WEISSENBORN
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WEISSENBORN
Instruments previously built in CA during the 1920s and early 1930s.
H. Weissenborn instruments were favorites of slide guitar players in Hawaii and the West Coast in the early 1900s. All four models featured koa construction, and different binding packages per model. After the advent of resonator and electric instruments in the thirties, these odd koa instruments were seemingly appreciated only by a handful of players like David Lindley, Ry Cooder and John Fahey. More recently, Weissenborns have been made popular by Ben Harper, and used by steel and resonator-guitar players like Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge, Greg Leisz, Sally Van Meter and Cindy Cashdollar.
As prices of Weissenborns have multiplied, new enthusiasts have discovered in these guitars a mysterious sound adaptable to many musical styles and the first instrument specifically made for Hawaiian playing. More than just a Spanish guitar laid flat on the lap, Weissenborns were made with a high nut and inlaid flush fret markers. Credit for the hollow-neck design might belong to Christopher J. Knutsen (also a harp-guitar pioneer), but Weissenborn enjoyed more success, both structurally and commercially.
Weissenborn´s guitars also directly influenced the instruments of his undoing - National and Dobro resophonics. Hermann C. Weissenborn (often confused with and likely not related to Herman W. Weissenborn, a mid-1800s partner of Charles Bruno in New York City) was born in Hanover, Germany in 1863. He took up musical instrument-making around 1879, later emigrating to New York City around 1900, moving to Los Angeles around 1910. He emphasized violin building, instrument repair and piano tuning even after the Hawaiian music craze was in full swing. All dates pertaining to Weissenborn instruments are approximate, because his instruments are not dated or serial numbered, but a general range would be 1920 up until his death in 1937. There does seem to be a progression of features that suggest an evolution of these instruments and a means of distinguishing relative age.
Confusion exists as to which instruments are Weissenborn-made and which aren't. It's not precisely true that anything that looks like a Weissenborn (hollow neck, koa wood, rope-marquetry binding) probably was made by him. The most often-encountered Weissenborn-made brand is the Kona Hawaiian guitar, marketed by Los Angeles teacher and publisher C.S. DeLano. Although Konas and Weissenborns initially appear identical (a vintage-instrument calendar made this mistake, despite a visible Kona label), Konas are narrower across the lower bout (13.25 in. vs. 15.25 in.) and deeper (4 in. vs. 3 in.) than most Weissenborns. Konas have solid round necks that join the body at the seventh fret with an angled joint. Konas have wire frets rather than flush markers. The sound of Konas is generally regarded as equivalent to (though deeper than) Weissenborns. The most-often encountered marking is a 1 in. shield enclosing H. WEISSENBORN, LOS ANGELES, CAL and burned into the backstrip inside the soundhole. Some instruments have an additional brand of Henry STADLMAIR, NEW YORK, SOLE EASTERN DISTRIBUTOR.
Brands that, despite appearances, are not Weissenborn-made include Knutsen (see separate entry), Hilo and brands of Los AngelesĂ­ Schireson Brothers, including Lyric and Mai Kai. The principal feature that distinguishes Weissenborns from these other brands is Weissenborn's use of X-bracing on the tops. Hilo and the Schireson brands (more similar to each other than to Weissenborns), are ladder-braced. The difference is even more audible than visible. Hilos generally fall far short of Weissenborns in volume and tone. The manufacturer of these instruments was probably one of the large Chicago factories of the period, while some theories say Oscar Schmidt.

From Blue Book Publications:


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