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

John E Person - Jamestown, NY

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, 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 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.

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