1840s Unmarked Fancy Parlor Guitar

While I can't exactly date this instrument, its features, build, and styling suggest it's an 1840s or 1850s build. It's probably American-made because of the body shape and bracing but it borrows some ideas from other traditions -- a Germanic-style bridge, for instance, and an almost Spanish-style (for the time) headstock shape and heel cut. It's a fascinating mix.

Suffice to say, a local customer found this and brought it here for assessment. I think he was taken aback that it's as old as it is, and thankfully he'd strung it with nylon strings rather than steel when he initially got it. A number of old cracks had been repaired long ago with cleats and fill and so my only work, really, was to fit a few replacement frets, give it a heavy-handed level/dress of the frets, and a good setup.

It, of course, turned-out to be a great-feeling player and it has a bit of a flamenco-like, big-uke-like tonality to it. It's full and forward and has good presence and punch. It's very different from the average gut/nylon-strung little parlor from the time. It's got a lot of horsepower!

Of course, the bling is also nice -- pearl inlay all around the top edge and soundhole. The top is solid spruce and "angled-ladder-braced" while the back and sides seem to be Indian rosewood. The neck is mahogany and the bridge and board are ebony. The tuners, saddle, and bridge pins are replacements but the rest is all original as far as I can tell. How about that?

As I recall it had about a 25" scale, too -- longer than average for the time. The nut was the usual 1 3/4" found on a lot of 1800s instruments. The headstock is grafted (as per the usual for the time) and the back has some gorgeous inlaid details.


Nick R said…
I wonder if it is a circa 1900 guitar that has had its headstock reworked. The inlays are the sort one sees at that time- the Thornward from Wards being the apotheosis of the ultra-bling style. Nice looking instrument nonetheless.
Jake Wildwood said…
No, not at all, the interior and design style are clearly mid-1800s. Check the graft on the back of the neck. That stuff sort-of ended around 1880 for the most part.