Rubbing machines
  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • Emery wheel


[1] hMusical Courier Company. Musical Courier: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Music and the Music Trades, Volumes 20-21 https://books.google.com/books?id=hG-BPEXqX-MC&pg=RA2-PA414&dq=lyon+and+healy+factory+tour&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjv1_DuutOEAxU5OTQIHdY-D90Q6AF6BAgHEAI
[2] Violinist Publishing Company. The Violinist. 1915 https://books.google.com/books?id=i6pGAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA5-PA29&dq=lyon+and+healy+factory&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYleLXu9OEAxULFzQIHatSA3oQ6AF6BAgMEAI
[3] Hardwood Company. Hardwood Record, Volume 49. 1920 https://books.google.com/books?id=kgI3AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA3-PA27&dq=lyon+and+healy+factory&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYleLXu9OEAxULFzQIHatSA3oQ6AF6BAgIEAI

About On my website, I focus on obscure instrument builders, unique facts, and clearing up rumors using historical data and research. There ...


On my website, I focus on obscure instrument builders, unique facts, and clearing up rumors using historical data and research. There are no ads on this website, no affiliate links, and the only money that is exchanged is the $12 a year I pay for the domain name. 

I have a number of sources that I regularly go to from Ancestry.com to online archives of the Music Trade Review to Newspapers.com to public domain items on Google Books. Every time I use an image or reference a fact, I cite sources in no particularly fancy format so that they can be easily followed to prove what I am saying. 

I do this for the love of the history and to help people with identifying instruments and eras of manufacture and have received hundreds of emails asking for additional help or thanking me for compiling this information.

However, on February 10th, 2024 I received an email from Steve Brown from the website www.VintAxe.com
Nat. Take down the catalog scans you stole from VintAxe.com or I will contact your internet service provider and they will take down your website until you remove the unauthorized content. 

I replied asking for clarification and he replied:

... You are not the first person to steal and post images from me, I know how to handle the situation. Do yourself a favor and do the right thing. You know you are wrong, admit that and take down my catalogs.

I apologized and began removing any images that originated from his website. He then replied including an email with Michael Wright who is a collaborator at Vintage Guitar Magazine and has written a book which has compiled most of the Kay guitar knowledge. 

Thanks Michael. I will give him once more chance to remove the unauthorized content. If he refuses, I will contact his hosting site (Google LLC) and file a claim for a Digitial Millennium Copyright Act violation. For me, here is the violation:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal for someone to remove your watermark. If you can prove that someone removed or altered the watermark used in your image in an unauthorized manner, you may be able to recover fines up to $25,000 plus attorneys fees for the infringement.

 For you, the violation is a copyright infringement. With your permission, I will include you on the complaint as a copyright violation

I respect the work of Michael Wright and own one of his books and to hear that he would consider legal action against me really brought me down. Mr. Brown was roping another person in and, it sounded like, trying to build a case that could wreck my life with legal fees. I certainly don't have $25,000 to pay for even one violation.

I wrote a cordial reply explaining I did not scan Michael Wright's book but screenshotted 3 lines from a PDF that is on the Kay Vintage Reissue guitar website showing a guitar model and the year it was manufactured. They have scans from Wright's book that are provided freely and with the wording 'courtesy of Michael Wright'. I had taken a snip of a small section of text and put that in my website with a citation to Wright's book and page.

I recognize now that I could've just used the text and that was a misstep on my part. I believed it had fallen under fair use but have since removed the offending image just to be sure.

The Kay Vintage Reissue web page also has multiple Kay catalogs that are scanned in full and are an excellent resource ,which I pointed out. Of course, Steve claims that they were stolen from him as well:
Yeah, vintage reissue stole the pages. The guy also stole from me claiming he bought the brand name and therefore he owned everything Kay. At the time, I didn't fight him on it, but all the images on his site are mine.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA protects copyrighted works from unauthorized digital reproduction with exceptions carved out for libraries, educational institutions, and what is called Fair Use. The purpose of this act is to protect those who create intellectual property against those who copy.

The folks at VintAxe firmly believe that the scans that they sell on their website are copyrighted since their watermark is on the page. From his email, it sounds like I am not the first person he has threatened and I can only image what money he might've been able to wring out of people who would rather it be over and done with. But as this website attests to, I love asking questions and diving down 'rabbit holes' of information until I get a better understanding of what I've heard.

The layman's understanding of copyright

There is a TON of information out there about copyright and most of it doesn't apply here, but its important to know how it works for this situation. Any written work published before 1929 (95 years since 2024) is public domain. Anything published before 1978 but after 1929 is protected for 95 years after publishing and anything after 1978 is protected for the life of the author plus 70 years [1].

What this means is that the oldest catalogs on VintAxe.com are public domain and anything since would be under the copyright of the original owner unless authorized. Mr. Brown cannot hold copyright over public domain, he isn't Disney, and he certainly can't claim copyright over reproductions of another's work. Right?

According to the United States Copyright Office:
Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, an adaptation of that work. The owner of a copyright is generally the author or someone who has obtained the exclusive rights from the author. In any case where a copyrighted work is used without the permission of the copyright owner, copyright protection will not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully. The unauthorized adaptation of a work may constitute copyright infringement [2].
Copyright does not extend to work that is used unlawfully so for this claim to have any merit, they would need to be authorized by the owners of each catalog in the collection. Obtaining permission to reproduce content is one thing but are the original authors even aware that VintAxe is selling access to copyrighted work and claiming it as their own? That seems unlikely...

The layman's understanding of fair use

There are four criteria used when reproducing copyrighted work to determine if it falls under Fair Use
  1. Whether the work is being reproduced for not-for-profit education use
    1. My website generates no income, I would even say I 'operate' at a loss
    2. VintAxe's business model revolves around reproducing copyrighted work and selling access to it. 
  2. Nature of the work, whether it is a book, song, published article, etc
  3. Amount of the copyrighted material used
    1. I incorporate snippets or smaller, more focused images of the catalog like an illustration or photo of a guitar or the text describing it.
    2. VintAxe reproduces the entire copyrighted material, page-by-page
  4. Effect on the market for that potential work
    1. My articles supplement the information in the catalogs and don't provide enough to fully replace them.
    2. If you pay VintAxe, you will no longer need to purchase anything in their repository

The layman's understanding of watermarks

Watermarks are text or images that are superimposed on a picture in such a way that they are difficult to remove or alter. It is useful to keep track of images. On this website, I focus on the contents of the images and not the watermarks so when I was reviewing my past work I did notice that some were partial or not visible. That is a failure on my part to keep them whole and as mentioned, I cited the image directly underneath with the website name and link to the page.

But Mr. Brown's claim that altering or obscuring the 'VintAxe' watermark is a violation of the DMCA depends on a key detail that was left out of our conversation.

The Law Office of Jason H Rosenblum, an intellectual property lawyer, writes:

Again, the watermark itself is not a copyright. Your work is already protected by copyright the moment it is created and the watermark can serve as a reminder to others not to steal your images because you are copyright protected.

Though you are granted copyright protection for your work the moment it’s created, you cannot sue for copyright infringement if you don’t take the extra step to register your work with the US Copyright Office. It is the only way that you will be able to bring your case to federal court and obtain a monetary reward for damages if your work is stolen or improperly used [3]. 

A watermark is not copyright, it is a reminder (like ©) that a work is protected under law. Removing the watermark of an authorized party on a copyright work is a violation. Now the question is whether Mr. Brown and VintAxe.com actually own the copyright for the content they have threatened me over.

Can you claim copyright on a digital scan of someone else's work?


According to United States Copyright Office, "you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent." [2]. 

Unless VintAxe has obtained permission from each company featured on their website, they are not allowed to charge for access to copyrighted work and they certainly cannot enforce their own copyright on it. Mr. Brown & Co are allowed to Photoshop small dogs onto each page of, say, a 2017 Gibson catalog but they would not be eligible for copyright. They could supplement each catalog page with a paragraph of historical context behind a '61 Reissue and while the text could be eligible, the images would still not belong to VintAxe.

The DMCA does allow exceptions for teachers and educators to photocopy a copyrighted work for use in education and with its own set of rules. Fair Use allows exceptions for the general public as I have mentioned above. These exceptions are needed because unauthorized photocopying or scanning violation of copyright 

I were to drive to Barnes & Noble, purchase a copy of The Hobbit, come home and scan each page, apply a watermark of "Nathaniel A, photocopier extraordinaire", and put those scans up on my website I would be breaking the law and violating the copyright of the Tolkien Estate. If I attempted to exercise any legal rights over the scans I had watermarked, I would be laughed out of every lawyers' office in town. If I had charged money to view my scans of The Hobbit, I would have dug my own financial grave.


Mr. Brown and VintAxe are profiting off the compositions of individuals far more talented and far more deserving of the compensation he believes he is owed. At $50 a year or $10 a month for access and with over twenty years of their website, even 25 long-time subscribers would've brought $30,000 in revenue to VintAxe. I have no doubt that they have raked in tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

I have consulted with a few individuals more educated than myself and realize that removing the images is the easiest way to keep the peace. My ignorance of copyright law had me trusting that VintAxe.com was allowed to sell access to decades of guitar catalogs and my ignorance is what allowed me to believe Mr. Brown's initial email. While ignorance isn't an excuse, I will no longer support that operation.

Whether VintAxe has obtained permission from each copyright holder to reproduce their work and sell access to it, I cannot say... I have spoken to a few individuals whose works are featured on the website and they were both surprised to hear of such a website and assured me that Mr. Brown does not represent their work. Either Mr. Brown is unfamiliar with the text of the DMCA, besides his quote, or details were omitted when he reached out to me.

To keep my past work crystal-clear, I recognize that images will be lost and many of my articles will be providing historical context and explanation to absolutely nothing... But I will continue to remove all the images and content originating from VintAxe and, as a gesture of good faith towards the companies whose copyright was violated, I will inform them of the violation, sincerely apologize for my part in it, and move on.

I do not believe I have violated the DMCA in how copyrighted content was used on my website but I do not have the resources to fight a legal battle to defend that. I have a day job and a side gig but no trove of copyrighted content to sell so I must comply with this request. I will continue to write on guitar history and put together resources to help people identify their instruments. I've received thousands of emails from vintage guitar collectors, families with inherited instruments, musicians, and the casual Marketplace scroller. Everything I do here is provided for free and I am thrilled when I see my work cited on Reverb listings, Youtube videos, and other articles about guitar history. 

All I ask for is a simple citation of where the information came from because it helps boost traffic to my website so more people can see what I've written. Again, I do not profit from this website and I do not threaten people who reference or quote my work.



About After hours spent coming through the factory records and learning how to decipher old cursive, to the best of my ability, I have come ...


After hours spent coming through the factory records and learning how to decipher old cursive, to the best of my ability, I have come up with a list of all the Schwarzer guitars that were recorded and to whom they were sold. My intentions with this list are to hopefully track down all of the guitars and photograph them and record their stories.

Production Totals

The Schwarzer books indicate that 159 guitars were constructed but I was only able to record 152 orders and 1 repair. Its more likely that I missed some entries than a counting error on their side. If you are interested in seeing what the Schwarzer guitars looked like, I have uploaded scans here: Franz Schwarzer Guitar Full Catalog

Style 4, Total Built: 1
Style 32, Total Built:1
Style 72, Total Built:1
Style 20, Total Built:1
Style 24, Total Built:1
Style 402, Total Built:2
Style 403, Total Built:2
Style 404, Total Built:2
Style 502, Total Built:25
Style 503, Total Built:11
Style 504, Total Built:13
Style 505, Total Built:2
Style 506, Total Built:3
Style 602, Total Built:16
Style 603, Total Built:16
Style 604, Total Built:9
Style 605, Total Built:2
Style 702, Total Built:8
Style 703, Total Built:8
Style 704, Total Built:2
Style 705, Total Built:2

If anyone knows any detail about this guitar that appeared on MandolinCafe, please reach out as it appears to be a Style 604 or Style 704 but no serial number was provided.

The same to be said about this wildly ornate instrument from Acoustic Guitar Forum, that guitar is outrageously decked out.

Franz Schwarzer Guitar Orders

5527 - Bohl - #4 concert size
5553 - Harold - Regular standard size
5554 - Harold - Small
5581 - Harold - #32
5582 - Harold - #72
5617 - Harold - #20
5618 - Harold - #24

5464 - Grohe - #602 w bridge

This refers to Otto and Charles Grohe who were retailers in New York.

5749 - Howard Farwell & Co - #503
5750 - Howard Farwell & Co - #703

Howard Farwell & Co was a piano manufacturer (or more likely a distributor) from St Paul, Minnesota.

5754 - Hoffman - #703

5765 - Alfred O. Müller - #604

The best lead I have here is for a Missouri man named Alfred Muller who was born in 1878 and worked as a banker. He would've been 16 when the guitar was ordered. He died in 1913.

5983 - Otto Grohe - Guitar #special amaranth

Otto worked for his brother C. E. Grohe as a large shoe retailer in New York. Amaranth is an archaic term for the species of wood that we know as 'purpleheart' which is unconventional in acoustic guitars. It may be veneer as the Schwarzer craftsmen was very experienced with veneer 

5793 - Howard Farwell & Co - #502
5794 - Howard Farwell & Co - #503
5795 - Howard Farwell & Co - #602
5796 - Howard Farwell & Co - #703

5839 - Otto Grohe - Amaranth guitar special
5892 - Hawley - #502
5894 - Howard Farwell & Co - #602
5895 - Howard Farwell & Co - #503

5918 - W. E. Grierman (crossed out) Wurlitzer & Co - #704

I have no leads on Grierman but Wurlitzer & Co is the Rudolph Wurlitzer company started in Cincinnati and became a massive distributor all over the country. 

5924 - E? B? W. Gallenkamp - #603

Edward William Gallenkamp was born 1855 in Washington, Missouri and worked as a "druggist" in town. He died in 1925 having spent his life in Washington.

6027 - Preston N. A. February 4/95 - #502
6028 - Preston N. A. - #503
6029 - Preston N. A. - #504

The best lead I have is Nancy Ann Preston, a mother of nine who lived in McBride, Perry County, Missouri. It was not uncommon for women to teach music as a part time job and ordering instruments for students was very common. She had been married to Anton Feltz for a decade by the time of this order so I can't imagine why she would be using her maiden name. I may be completely mistaken on this.

6030 - Stever B? Y? (crossed out) Jan 12/95 O. Ruge 6/22-1895 - #603

6048 - George P Garcelon 3/18/96 - #705 guitar amaranth 
6049 - George P Garcelon - #504

George P Garcelon was a music teacher based in Joplin, Missouri and regularly ordered instruments for his students.

I have spoken with the owner of #6049 and seen photos to confirm its existence and relatively nice cosmetic condition. 

6076 - Muehl T - #504 
6109 - Stever ?? - #504
6121 - Henn & Haynes - #703

Henn & Haynes was a high-end jewelry store from Chillicothe, Ohio

6128 - Greive Hey? - #602
6190 - B? B? Ptever? (crossed out) Joseph B Stamm 11/22/95 - #604
6254 - Stever? B? Y? - #604 amaranth
6483 - Tippman - #504
6488 - Howard Farwell and Co - #602 
6516 - Peter Herr? Hern? Kern? - #603 
6519 - Tippman - #504 white top
6525 - Howard Farwell & Co - #502 
6529 - Stever - # 604 white top
6590 - Howard Farwell & Co - #504 
6692 - Garcelon (crossed out) Henn & Haynes - #403 special amaranth guitar
6712 - Garcelon - #502 small guitar lady model
6726 - Garcelon (also has written F H Raw 3/5/94) - #603 Style B E Maple Guitar
6729 - Herkstroeter - #502 lady size 
6746 - Mrs V. F. Hines - #505 

6763 - McElvain Bros - #504

A retailer based in Kansas and Nebraska

6776 - Garcelon - #703
6782 - Henn & Haynes - #502
6862 - Howard Farwell & Co - #502
6863 - Howard Farwell & Co - #502
6864 - Howard Farwell & Co - #603

6895 - M. M. Meyer - #602
6896 - E. F? Busch City - #603
7012 - George P Garcelon - #502
7116 - Fr? Sr? M Becilia 4/22/98 - #503
7140 - F. Bonnet - #602
7211 - P. J. Looney - #602

7461 - Dr J. J. Fowler - #503

Dr Joseph J Fowler was a Sedalia, Missouri based physician born in 1864 or 1865.

7530 - H. E. Hubbell - #603

Possibly Harry Hubbell born 1872 in Monticello, Illinois.

7574 - Henn & Haynes - #502 rosewood

7577 - Forney Mercantile Co - #504

A retail store based in the small town of Forney, Texas. The building now holds a historic society and I had reached out to them as they had ordered a number of instruments. 

7609 - F W Woodward - #402

7719 - August Wehmueller - #402

August Wehmueller was born 1848 in Washington, Missouri. He was a cabinet maker and worked at a pipe factory (likely the corncob pipe factory in Washington).

7809 - Henn & Haynes - #404 
7811 - Henn & Haynes - #404 
7812 - Henn & Haynes - #604 also #6692 amaranth guitar (perhaps in for repair?)
7832 - Henn & Haynes - #403
7861 - Henn & Haynes - #504 amaranth
7895 - Day Haid Jr? - #504
8016 - W. C. Raw - #502 double back guitar

A double back guitar is a construction method found in some classical guitars. 

8196 - Schulz - #602 steel string
8212 - Miss A Gamerdinger - #504 standard (B E Maple)
8300 - Leslie Murphy - #703 large (imitation rosewood sides bottom)
8301 - Leslie Murphy - #603
8302 - Charles S Senu - #502 standard

8303 - Dr W. F Hempehmann - #703 large (top celluloid bound, extra fine inlay)

William. F. Hempelmann was born in March of 1866 in New Haven, Missouri to Henry and Marea. When he ordered this guitar in 1901, he was boarding at a home in New Haven, Missouri. By 1920 he had moved to Washington where he ran his own dentist office. He passed away in 1941.

8341 - William Guese - #702 natural finish

William Guese either refers to a farmer from New Haven, Missouri who was born in 1872 or a German-immigrant working as dry goods salesman in St Louis, Missouri and born in 1848. The former has the close proximity to the factory while the latter might've had the wages to afford a large guitar. 

8358 - Miss Bertha Schenker - #502

Bertha Schenker was born May 1881 in Jackson, Missouri and would've been 21 when she ordered her Franz Schawzer guitar. She later married and her name became Bertha Hutchison. 

8404 - Harry E Woods - #603

Harry Woods is either a St Louis resident born in 1872 or a resident of Kansas City born in 1873. Assuming it belongs to someone living in Missouri.

8558 - Gaulin Hy - #605 steel string

Henry Gaulin, haven't found anything beyond that.

8627 - George W. Boblett - #602 steel string

George W. Boblett was born in Ohio City, Cleveland, Ohio in 1876. He was working as a clerk in every city directory I found. He died in Delong, Fulton, Indiana in 1925.

8662 - School Sisters De Notre Dame Westphalia, Missouri - #502 gut strings

Westphalia is a small town in mid-Missouri with about 300 residents today and in 1903. The convent was demolished in 1989 but the school and church they helped establish remains. 

8679 - Henn & Haynes - #602 steel strings
8694 - G. P Garcelon - #503 imitation rosewood
8782 - A. L Ludwig - #602 mahogany
9005 - S. K. Woods - #502 

Might refer to Stephen K. Woods who was born in 1858 in Virginia and lived in St Louis, Missouri

9010 - F Linstromberg - #504

Possibly August F Linstromberg, born 1885 in Missouri and lived in Lyon, Missouri which was close to Washington. 

9029 - Hy. Sprawhorst - 12 string guitar

It is hard to express just how exciting the prospect of this instrument is, Schwarzer was not the first builder to experiment with this configuration but this would make his company one of the earliest. The sad reality is that twelve string guitars are under such massive tension that they tend not to age well and guitar bracing at this time (1905) is relatively 'weak' by today's standards. All it would've taken was some doofus in the 1960s to slap steel strings on it and the guitar would've self-destructed. 

9034 - C. Hausdorf - #602
9039 - Altmueller (crossed out) Ray & Dillworth - #502
9054 - Ray and Dilworth - #502

Ray and Dillworth was a jewlery store in Salem, Missouri formed by Bill Green Dillworth and Ben Ray in 1898.

9099 - C. J. Hausdorf - #602
9253 - Holling - #505 special 7 string EBGDAEC (high-to-low)

Another unique instrument with an extra string on the bass side. It might be related to seven string guitars that were popular in Russia.

9254 - C. E. Grohe - #702
9283 - Sisters of Notre Dame Jeff City - #502

The School Sisters of Notre Dame had convents established all over the state of Missouri.

9338 - Ray & Dillworth - #704
9348 - C. E. Grohe - Harp Guitar 12 string
9506 - Mrs F. C. Ramm - #702
9650 - Ant. Tischerner - #506 harp guitar
9548 - Jul. Rother - #603

Julius Rother was born in Germany on November 18th, 1871. He married his wife Anna around 1898. He worked as a machinist for the Stupp Iron Co in St Louis, Missouri and lived specifically in South City. He purchased this guitar in 1911. Julius died in 1951.

9701 - C. E. Grohe - #702 celluloid bound top
9769 - Lornenberg & Meyer - #503
9776 - Charles E. Grohe - #702 celluloid bound top
9800 - Mrs Ramm-Haeckn - #603 special
9803 - Mrs Laura Ramm - #603 special
9825 - J. F. Schaefer - #604
9865 - L. F. W. Jones - #702
9903 - Althmueller Bros - #702

This may be the most well known Schwarzer instrument because of the article written on its discovery.

9914 - School Sisters of Notre Dame - #502
9927 - Jul. Fellinger - #702

Julius Eugene Fellinger was born in 1873 and spent the first half of his life in Kansas City, Kansas. He then lived in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, before moving back to Kansas City in the late 20s. He died December 3rd, 1930. 

9929 - School Sisters of Notre Dame Jeff City - #502
9936 - E. Stacey (Lohr) - #506 harp guitar 12 string

This harp guitar was ordered by E. Stacey through Theodore Lohr's store in New York in 1912. I received photos of the instrument confirming its existence as a double neck guitar with 6 contra bass and 6 standard guitar strings.

9980 - Jan. Kujania - #703
10003 - Garcelon - Guitar (no model number given)
10050 - E. Feldmann - Harp Guitar DEAGBF contra
10211 - F. Kriedl - #503
10233 - Oscar Knecht - #503 steel string
10315 - Phil C Harding - #506 harp guitar
10343 - F. Shipporeit - #502 mahogany
10377 - R. B?F?. Hagemau - Oblong guitar
10459 - Fred Lorenz - #603 law?baw? mahogany
10461 - J. B?. Baw (S. Hersking) - #604 law?baw? mahogany
10513 - Mrs M. Derndl - #502 thin neck
10517 - Mrs Robert Wellisch - Repaired old A. H. guitar Pins silk & gut.

Mrs Robert Wellisch refers to Emma Lawrence who married Robert. She was born in 1863, had a guitar repaired by the Schwarzer company in 1920, and died in 1951 in Maplewood, Minnesota. She lived in that city during the 1920s as well based off her husband's death in 1922 in Maplewood.

10540 - Tony Godetz - Special 18 string guitar 

Tony Godetz was a Chicago-based music teacher and musician. He was born in 1876, came to the US in 1904, ordered his Schwarzer guitar in 1920, married Louise Curdts in 1922, and died in 1943. They don't appear to have had any children. His guitar may have ended up in the hands of a student. 18 strings is absolutely nuts unless this was a harp guitar.

10568 - Mrs Minnie Flick - 602 mahogany, no ivorine binding

I have spoken with the owner of this instrument but have not seen any photos

10584 - Theo Schuermann - #604 law?baw? guitar mahogany
10587 - Hy B Hess - #603 guitar law?baw? mahogany
10600 - Augustus Ottowitz - #602
10649 - Fred Ehehalt - #502
10658 - Max Lehman - #605
10666 - Otto Krog. - #602

Otto Krog was born on the 5th or 6th of March, 1880 in Washington, Missouri. He grew up in the town and worked as a post office clerk. In the 1910s, he moved to Terre Haute, Indiana where he worked on X-Rays at Eastman Kodak. He ordered a guitar in 1924.

10672 - D. O. Wilkie - #705
10699 - Mische Lawrence - #603

Lawrence Mische was a resident of Washington, Missouri and was born in 1906. This guitar was ordered in 1922 when he would've been 16. He later married Adele C and had two sons Larry and Lonnie. He passed away in 1995.

10704 - Erik-du-Rietz - #604
10728 - Lascallas & Co - #502
10729 - Lascallas & Co - #503
10732 - Salzar? - #603
10770 - Johnson - Guitar
10780 - Dress - Standard guitar
10810 - Special guitar

This is the last guitar ever produced by the Schwarzer company and would've been built by Albert Hesse as he was the last employee of the company. The instrument has remained with the family of its original owner and I was lucky enough to meet with them and learn about the importance of the guitar to their family. I held the guitar and found the construction to be a unique blend of European and American influence. 

Drome Racing Challenge The Lego Drome Racing Challenge was an online multiplayer game from my childhood that combined my younger self's ...

Drome Racing Challenge

The Lego Drome Racing Challenge was an online multiplayer game from my childhood that combined my younger self's interest in cars, Lego, and video games. It is a super nostalgic part of my life and finding small pieces of that game help return me to that era in a way. Six years ago I compiled some information. You can view that here: https://www.snathanieladams.com/2018/06/lego-drome-racing-challenge.html

A redditor replied to an old comment of mine discussing the game and mentioned that he had found a number of the game's files and sent a few screenshots. This brought back all the enthusiasm for the game and I reached out to him but after a few days I hadn't heard back and got antsy. So I went looking, again, for any trace of the game and realized it had been right in front of me the whole time.

I was familiar with the BioMedia Project which has a large repository of old Lego games and focuses on documenting the Bionicle line from the same era. What I didn't notice the first time was that there was a folder called Broken.zip which contained a number of games that were not playable. That is accessible via this Web Archive directory if you search for the word "broken".

The Archive

The first file is the loading page but you'll notice the images are missing. I am not sure how this repository was gathered but there are enough core pieces missing to prevent this from being a complete game.

Further in are the incomplete files that form the game. I was aware the game was built on Macromedia Flash but I did not know that it was built within a program called Macromedia Director. After Macromedia was purchased by Adobe, they continued to update the software until 2017 but it has since been abandoned with Flash's discontinuation.

I found a version of Director which was released just before this game was released and I assumed that would be the version that would be most compatible with the game. Also I'm not sure how to get an Adobe Director license nor do I want to pay for it. Archive.org had a copy of Macromedia Director with a serial number that I installed and tried to open some of the files. Unfortunately, these files are locked with some sort of protection that required the use of another program to bypass. Projector Rays  is a free Shockwave decompiler which I was able to use to decompile the .cct and .dcr files into their editable versions (.cst and .dir). Now I can finally take a look at what is in here.


Having never used Director, it looks like we have some sounds, sprite sheets, scripts, and some incomplete "director" files which appear to coordinate how everything works together. So its part of a game and missing a lot of what really makes it work. In order to run the existing director files with missing assets, I selected random existing assets so some of the sprites don't make total sense.

This is part of the garage tutorial
This was a compiled version of 'raceengine.dir' which is missing some assets (and has others that I substituted) which I recorded and believe to be the only gameplay from the game that has survived.

Here are some sprites and assorted images I grabbed from the files
Team Nitro Cars
Team Zero Cars