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Thread: 1913 A1 thoughts

  1. #1

    Default 1913 A1 thoughts

    I am drawn by nature to old objects of all kinds. I bought a hundred year old house, and have some hundred year old furniture. When remodeling, we put real tung and groove bead board on the walls, and there came the time I had to have an old mandolin. In its case were documents tracing the previous owner back to 1982. Iíve often fantasized on who might have owned it, and what songs were played on it when it was new.

    My grandmother was a young woman when the Spanish flu hit in 1918. Had stories that only later did I realize weíre just her slice of experience living in an isolated rural area. The most poinient were of WWI veterans who survived only to come home and die of the flu. So I got out my A1 and again pondered who might have first bought it, and what might have been the experiences of those who had played it. Did it provide comfort in troubled times as it is again today?

    Oh, if only it could talk.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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  3. #2
    Registered User tree's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    northern Virginia

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    My maternal grandparents were married in June 1918, while he was on weekend leave from the Army. He was deployed to Europe shortly afterwards. Although I never knew him (he died the year I was born), he survived the war and lived another 40 years, a full life. I recently realized that I don't know whether or not he also survived the Spanish flu - and now there's no one I can ask. But I do think of my late mom from time to time when I pick up my sweet old '21 A2, which is just a couple years older than she was.
    Clark Beavans

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  5. #3
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    While my dad (vintage '19) died before I got serious on mandolin, I did get to play for my mom, tickled that my '17 A-1 was three years older than she. That was prior to her passing at 96.
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the knowin' of you."
    - Ian Tyson

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  7. #4

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    My 1913 F-2 made it through the 'White Lady' unscathed. My grandfather dodged the bullet by being discharged from training camp in 1917, because of degenerative disease in his knee. Sent back to Breathitt County without being infected with the virus that killed so many at Camp Taylor. I think of all that has happened in the world and my family since that old blackface F-2 left Kalamazoo. It still sounds great; original Handel tuners work fine, no sunken top. Good year for mandos.

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  9. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    I found my first mandolin, a 1917 Gibson "pumpkin top" A-1, in the attic of the house where my grandfather and great-aunt lived in Pike NY. We were clearing the house out to put it on the market; he had died, she'd gone to a nursing home. This was probably 1970. There was a no-name gut-strung 5-string banjo, and a Victoria (made by Lyon & Healy, sold by B & J) bowl-back mandolin. We suspected that the instruments belonged to my step-grandmother Alice, who was known to be a musician, but we never really knew.

    The A-1 had a major top crack, "repaired" by a huge piece of adhesive tape; years of attic storage had baked the adhesive into the finish. There was an original purple-lined case. I took the mandolin to Eldon Stutzman in Rochester, and he repaired it structurally, cleaned up the finish, but the repair and the finish damage were always clearly visible. My brother and my friend Bob really loved bluegrass, and the three of us started an "organized" band, the Flower City Ramblers. Since I owned a "real Gibson" mandolin, I was gonna be the mandolin player.

    Fifty years later, I own a dozen or more mandolin-family instruments, from a Weber "piccolo" to a Stahl mando-bass. The A-1's long gone in trade, for an F-2 later traded on my F-5, but I still have the banjo and the bowl-back. I wonder if Alice -- whom I never met, as far as I remember -- could have had any idea her mandolin (if it was hers) would spark such a long-term interest in those instruments. And I wonder who owns the A-1 now; if I ever recorded its serial number, I've long since lost it. It was a good little mando, and an important influence in my musical life.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
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    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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  11. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    Both my dad and my former white face A-3 were born in 1919. I played that mandolin for many years then got my 23 A2 and sold the 19. I should have kept it. Oh well. Now they are both gone, sadly. This photo was backstage at a gig probably late 1970s in Brooklyn way before it was cool.

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    My Stream on Soundcloud
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  13. #7

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    I have an Army-Navy that I've been playing a lot lately. Though it's in remarkably good shape overall, unfortunately past repairs obscured the label and serial number, and I can't find a FON, so not quite sure the exact date of it. As brick says, if only it could talk. Though I guess it does, in a way.

  14. #8

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    Weren't those only made for just a few years during WWI? I was talking to a friend whose grandfather was a surgeon in Boston who volunteered for a field hospital in France. My grandfather's leg was saved by a young surgeon. We fantasize they could have met in a field tent surgery.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  15. #9
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Grand Rapids, MI

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    I think this is why I, too, am drawn to vintage instruments. I studied to be an historian, so I'm always looking for the stories behind things. When my grandparents passed away, I asked for only two things: my grandfather's coffee grinder and my grandmother's plywood cutting board. Those two heavily used things let me feel my grandparents with me in the kitchen every day, as they used these objects for nearly their entire lives. (The cutting board lives on the wall, but the wall mounted coffee grinder gets 35 cranks every morning.)

    Nearly all of my instruments have been pieced back together after being heavily used, and I often fantasize about who played them, and where they have been. This thread makes me want to watch the Red Violin again. Maybe my Kalamazoo KM-11 has a similar, epic story! (It would explain the jigsaw puzzle back.)

    Thanks for the nice thread.

  16. #10

    Default Re: 1913 A1 thoughts

    For any owner of a teens Gibson, likely a young man bought it to join a mandolin orchestra and meet respectable young ladies, or visa versa.

    My good friend's mom growing up used a rock mortar and pestle her Indian grandmother used. Said salsa never came out right in the blender.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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