c.1900 Bruno "The Vernon" Size 2 Gut-strung Parlor Guitar

This is an interesting guitar. It's roughly size 2 in nature (12 fret body, 12 5/8" lower bout) and sports a solid spruce top and Brazilian rosewood (the real deal) back and sides. It was brought in by a customer and my work included regluing roughly 1/3 of the back seam, a fret level/dress, hairline crack fills and repairs, a light bridge shave, new nut, and setup. Everything seems more or less original on the guitar save the 60s tuners (this thing begs for a set of antiqued StewMac repro machines).

What's curious about the guitar is that while it bears retailer Bruno's "The Vernon" branding, I have no idea for sure of the maker. Certain features (back strapping braces and ladder bracing style) indicate Chicago-style manufacture similar to late-1800s Lyon & Healy products which is what I assumed this to be at first, but other features (the distinct heel shape, rosewood fretboard's cut style, and bar frets) feel much more "East Coast" (think: Bay State?) in execution. To further muddy the waters, the playful purfling (which would have been brightly-colored to begin with) and some aspects of the design ache of Larson hands. Anyone care to give me suggestions?

Regardless, it's a nice guitar and the mild-v neck feels really comfortable to play (think 20s Martin in cut). While this was played with steel strings for part of its life (and the fretboard yields evidence of a nut extender for Hawaiian-fashion stringing), it was most certainly built for gut (now nylon or synthetic) strings. I've set it back up for those and it's remarkably similar in tone to a period Washburn: elegant, simple, and really easy to record.

New bone nut.

The original bar frets leveled and dressed-up just fine. I like those large-size pearl dots. Rosewood boards were pretty atypical for the time, too, so it's nice to see one in use.

One of these pins looks to be a period replacement. The bridge is ebony and had a fret saddle to begin with, but when I started work on the guitar it had something like a 70s type which was pretty thick. I didn't have anything vintage that was large enough to use for the whole length but I did use two previously-mandolin frets (same period) when reinstalling the fret saddle after shaving the bridge to key-in the action (it's between 1/16" and 3/32" on both sides at the 12th fret). The twin-saddle solution works well as it lets me use that tiny fretwire that looks more period.

There's definitely some pickwear on the top.

Hubba-hubba rosewood, huh?

The neck is mahogany which is also rather unusual for the time. One mostly sees Spanish cedar even on nicer-grade instruments like this one.

This heel style is very peculiar. My wife's 1870s Tilton guitar (made by Haynes/Bay State) has a very similar heel shape and I've seen them here and there before but my mind is slipping on who else might have used this shape.

Note also the two old repairs to the bottom of the heel -- well-executed! -- and the dowel installation (hard to see).

I'm not sure of this big old endpin is original but it looks it.

There's that "The Vernon" label but it looks a little earlier than the ones I'm usually more familiar with (those being 1910s and onward).


Anonymous said…
Do you think it would be made by Regal Jake? Mugwumps (http://www.mugwumps.com/AmerInstMkr.html)attributes the name to Regal, and that sorta makes sense to me.

It's not a Regal make. Many Vernons were made by Regal and a few I've seen were Oscar Schmidt, but this one is distinctly different.
Anonymous said…
Kate said…
I have this very same guitar but with a different label. It's still says "the vernon" in the middle. So cool to see another posted!
Unknown said…
It is nice to finally find some information about these guitars. I have been searching for information on my guitar for a while. the biggest problem is that mine does not have a label. But, it looks just like this guitar.

Thank you
Unknown said…
I saw that the luthier for Bay State - Pehr Anderberg - used to live in Mt. Vernon NY. It's a coincidence, but I wonder if these are guitars he made before coming to Bay State, or a brand he contributed to in some way like a private label?
The Anderberg family alone illustrates how much variety existed. Pehr A. Anderberg started out making guitars in Mt. Vernon, New York, around 1870, then moved to Boston to supervise the making of several lines of guitars (and mandolins) for Haynes. His son, Ernest, worked for Haynes, while his father was there. When Pehr went into business for himself, Ernest went with him. “Then he was with the Snedeker Company of Winchester, Indiana, after which he went to Philadelphia to start making guitars and mandolins in a small way for George Bauer, who owned a music store there…”
Unknown said…
Pehr Anderberg made guitars early on with Bruno, and then made guitars in Mount Vernon. He went to Boston/Chelsea and made Bay State guitars (and other labels) for the Haynes Co. His son Ernest was also a builder. Both also worked for George Bauer in Philadelphia. Often overlooked is Erland Anderberg, who receives little attention, who made guitars steadily in Mount Vernon for decades.
Unknown said…
Bruce Cowan, posting, as above. To expand on and clarify my post ... The Mount Vernon factory was begun by Pehr Anderberg. He sold it to his brother Erland. I have not discovered who marketed the Mount Vernon instruments, but Bruno is a contender, as Pehr had worked with him early on. Pehr was in charge of guitarbuilding for John C. Hayes of Boston, who built Bay State, Tilton, and more. Pehr and his son Ernest later worked for George Bauer and The Bauer Company (Emil Bauer, Pres) in Philadelphia at some times, Pehr as a manager of plectrum instruments. George was a partner of SS Stewart and not good at business. George may have learned his luthier skills from Anderberg, as he, brother Emil, and father William all worked for Haynes. This guitar, including the distinctive heel, looks very much like my "Acme Professional," an early Sears brand guitar made by The Bauer Company of Philadelphia. Pehr also built Pollmans. All of these instruments may have Anderberg bones.
Unknown said…
Bruce Cowan, again. More research shows that Erland Anderberg continued to make guitars at Mt. Vernon from the 1880s until about 1915. In 1900 he had about 35 workers. Who put their labels on those guitars and mandolins? He must have made thousands of them.