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Thread: Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

  1. #1

    Default Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

    As there are still many questions about who made Strad-O-Lin I thought I'd bring some research I have done into the United guitar Co over here as I think it answers a few questions (and probably raises a lot more).

    In my long and confusing quest to untangle the history of Premier guitars I recently read this interesting blog post by S. Nathaniel Adams, In which he references a Federal Trade Commission decision against the Fretted Instrument Manufacturing Co for manufacturing and marketing fake resonators.

    These fake resonators were marketed under a variety of names but a lot seem to have been sold as Melophonics. I think this proves that United built as least some of the Strad-o-Lin mandolins as Melophonic mandolins were sold in catalogs alongside them.

    Michael Wright states that Sorkin bought the Homenick Brothers factory in the 1950s and it came with the Strad-O-Lin trademark. This factory (or at least the contents of it - he says it was all moved to the Multivox factory, which Sorkin had founded to build amplifiers) was where all Sorkin marketed solid body guitars (Iíve seen Marvel, Premier and Strad-o-Lin) were built until they started to source them offshore around 1964. As this factory must've been building something before Sorkin bought it I believe that Homenick contracted their standard grade instruments to United and built their high grade in house.

    The article names four directors of the company as: John Carner, Morris Brooks, Frank Solvino and Frank Maisello and a little digging on each of these reveals some interesting details. It is mentioned in several places online that John Carner bought the Oscar Schmidt guitar division in 1935. I havenít found a primary source for this but I believe it is from Neil Harpeís research. He comes up as a director at three companies. Harptone, the Fretted Instrument Co and United guitars. By 1956 the Fretted Inst. Co is no longer listed as a builder of instruments but as an importer and distributor of parts and accessories. They were still going in 1969.

    All of this makes me believe that John Carner bought the luthiery division of the struggling Oscar Schmidt company in 1935 and reestablished it as the Fretted Instrument Co nearby, while the Oscar Schmidt factory continued building autoharps till sometime in the 1960s. In 1939 Carner founded the United Guitar Co and used that name for instrument building while Fretted Instrument Co was used to market parts and accessories.

    Is there any indication of when the first Strad-O-Lins were built? 1935 seems a bit late for the first ones, so I wonder if Homenick were building them themselves till then and then outsourced it when they started selling more than they could produce in house.

    By 1958 United were at a new location (where I believe they remained until they closed) with Frank Colonese listed as president. Frank is mentioned here as one of the original founders of United. Why he wasnít listed in anything between then and now is unknown to me, as is whether any of the others continued to be involved with the company. United were still going till at least to 1975:

    "UNITED GUITAR CORPORATION.óThis firm is located at 278 Johnston Ave., Jersey City, N. J. General manager is Bernard A. Forcillo. Manufacturers of quality guitars, mandolins and ukes." -- The Purchaser's Guide to the Music Industries 1964.

    Which Mandolins United were still building in 1975 I have no idea as I haven't seen anything from the 1960s onwards that I'd think could be attributed to them. This late period is quite mysterious because aside from Harptone guitars - which I'm pretty sure they built - I can't see how they managed to keep going so long, but by then I can't imagine they were producing huge quantities of anything.

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  3. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Portland, Ore.

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

    Amazing info. Your research is something like mando-forensics or some kind of eight-string archaeology. Thank you for your work.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

    Yes, very interesting and useful to have a concise article with the relevant links in one account.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

    Here's a date stamp from a Forcillo guitar:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    and from a Strad-o-Lin mandolin:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	straddate.jpg 
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ID:	194774

  6. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin, United and Homenick Bros

    Once Sorkin got the Strad-O-Lin trademark, seems all bets were off as to what (and whose) instruments got that label.

    Here, for example, are a couple Strad-O-Lin trombones, one apparently made by Bohm. The only association I've had with Harptone was as a source of cases, which they seemed to build into the 1970's at least -- although I do remember a "Ringo Starr plays Harptone guitars" ad from that period.

    Linkage between Strad-O-Lin and Favilla has been speculated on from time to time, as well. The above-listed article is persuasive, but not determinative, IMHO.
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