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Thread: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

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    Default Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Interesting- presumably, made by the Kay forebear- Groehsl. I think this is the Style 6 which has seen a bit of action. I am wondering if the child featured at the end of the catalogue was indeed called May Flower and a member of the Flower family.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/16472894594...ndition=4%7C10

    Catalogue below:

    http://www.paperclipdesign.com/19ctu...catalog_sm.pdf

  2. #2

    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate.

    I found this which looks at some of the rather complex history of who made the instruments and when. The seller has a view- that old chestnut!

    https://www.harpguitars.net/history/.../mayflower.htm

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate.

    I didn't realize Jim Garber had those catalogs out on his website. The abalone/pearl inlay almost looks like it wasn't original to the mandolin. Maybe it was, it just looks out of place.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Jim certainly deserves the epithet "resourceful" to say the very least!

    The catalogue illustration suggests the inlay was part of the rather ostentatious decoration of the model.
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; May-21-2021 at 10:22am.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Note to Mick: from seller's description: "This mandolin possibly made by Larson's Brothers but I am not 100% sure and I can not guarantee it."

    See, I told ya: old + ornate + Chicago = Larson Brothers. Just like Gibson + 1920's = Lloyd Loar. Mind made up, don't confuse me with facts!
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Mind made up, don't confuse me with facts!
    My Dad used to say that

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Note to Mick: from seller's description: "This mandolin possibly made by Larson's Brothers but I am not 100% sure and I can not guarantee it."

    See, I told ya: old + ornate + Chicago = Larson Brothers. Just like Gibson + 1920's = Lloyd Loar. Mind made up, don't confuse me with facts!
    Thanks, Allen, I just caught this. I think there are more supposed Larsons out there as there are splinters from the vera cruz.

    This one Nick linked to certainly wasn't made by the LarBros.

    Irrespective of the label, my guess would be Vega or from their orbit. The rear neck / headstock joint, broken pediment headstock, bridge / bone saddle likely to set below the cant. Looks like it should be there on this one.

    The "Mayflowers" I've seen look pretty dead on Vega, who through Ditson maintained a Chicago connection.

    The garish mop has me wondering though.....You don't see that out of the Boston builders. The Vega folks had a good design eye.

    Still....it looks like a Vega. (Apologies to Galileo, of course.)

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...The garish mop has me wondering though...
    Mick
    I think we finally found the place where Antonio Tsai and Bruce Wei got their inlay inspiration. They of course took it to the next level. It just doesn't seem to fit but hey, somebody liked it way back when.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    I have read that Robert Hartman's book has some instruments in it that may not be actually Larson made- he shows a virtually identical mandolin branded May Flower in his book. The headstock inlay is very slightly different as is the inlay on the fretboard but the position and number of inlays is the same. There is no photo of the side of the fingerboard to show if there is that ebony visible.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I have read that Robert Hartman's book has some instruments in it that may not be actually Larson made- he shows a virtually identical mandolin branded May Flower in his book. The headstock inlay is very slightly different as is the inlay on the fretboard but the position and number of inlays is the same. There is no photo of the side of the fingerboard to show if there is that ebony visible.
    I think there is a general consensus here that Mr. Hartman significantly overstated the output of the Larsons in his book, which has then gone on to be often uncritically cited adding to the ongoing general level of confusion around the Brothers' actual output. Robert himself has made some vague general comments owning up to that. I'd never accuse him of deceit, I think it was simply a matter of some very understandable over-enthusiasm.

    Through our years here, many of us interested in American bowlbacks have become convinced that Vega was the only US builder that located the bridge south of the cant in the top. We don't see it on L+H mandolins, amongst the NY/NJ/PA builders, nor on any of the bonafide work of the Larsons.

    It's kind of the Vega smoking gun. I feel the same way about that iconic neck to headstock profile but I don't think the same shared agreement has built on that yet.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    ...I think it was simply a matter of some very understandable over-enthusiasm...
    Excellent conclusion.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  17. #12

    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    I just wonder if this mandolin was made by Groehsl- it has that name on the label. What if Groehsl which was also based in Chicago had a few ex-Larson employees and this was made by them?

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    It would be a better story if Orville's barber moved from Kalamazoo to Chicago and set up shop nearby.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    I have never heard of any evidence that Larson had employees; and Hartman does not mention any. From what I understand, they were always a two man shop.

    Several things about this mandolin also remind me of Vega. A couple of other things, not so much. Vega would be my first choice, though.

    It's hard to say anything for sure about bowl backs. They were made by a lot of people in a lot of places. And we often don't realize that some very high quality work came out of the L & H and Regal factories, among others. And I think that there were probably more builders operating in the Northeast than we realize. Also, it is not unusual to find several design characteristics that were used by more than one maker. It's easier with flat backs. Sometimes the clearest indicator of a maker can be found in the shaping and layout of the braces.

    I remember very carefully looking over an ornate Mayflower flat back at a guitar show several years ago. It was a gorgeous instrument, certainly up to the quality of the best work of any of the best makers such as Vega or any of the Chicago builders. One back brace was easily visible through the sound hole. It had a rather thick U profile, which led me to believe that it was made by one of the larger shops. It did not resemble the bracing style of any Larson instrument that I have seen, which tend to be quite light and much more triangular in profile. Whoever made it [and it wasn't Larson], it was a very nice mandolin, and I kind of wish that I had brought it home with me. But I had already taken the pledge by then.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-23-2021 at 1:55pm.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    "Taken the pledge" and that really must have been a severe test of will! Well done! I think your suggestion that the larger enterprises could have made some of the seemingly higher quality instruments is very reasonable. I suppose there is no mileage in talking up Regal and the other big makers when certain names carry a big bonus in terms of value.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    I just wonder if this mandolin was made by Groehsl- it has that name on the label. What if Groehsl which was also based in Chicago had a few ex-Larson employees and this was made by them?


    There's no reason to make this so difficult. This was made by Vega, fellas......

    The label was put on for the folks who sold it.

    For some bowlbacks it may be difficult to ascertain the provenance, but for many others it is pretty straightforward.

    No connection to the Larsons except in some folks' imagination.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Regal could do some really good work when they wanted to. The upper level Bronson guitars are an example. And then there was the short-lived J.R. Stewart company.

    The decline in the general earning power of the music business has made "taking the pledge" a lot easier.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Bob Carlin's Regal Book really was an eye opener for what Regal could produce.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Bob Carlin's Regal Book really was an eye opener for what Regal could produce.
    All it would have taken was a few of the right people at the right time.

    Bob's book was a great read.

    Would love to see a similar study come out on the Oscar Schmidt / Weymann / Raffaele Ciani axis.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Also, it is not unusual to find several design characteristics that were used by more than one maker...
    But locating the bridge south of the top cant doesn't seem to have been one of them. Having owned numerous Vegas (and Vega-made Leland flatbacks) you know the DNA when you see it.

    I enjoy the focus on the internal bracing, which seems like a very particular trait of an individual maker or shop at a particular time.

    The Vegas I've owned seemed to weigh about half of the weight of the 'Chicago' bowls I've had (L+H, Regal, Mauer.) That's an exaggeration of course.
    But the Vega bowls have considerable more resonance and feel more Italian in that way.

    Holding one of the Ditson "Hegemony" line bowls in your lap (Empire, etc.) and their provenance becomes pretty clear.

    The Hegemony line, Mayflower, various Ditson and Vega (and the Fairbanks progenitors) all share that DNA.

    Mick
    Last edited by brunello97; May-23-2021 at 11:07pm.
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    I had not realised that the Larson brothers worked unassisted- they must have been herculean in their work to achieve what they did but it appears life was totally focused on their work to the exclusion of everything else. Anyway, as mentioned above, I do have a superbly made Regal mandolin and Bob Carlin's book shows some incredible instruments and that is how I came to buy my mandolin- the book opened the door to a new appreciation of what the company could make.
    I am happy to accept Vega as the probable maker of this mandolin but wonder if there has been an assessment of how many instruments the Larson brothers are believed to have made in total? Clearly, it would have been impossible for them to make the numbers that the various attributions suggest they would have made and this of itself underscores why there is a healthy scepticism about these attributions- they just could not have made the instruments given the scale of their enterprise.

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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    .......but wonder if there has been an assessment of how many instruments the Larson brothers are believed to have made in total? Clearly, it would have been impossible for them to make the numbers that the various attributions suggest they would have made and this of itself underscores why there is a healthy scepticism about these attributions- they just could not have made the instruments given the scale of their enterprise.
    There you have it.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    The fact the Larsons never signed their products, and built for such a number of different labels, makes attribution more of a detective game than it would be if there were a definitive "Larson" line of instruments. I have two pretty-clearly Larson-made instruments, mandola and mando-bass, both labeled "Stahl"; Wm. Stahl of Milwaukee was one of the firms for whom the brothers built. They owned the Maurer label, which they acquired from Robt. Maurer in 1900. Other often-found labels are Euphonon, Prairie State, and Stetson.

    I think one of the problems for me was the somewhat grandiose title of Hartman's original book, Guitars and Mandolins In America. Made it sound like the Larsons built all of 'em...
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    The Stahl = Larson and Mauer = Larson equations have been at the source of a lot of misunderstanding here and certainly with on-line sales.

    Some = Larson. But as Nick has figured out as well: How did those two fellas make all those mandolins...while making all those guitars?

    I don't want to dive into further speculation....

    I did own a Stahl for awhile and benefitted from the Larson contagion, even though I often seem to be the chief Doubting Thomas around here.

    I bought the Stahl for around $100 when I was in an catch-and-release phase when my interest in bowlbacks was first burgeoning.

    The Stahl was okay, but kind of Sandburg-ian..."mandolin of broad shoulders", hefty like a Washburn when what I wanted was something light and Italian.

    It clearly wasn't a Larson. Not a chance.

    I put it up for sale on Ebay hoping I'd get my money back. Didn't mention the "L" word or hint at it.

    To my surprise the bidding went up and up and up. It sold for just under $500. Clearly a couple folks thought they were on to something and bid accordingly.
    They weren't.

    I didn't feel guilty about it, but it did prompt me to continue to learn more about the LarBros work and speak out about the still rampant misrepresentation.

    I am guilty of some of it. When I got my first Leland model flatback mandolin I fell for the "Larson" attribution that Bob made in his book and our friend, Jake, has unfortunately promoted.

    But it didn't hold up. It wasn't until I got some Vega and then Ditson labeled bowlbacks that the similarities became self evident.

    The Lelands (and their Wurlitzer and other labeled cousins) were made by Vega, too.

    That's going to upset a few apple carts, but so it goes.

    The Larsons did make some mandolins. I've seen photos of Allen's.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Flower & Groehsl Mandolin- early 1900s- ornate

    The problem is not unique to Larson. If Larson built an instrument for Mauer most people assume they built all of the instruments Mauer sold. Not unlike a recent bowl back that the poster just knew was built by Martin because Martin had a relationship with the company that branded the instrument. No different than the folks that assume their old Recording King guitar was built by Gibson because Gibson built a few instruments for Wards. You can throw other names in there like Wurlitzer as well. The musical instrument business has always been a business of building instruments for the trade and in certain times even the old line high-end folks got involved. Allen has it right in that the bigger problem with the Larson's was that they apparently never labeled an instrument as their own. With Martin they generally did stamp it someplace no matter what label ended up on the headstock and Gibson had a habit of building similar instruments with different labels that were visually identifiable. This is one of the fascinating things about the vintage musical instrument business. Once you get out of the well documented brands it's a giant mystery.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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