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NMM 10810.  Electric mandocello by Vivi-Tone Company, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca. 1932-1933
Serial number 9.  Ex coll.:  Dennis E. Hartnett, New York
Arne B. and Jeanne F. Larson Fund, 2004

Front of Loar electric mandocello Back of Loar electric mandocello

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The Vivi-Tone mandocello, electric guitar (NMM 10811), and mandola (NMM 10809), belonged to Dennis E. Hartnett (1870-1949), a music teacher who first opened the Harnett National Music Studios in Manhattan in 1898, offering guitar, mandolin, and banjo instruction. Like many teachers and professional performers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hartnett combined his musical activities with instrument selling. He developed the Hartnett System of music instruction, based on the idea of dividing music into separate studies of time, pitch, and technique, focusing the student's attention on each in turn. The Hartnett System achieved great popularity, and Hartnett became a leading Gibson agent, often appearing in Gibson catalogs of the 1910s. As a Gibson dealer, Hartnett would have been familiar with Lloyd Loar's performing and researching activities. He also developed a personal relationship with Lewis Williams, co-founder of the Vivi-Tone Company, who wrote a letter of endorsement for the Hartnett System in 1932.

Hartnett was himself an inventor, creating a device he called a "Developer," patented in 1912 (U. S. Pat. 1,047,217), which suppressed the audible sound of a stringed instrument, allowing the student to focus on "the elements time and technic" rather than "tune." The mute also permitted the student to practice without disturbing others. Hartnett patented another mute in 1916 (U. S. Pat. 1,177,184); it offered flexibility in the level of sound suppression. Examples of these devices, along with original Vivi-Tone and Gibson strings, Gibson catalogs, celluloid D. E. Hartnett labels (to be added to the instruments he sold), music, engraved copper plates for printing music, and archival materials, comprise the Dennis Hartnett Archive at the NMM, donated in 2005 by Dennis J. Hartnett, Hartnett's great-nephew.

Upon his death, Dennis E. Hartnett bequeathed his 148-acre estate in Southampton, Massachusetts, to the New England Forestry Foundation. The Hartnett-Manhan Memorial Forest, as it is now known, is the site of a colonial lead mine that may have been a source of lead for bullets in the Revolutionary War. While addressing the Northampton Historical Society in 1940, Hartnett mentioned that he was approached by several parties about reopening the mines to capitalize on wartime demand for lead, but declined involvement unless "it becomes evident that these mines can contribute in any way towards helping our country at this crucial hour of its history." This never proved to be the case, and Hartnett's land has been preserved for the benefit of the public as a forest and historical site.


Label Behind Tailpiece

Signature on mandocello
Signature on mandocello

Inscriptions:  Light blue paper label with single-line border and cut corners, affixed to top under tailpiece, the model and serial number written in black ink: Vivi Tone Mando Cello / PATENT APPLIED FOR / No. 9 / Manufactured By / Vivi Tone Company / Kalamazoo, Michigan
Spray painted in black ink on head: ViVi / ▲ Tone
Stamped in black ink on underside of pickup: VIVI-TONE COMPANY / 71 West 23rd Street, Suite 1520 / (Masonic Hall) New York City / GRamercy 5-2879 [sic]
Written in pencil on underside of pickup: #9 / old number
Written in pencil on inside of lower bass rib and on lower rib lining: XXX
Potentiometer die-stamped on top: ELECTRAD
Potentiometer stamped in black ink on side, the text enclosed in a box: ELECTRAD / [illeg.] OHM

Front and Back Views of Body

Front of body Back of body

Body:  Soundboard: one-piece mahogany plywood; black spray-painted f-holes and soundhole trim. Back: one-piece, three-ply birch plywood; hole in back for access to screw adjustment on pickup. Ribs: birch, constructed from multiple pieces, each 6.4 mm thick, the grain running perpendicular to plane of top and back; panel on treble side for access to pickup unit; band saw marks visible on inside of ribs. Head: mahogany veneered with white celluloid on both faces. Neck: mahogany; integral with head; white celluloid stripe. Linings: mahogany. Braces: heavy mahogany brace running through center of instrument.

Neck Heel

Neck heel

Inlay:  Binding: white celluloid; black and white celluloid strips on inside edge of binding. Soundhole: oval opening in top where bridge feet rest on bar-armature. Back stripe: none. End graft: none.

Neck, Peghead, and Tailpiece

Back of neck Front of peghead Back of peghead Tailpiece

Trim:  Heel cap: ebony. Fingerboard: ebony ebony bound in white celluloid with scalloped lower end; 24 frets under A and D, 21 nickel-silver frets under G and C; single abalone dots behind 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th (slightly larger), and 15th frets; double mother-of-pearl dots behind 12th fret. Nut: bone. Bridge: mahogany with two layers of binding and one extra layer of plain white celluloid glued to feet; every other set of string notches offset (compensated). Tuners: six nickel-plated steel, worm-gear machine tuners with white ivoroid convex heads and plates with engraved lines around the edges. Endpin: black bakelite; extends through tailpiece. Pick guard: imitation tortoise shell plastic raised on wood brace affixed to top with two steel dome-headed screws. Lacquer: clear with prominent craqulure.

Two Views of Bridge

Bridge Bridge


Total mandocello length:  988 mm (38-29/32″)
Back length:  469 mm (18-1/2″)
Upper bout width:  245 mm (9-21/32″)
Waist width:  190 mm (7-1/2″)
Lower bout width:  335 mm (13-3/16″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  66 mm (2-19/32″)
Rib height, at waist:  66 mm (2-19/32″)
Rib height, at end block:  66 mm (2-19/32″)
Head length:  180 mm (7-3/32″)
Head width, top:  70 mm (2-3/4″)
Head width, bottom:  62 mm (2-7/16″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  345 mm (13-19/32″)
Neck width, nut:  42 mm (1-21/32″)
Neck width, heel:  53 mm (2-3/32″)
Soundhole height:  10 mm (13/32″)
Soundhole width:  98 mm (3-27/32″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  A: 625 mm (25-3/8″); C: 631 mm (25-5/8″)


Arian Sheets, "Lloyd Loar's Other Instruments . . . Four Rarities from the Workshop of an Electroacoustic Pioneer," National Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 32, No. 1, (February 2005), pp. 1-3.

Return to Checklist of Instruments Designed by Lloyd Loar

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