The general thought that I have posted here in the past is that they were stamped with a letter that stood for the season the instrument was built Summer, Winter, Fall followed by the two digit year. An archtop, or guitar with a slightly domed top, will be an American-made guitar. It confirmed the dating of some guitars I have, with what I surmised to be their date of production. It should also be noted that some of the time that stamped number just isn't there. For more information, visit or email Zach at. Stella was acquired by the in 1939.
The guitar of the 1890s was either utilized mostly for singing accompaniment or as a continuo instrument in mandolin and banjo orchestras of the time. That could be another choice. Although Harmony Guitars was originally established in 1892 in the U. This explanation put it all in line. Only people who were addicted to playing, and who persevered, could actually make music on these five and dime store guitars.
The First and Second shift explanation I believe also came from an ex-employee. You can usually tell by the cracks when they dry out. For example you might find something like F62 or S66. It was an excellent for a much smaller price. The auction was substantial considering that it was 2 city blocks under one roofing system. Mainly because of the guitar boom during the Beatles generation, there were a large number of guitars sold at this time. I'm afraid it's beyond my skills or means to repair.
These instruments were still mainly offered through huge mail order catalogs like Sears Roebuck Silvertone or Montgomery Ward Airline making them easily available to everybody. Harmony Guitar Company was revived in 2008 when Charlie Subecz launched a series of 1950s and 1960s reissues. These were the days way prior to the Internet, eBay and Reverb. Valco made Spanish acoustic guitars, metal-bodied resonator guitars, electric lap steel guitars, and vacuum tube amplifiers under a range of brand names consisting of Supro, Airline, Oahu, and National. The very early guitars had not truss rod for , so if the neck warped, the guitar was finished. Sales grew through to the late 1960s, when the growth of imported instruments forced Harmony into debt and eventually liquidation.
Note that a few of the guitars sold in the Sears and Wards catalog where also manufactured by Valco and Kay business. The archtops were never made in Asia, only the flat-top guitars. This information is valuable for insurance purposes as well as for future resale of your instrument. Quite a few of the pre-war blues guys used Stellas, basically because they were cheap and well-built to stand the rigors of taking to the road after each gig. Many Harmonys I've seen incorporate an Hxxx in the serial number. By 1900, Sears had actually surpassed Ward's to become the world's biggest shop. Harmony guitars, although they were primarily marketed to beginners, also developed some guitars to attract professional players.
Keeping with their custom of selling through brochures and outlet store, the 1990's saw Harmony offer the majority of their guitars to J. It looks like the two codes in mine are: Under bass f-hole: 3557H417 Between bottom of treble f-hole and tailblock:?? They were cheap as chips and could be bought at a distance thanks to the Sears catalog - well before 'race records' brought some money their way, the original blues men didn't have money to throw around on expensive guitars. I took the back off to fix a few items when I got it so I took a few pictures of the interior. Availability, affordable price and equally important, superior tone and volume made the Stella guitar to the instrument of choice for many bluesmen. I am looking for what models and years that some were produced offshore.
By 1897, Sears was working with the new Harmony company offering new guitar designs. Essentially, markers at the 10th fret, versus the ninth found on a few guitars and banjos before the 1880s , was a technique utilized by guitar makers who intended to sell their instruments into the tremendously popular mandolin orchestras at the time. Should have been some event! They offered 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including numerous designs of guitars, banjos, and mandolins. Many a beginner started with a sunburst Stella by Harmony. Practically simultaneous, Sears' crosstown competing Montgomery Ward presented its Concertone brand name. For those of you who first learned on a Harmony Archtone, this is certainly a childhood treasure! Harmony apparently shut down for two weeks every July and there would be a rush to complete instruments by the end of June. The letter stands for the season and the number is the year.
In other words, you can't date a Harmony instrument from the serial number alone. Everything I've owned a few dozen was marked S or F. I wish I still had the link to the site where I got it. The strings were so high off the fret board, that my fingers really did bleed, sometimes. The 'H' stood for the name of the company. International, which is the corporate parent of the Harmony Company.