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NMM 3852.  Mandolin by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1917.
Style 6A.  Serial number 5208.  Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

NMM 3852.  Mandolin by C. F. Martin and Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1917. NMM 3852.  Mandolin by C. F. Martin and Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1917. NMM 3852.  Mandolin by C. F. Martin and Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1917.

This Martin mandolin is a modified Style 6 with the initials of the first owner inlaid in abalone on the headstock. (This custom work is documented in the Martin Company’s ledgers, but unfortunately the full name of the owner is not recorded.) The bowl, with 40 fluted staves and 2 wider, non-fluted staves on the sides, is characteristic of Martin’s high-end bowl-back models, which along with the simplified broken-pediment headstock suggests the influence of the Vinaccia family of mandolin makers.

The instrument bears the label of Joseph A. Handley, who collaborated with Martin on the development of the Style 6A, which never appeared in Martin catalogs. Handley worked as a music teacher in Lowell and Southborough, Massachusetts, in the first half of the 20th century. Handley’s family moved when he was a young boy from New Hampshire to Lowell, where his father worked as a machinist. In 1880, Handley worked in a bobbin shop at age 11, when his father became disabled, while his siblings worked as a mule spinner, in a variety store, in a cotton mill, and in a carpet mill, reflecting Lowell’s employment opportunities in the textile trade.

Inscriptions: Branded on back of headstock: [lettering curved downward at each end] C.F.MARTIN & Co / — ∙ — / NAZARETH, PA.
Branded on neck block: [lettering curved downward at each end] C.F.MARTIN & Co / — ∙ — / NAZARETH, PA. / 5208
Inlaid in abalone on headstock: F. G. C.
Printed on paper label with gold border affixed to inside of bowl: FROM / J. A. HANDLEY / LOWELL, MASS.

Initials of original owner inlaid in abalone on headstock

Front of peghead Back of peghead

Body:  Soundboard: two-piece spruce with medium grain. Bowl: 42 rosewood staves, inner 40 ribs narrow and fluted, divided by ivory stringing. Clasp: rosewood; continues to base of neck with decoratively cut section with festooned shape below neck; ivory binding trimmed with single strips of light and dark hardwood purfling. Head: mahogany veneered with rosewood on front face; simplified broken pediment shape with two inward-facing scrolls. Neck: mahogany; integral with head.

Inlay:  Binding: ivory; dark hardwood and ivory 5-ply purfling; purfling finished with same varnish as body. Rosette: elliptical with dark hardwood-light hardwood-dark hardwood-ivory-dark hardwood purfling on each side of abalone; finished with same varnish as body.

Soundhole

Trim:  Fingerboard: ebony bound in ivory; 20 nickel-silver frets; abalone flower inlaid behind 1st fret; abalone slotted diamond between two abalone diamonds behind 3rd and 7th frets; abalone flower between two abalone slotted diamonds behind 5th and 10th frets; abalone slotted diamond between two abalone lozenges behind 12th fret; single abalone lozenges behind 15th and 17th frets (one behind 15th fret slightly larger); imitation tortoise-shell plastic side dots behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets. Nut: ivory. Bridge: ebony; ebony lozenges on ends; every other set of string notches offset (compensated); not fixed to top. Pegs: two sets of nickel-plated steel worm-gear machine tuners with ivoroid heads and floral-engraved nickel-silver plates on back side of head. Pick guard: tortoise shell to treble side of soundhole. Tailpiece: nickel silver with foliate-engraved, festooned cover. Varnish: slightly yellow.

Engraved tailpiece
Fingerboard

Interior:  Bowl lining: gray paper. Top braces: spruce grafts along center joint and near neck; spruce brace above soundhole; spruce brace below soundhole significantly thinner on bass side; burn mark on inside at bend position.

Measurements:  Total mandolin length:  615 mm (24-1/4″)
Top length:  308 mm (12-3/16″)
Maximum body width:  200 mm (7-7/8″)
Maximum bowl height:  122 mm (4-13/16″)
Head length:  159 mm (6-1/4″)
Head width, top:  68 mm (2-21-32″)
Head width, bottom:  57 mm (2-1/4″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  147 mm (5-25/32″)
Neck width, nut:  30 mm (1-3/16″)
Neck width, heel:  40 mm (1-9/16″)
Soundhole height:  43 mm (1-11/16″)
Soundhole width:  68 mm (2-11/16″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  E:  332 mm (13-1/8″); G:  334 mm (13-5/32″)

Accessories:  Original black leather case with yellow cotton flannel lining, the outside with an embossed border and trademark reading:  —TRADEMARK— / WARRANTEED / REG.U.S.PAT.OFF.  Painted on neck of case in gold gothic lettering, F. G. C.; diamond-shaped paper sticker applied to back of case with lettering reading COMBINED [obliterated] / 1917.

Initials stamped on case

Literature:  Joseph R. Johnson, Mandolin Clubs and Orchestras in the United States (1880-1920): Their Origin, History and Instruments, M.M. Thesis (Vermillion: University of South Dakota, 1987), p. 160.

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