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Thread: SS Stewart taropatch

  1. #1
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    Default SS Stewart taropatch

    Hello friends! I've just joined and realize that what I'm asking might not be found here but I did read something from a member who does have some knowledge about a SS Stewart Taropatch. I realize it's "mandolin cafe" and I do have one, but I'm not an A player. So, I have a taropatch and can't decide what to do next bc I don't know anything about who made it, date (ish) or approximate value. Yes I could go to ukulele underground but I've tried to answer the "what is the forum about" 40ish times and get a "wrong" answer. So I'm here on the first try. I've read u here about taropatch and see conflicting information. Even called down to Virginia and Vermont from Canada seeking information that will help me out. The thing is, I don't want to do anything like change tuners etc that will destroy the vintage state. According to modern scales, it isn't concert and isn't tenor. So any help would be super!! Thanks for the help. I might have trouble uploading files. SS Sorry.
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  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    The "S S Stewart" label appeared on instruments made by many manufacturers, after Samuel S Stewart's death in 1898. Immediately after his death, S S Stewart banjos were made by his associate George Bauer, but the brand was soon sold. Here's an excerpt from a Mugwumps article on ID-ing S S Stewart banjos:

    Later, after Bauer, the S.S. Stewart name went through many hands. The Keenophone Company, a Philadelphia, PA manufacturer of "talking machines" and phonographs, acquired the Bauer Company in 1911 and continued to manufacture the S.S. Stewart musical instruments. In 1915 Keenophone sold the Stewart name to Buegeleisen & Jacobson (B&J), a New York City distributor.

    Banjos labeled "S S Stewart" were made by Lange and by Gibson; some ukuleles with that brand were made by Martin. B&J contracted with a variety of manufacturers; I owned a "Fred Stewart" (one of Samuel's sons) tenor banjo that was probably made by Epiphone. The B&J distributor firm was a large one, founded in 1901, distributing brass and woodwinds as well as stringed instruments. I have a B&J Victoria bowl-back mandolin that appears to have been made by Lyon & Healy.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument, that your instrument was not made by the original S S Stewart Co., but by a US manufacturer for B&J distribution. Based on its appearance, I'd guess it could have been made by Regal, the large Chicago maker of mid-range stringed instruments. I base this to some extent on looking at Bob Carlin's book Regal Musical Instruments, 1895-1955. On pages 266-67 he shows a "Tonk American" ukulele which Regal made for Tonk Bros., another music distributor. This uke has a fretboard extending down to the soundhole, with a similar pointed end. Body shape and headstock profile are not too dissimilar. Yours has plastic friction pegs, which would suggest the 1920's, since most later uke-family instruments used metal "patent" friction pegs, which could be adjusted for tightness.

    "Taropatch" is now a generic term for a double-strung ukulele, although the instruments originally sold with that name were soprano-sized, whereas yours appears somewhere between concert and tenor sizes. My main performance ukulele is an eight-string Regal taropatch from the 1930's, with geared (possibly originally mandolin) pegs; its profile is similar to yours, though with a somewhat smaller and "flatter" lower bout. Mine, interestingly, has had its bridge replaced (and bolted on) with a tiple bridge pierced for ten strings; it's been through a lot in the Ī90 years of its existence.

    So I'm guessing -- for what it's worth -- Chicago-made, quite likely by Regal, 1920's. While yours is "vintage," it's not necessarily unusually valuable, not in the class of Martin ukes from the same era. It appears all-mahogany, and in good condition as far as I can tell, though needing a new nut.

    Hope this is helpful; perhaps another Cafe member with more specialized knowledge can correct me if I'm in error.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    Thank you so much for your knowledge of the instrument and your desire to help me out!! Just a guess...what do you guess itís worth?

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  5. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    With the nut replaced, strung and tuned up, and presumably playable, I'd say several hundred dollars, perhaps as much as $500 to the right purchaser. There are tons of early-20th-century Regal and Harmony uke-family instruments floating around, but this is a nice one. The double strings are unusual. Having plastic friction pegs -- even if they're (presumably) original equipment, is a minus; it could be a bear to keep tuned.

    Had you a Martin or a Gibson, you could get a lot more for it. "S S Stewart" is an odd brand, found on a wide variety of instruments not made by Samuel Stewart or his company. S S Stewart banjos -- from the original firm -- are in demand, but the guitars, mandolins, ukuleles etc. made by different companies for B&J and labeled "S S Stewart" are only valued as much as comparable instruments from the firms that made them. A Gibson banjo or Martin ukulele with the "S S Stewart" label might even carry a bit of a premium due to its unusual nature; a Regal uke with that label would be priced like a similar instrument labeled "Regal."
    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
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  6. #5
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    Iím getting more acquainted with the instrument bc of your expertise and help. Thank you again. Iím sizing a bone nut and a wooden nut (an old harmony arch top I found had a wooden nut). Waiting for correct information before I progress. Also changing tuners to geared variety is not so easy bc of the tapered headstock. The holes are 1/4Ē diameter and picking something that fits the headstock dimensions is tougher. Would it be an imposition to ask you to take a pic of the regal on page 266/67 of your book? Iím doing all my searching via data on my phone which is a lot harder. I also have all the dimensions for the mystery taropatch if youíre interested. Thanks. Gary

  7. #6
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    1. I wouldn't replace the tuners without seeing if you can make them work. I have a few instruments with "violin pegs" and they are at least usable. There are internally-geared tuners called Pegheads that replace friction tuners and give you the benefits of standard geared tuners. Of course they're not cheap -- $79 for four of them at this site, and you'd need a double order -- but they'd give you the option of not re-drilling your headstock. If you search for ukulele tuners, you'll find some with a "planetary" gear set-up that might fit the existing holes.

    2. I'm pretty non-tech so I don't take pics and post them. Bob Carlin's book is generally available, but it might be a pricey investment if you're not interested in "all you'd ever want to know" about Regal instruments. Here's a neat photo archive of vintage ukuleles, which may interest you. One thing I found interesting is the number of Gibson ukes pictured that had pointed-end fretboards extending to the soundhole, similar to yours. I've heard that Gibson made banjos labeled "S S Stewart"; if it could be established that Gibson also made ukuleles with that label, that could enhance the value of yours. However, I don't see other features of your instrument that would indicate Gibson manufacture.
    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
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  8. #7
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    Thanks again Allen. And pleased to meet you. Iíve built 3 basses and did guitar repairs. Iím retired from all that now. I repaired an old flat back (no name) mandolin. it was as a little smaller in scale so I sold it bc it was harder to finger. I sold all my expensive instruments and gave some to my daughters. I do have a electric mandolin (just bc) which I detune so itís easier to do bar chords. At 76 I donít want a lot of instruments hanging around. Just what I need. Thanks again

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  10. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    Well, I'm one year ahead of you (77). I love older instruments and have dozens of 'em. Yours is a neat one, and the "mystery" about who made it, makes it even more interesting to me.

    Hope you get some enjoyment out of it. If you decide to part with it, I'd pretty much leave it "as is" other than replacing the nut and stringing it up. It's a "collectible" in that condition, and you know collectors love instruments to be as original as possible.

    Just my 2Ę.
    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
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  11. #9
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    I lost my original reply. It looks similar in body wood and bridge design as SS Stewart 14k. Wish it had a mark inside at least.

  12. #10
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    I'm confident that this instrument was made long after the rights to the Stewart name passed out of the control of S.S. Stewart and his sons. It was almost certainly made by a contractor for Buegeleisen and Jacobson [B & J] of New York, who owned the rights to the Stewart name starting in 1915 and continuing at least into the 1930's.

    I'm going to suggest that the body is koa, possibly stained, rather than mahogany.

    I'll also suggest that the manufacturer may have been the Oscar Schmidt Company, rather than Regal. Not that it matters very much. Both companies were capable of making very good instruments when they wished to, and this one appears to be well made. I see no evidence that the instrument bears any connection at all to any product made by the Gibson company.

    Smooth off any rough spots on the pegs, borrow some peg soap from a violin player, string it up with nylon strings, and enjoy it.

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  14. #11
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    Default Re: SS Stewart taropatch

    Thank you. I have a set of octave strings. A local ukulele builder told me about the soap. Iíll give it a try. More chords to learn.

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