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Instruments previously manufactured by Larson Brothers of Maurer & Co. 1900-1944. Also see Maurer and Prairie State.
Carl Larson immigrated from Sweden during the 1880s and began working in the musical instrument trade in the Chicago area. He soon sent for younger brother August who also had a great aptitude for woodworking. In 1900, August and other investors bought out Robert Maurer's Chicago-based business of manufacturing guitars and mandolins. August and Carl ran the business and maintained the Maurer & Co. name throughout their careers which ended with the death of August in 1944. During that period they produced a vast array of stringed instruments including guitars, harp guitars, mandolin orchestra pieces and harp mandolin orchestra pieces, and a few ukes, taro-patches, tiples, and mandolinettos. Through the years the styles changed and so did the basic sizes of guitars and mandolins. They were built larger starting in the mid-1930s to accommodate the demand from players for more volume.
The Larson brothers house brand was "Maurer" up to the transition period of the larger body instruments when the Euphonon brand was initiated for guitars and mandolins. The Maurer brand was used on guitars and mandolin orchestra pieces of many designs during that approximate thirty-five-year period. The guitars ranged from oak body small guitars to pearl and abalone trimmed guitars and mandolins having tree-of -life inlays on the fingerboards. These are beautifully made instruments of the highest quality, but even the less fancy models are well made in the tradition of the Larson brothers┬┤ craftsmanship. The guitars with the 12-frets-to-the-body neck sizes came in widths of 12.75 in., 13.5 in., 14 in. and 15 in.
The Larson brothers also built guitars, harp guitars, and mandolin orchestra pieces for Wm. C. Stahl of Milwaukee and W.J. Dyer of St. Paul, as well as other assorted suppliers who put their own name on the Larsons' products. Stahl and Dyer claimed to be the makers - a common practice during those "progressive years."
The Prairie State brand was added in the mid-1920s for guitars only. These followed the styles of the better and best grade Maurer models but incorporated one of three main systems of steel rods running the length of the guitar body. August was awarded three patents for these ideas which included side items such as adjustable bridges, fingerboards, and necks.
The Prairie State guitars and the better and best grade Maurers and Stahls had a system of laminated top braces. August patented this idea in 1904 making the Larsons pioneers in designing the first guitars made for steel strings which are the only kind they ever made. The laminated braces were continued in the larger Prairie States and the better and best grade models of the Euphonon brand. An occasional Maurer brand instrument may be found in the larger size bodies which I attribute to those sold by Wack Sales Co. of Milwaukee during this later period. This outlet was not offered the Euphonon brand, so they sold them under the Maurer name.
The Larson brothers sold their wares to many prominent players from the radio stations in Chicago, mainly WLS and WJJD. These stations put on country music shows with live performances and became very popular. The Larsons also built three guitars for Les Paul, one of which was a step in developing the solid body guitar. A Larson fingerboard can be seen on what Les called "The Log" which he submitted to Gibson to sell his solid body idea. Gene Autry and Patsy Montana bought Euphonon guitars from the Larsons' shop in 1937.
The main brands produced by the Larsons were Maurer, Prairie State, Euphonon, W.J. Dyer, and Wm. C. Stahl. J.F. Stetson was Dyer's brand for their regular flattop guitar, while the Dyer label was used for the "Symphony" series of harp-guitars and harp-mandolin family instruments.
The Larson brands were burned into the center inside back strip below the soundhole. Typically, if an instrument was altered from standard, it was not branded. This led to many not having any markings. All of the instruments built by the Larsons were handmade. Their degree of craftsmanship made them wonderful instruments to play and ensured that they would become highly collectible. Many people believe that the Larsons' products are as good as Martins and Gibsons, and some believe that they are better. The Larson-built Dyer brand harp guitars are considered the best harp guitars ever made.
More information regarding the individual brands can be found under their brand names: Maurer, Prairie State, Euphonon, Wm. C. Stahl and W.J. Dyer.
Information courtesey: Robert Carl, The Larsons' Creations, Guitars and Mandolins.

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