NMM 11255. Electric Lap Steel Guitar by National-Dobro Corporation, Chicago, ca. 1937-1938.
Dobro Electric Hawaiian Guitar. Serial number B2738.
Paul and Jean Christian Collection, 2006.
In 1937, National-Dobro began to produce a wood-bodied instrument, discontinuing its aluminum lap steel the same year. This example features headstock veneer and fingerboard made from imitation-wood-grained, laminated plastic, which when engraved, reveals an ivory-colored layer underneath. The fingerboard positions are marked with Roman numerals (as on the National New Yorker lap steel) rather than dots. In 1938, the instrument was offered for $45 (or $100 with the accompanying 10-watt amplifier) with a case for an additional $6. According to the 1938 catalog:
"The sturdy body is constructed of carefully selected hardwood and is finished in a mellow, dark grained mahogany—hand polished. The ultra-modern design of the instrument utilizes the popular 23" scale. The compact over all length is only 29-˝ inches. The lustrous agate-hard fingerboard and headpiece are of glossy “Ebonoid.” Frets and position marks are accurately and artistically engraved into the ever-lasting surface. The brilliantly powerful pick-up unit is heavily plated and is equipped with convenient tone and volume controls. Has a modern, plated hand rest."
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Front, Back, and Side Views
Cut into laminated plastic on head: DOBRO
Die-stamped into top of peghead: B2798
Roman numerals cut into laminated plastic fingerboard: III, V, VII, IX, XII, III, V, VII, IX, XII
Stringing: six steel strings.
Pickup: nickel-plated, steel cover plate secured with four nickel-plated, Phillips-head screws; black Bakelite volume and tone knobs.
Body: comprised of three pieces of solid maple, one extending to form neck and head, the other two angled to form wings on sides.
Head: veneered with laminated plastic with dark brown and black woodgrain pattern on top layer and ivory underneath; maple; integral with neck and body.
Neck: maple; integral with head and body.
Fretboard: laminated plastic with dark brown-and-black woodgrain pattern on top layer and ivory underneath, the fret positions engraved; engraved parallelograms behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 22nd frets, each marked with Roman numerals indicating the chord; engraved lines behind 25th, 27th, and 29th fret positions.
Bridge: koa; integral saddle; strings fit in notches on lower edge.
Tuners: two sets of nickel-plated steel, worm-gear tuners with ivory plastic heads.
Finish: dark brown imitation wood-grain lacquer with checking; underside painted black.
Front and Back Views of Peghead
Pickups and Plectrum
Accessories: black, imitation-leather-texture, paper-covered, cardboard case with blue plush lining, nickel-plated steel hardware, and black leather handle. Transparent yellow finger pick with DOBRO impressed on inside.
Total lap steel length: 761 mm (29-31/32")
Back length: 333 mm (13-1/8")
Upper bout width: 93 mm (3-21/32")
Waist width: 172 mm (6-3/4")
Lower bout width: 179 mm (7-1/32")
Side height (including edging) at heel: 31 mm (1-7/32")
Side height, at center: 31 mm (1-7/32")
Side height, at end: 42 mm (1-21/32")
Head length: 130 mm (5-1/8")
Head width, top: 75 mm (2-15/16")
Head width, bottom: 57 mm (2-1/4")
Neck length (nut to body): 191 mm (7-1/2")
Neck width, nut: 57 mm (2-1/4")
Neck width, body joint: 67 mm (2-5/8")
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge): approx. 578 mm (22-3/4")
National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069