Maurer Flat Back, Bent Top Mandolin, made by Larson Brothers (1917)

 Maurer Flat Back, Bent Top Mandolin, made by Larson Brothers  (1917)
This item has been sold.
Item # 12048
Prices subject to change without notice.
Maurer Model Flat Back, Bent Top Mandolin, made by Larson Brothers (1917), made in Chicago, serial # 21048, natural top, faux grained back and sides finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black hard shell case.

From the beginning of the 20th century up until WWII, August and Carl Larson's small Chicago workshop turned out a dizzying assortment of exceptionally well-crafted instruments -- guitars, mandolins, the occasional ukulele, and even harp guitars. The catch is, they never put their name on them. Much of their output was contracted to sell under other brands, but this mandolin bears their own "Maurer" house trademark. The brothers had originally been employees in Robert Maurer's Chicago factory but bought him out in 1900, retaining the trade name for their own use.

Regardless of which name they carry Larson flat-back mandolins, mandolas, and mandocellos are beautiful and extremely well-made instruments. The thin but slightly arched straight-braced tops render them more responsive than Gibsons, with a more refined classical sound. Built with ensembles in mind, Larson mandolins have a distinctive and somewhat delicate sound, with less overtone character than the typical Gibson but plenty of volume. A large proportion of Mandolin family instruments were labeled for William Stahl of Milwaukee; this Maurer is a practically identical design. This construction is generally similar to the Martin Style A-E, the Weymann Mandolute, and Lyon & Healy's "Leland Mandos" which were all products of the early 1910s. Many cheaper mandolins built in Chicago by the likes of Regal and Harmony also hew to this pattern.

This particular Maurer mandolin is a lower-midline model with a maple body stained to resemble Brazilian rosewood, which was a specialty of August Larson. It has a spruce top and one-piece mahogany neck. As was the Larsons' custom the top and back are lightly arched, "Built under tension" which makes the instrument much sturdier than many similar but flat-topped designs without adding weight. It is neatly trimmed with celluloid on the top and back edges, with the top and soundhole rim ornamented with contrasting wood strips and there is an inlaid celluloid pickguard. The unbound ebony fingerboard has pearl dot inlay, while the headstock has a rosewood faceplate and the same strip tuners used by Gibson at the time.

The Larson Brothers' work has become better known in recent years, but their mandolin family instruments lag behind the guitars in appreciation. We feel their version of this type of mandolin is the about the best ever made, and well worthy of attention from more players and collectors. Although very much outside the familiar Gibson realm, this Maurer is a fairly plain but fine instrument in its own right with a distinctive character all its own.
Overall length is 24 7/8 in. (63.2 cm.), 9 in. (22.9 cm.) across at the widest point, and 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 13 in. (330 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This mandolin is in fine original condition overall; well over a century along it remains a very fine-playing and sounding instrument. The original varnish finish is still quite shiny shows some typical fine checking, with general wear including dings, dents and scrapes here and there, most notably some pickwear marks to the top above the fingerboard. There are also some odd pick marks on either side of the strings behind the bridge, as if someone was playing there for an avant-garde effect!

The instrument shows no visible structural damage or repair and remains in very fine playing condition, with an excellent neck angle and no signs of folding up at all, as many lesser similar period mandolins do. The neck is quite straight and the small original frets have been polished out showing no subsequent wear. All-in-all this is not a flashy instrument but an excellent testament to the Larson Brothers' craftsmanship, as well, as one of the best sounding and playing flat-back, bent-top style mandolins we have had. It includes an older European HSC and the original trap-door canvas case, long past usefulness but kind of cool anyway. Excellent - Condition.