Monday, December 12, 2011

My "Peekaboo" is a SammoS Banjo Ukulele, 1919

SammoS banjo ukulele
SammO soprano ukulele
When I painted my "Peekaboo" design on an antique banjo ukulele (shown above) for my solo art show in Los Angeles a couple of years ago ("Dreamgirls and Ukes"), the brand of ukulele was a mystery to me. I loved the unique construction (walnut and maple marquetry), but I had no idea who manufactured these or exactly how old they were. Thanks to Google Books, I found some information in the "Music Trades" publication of 1919. I now know that these particular banjo ukuleles are at least 92 years old, making them older than I thought. An old advertisement (top image) shows one like it and tells us that the The Samuel C. Osborn Manufacturing Company, located in a Masonic Temple in Chicago, made these instruments. Osborn claimed to be the largest manufacturer of stringed instruments at the time. A little more digging and I found out that this company was around since 1897, but went bankrupt in 1921 (after moving to a new building). Mr. Osborn died in 1922 at the age of 50. They also made a soprano ukulele called the SammO, a really nice koa uke (shown above, the one I have at home). It's design seems to have been based on the older Hawaiian ukuleles. Osborn also made mandolins, guitars, taro patch fiddles and something called the Pianoette
The Art of Amy Crehore
P.S. All we can really do is guess at some of these when the label is missing or the brand is not indicated on the headstock.

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