Bronson Singing Electric Lap Steel Electric Guitar, made by National-Dobro Corp. (1935)

 Bronson Singing Electric Lap Steel Electric Guitar, made by National-Dobro Corp.  (1935)
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Item # 12069
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Bronson Singing Electric Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar, made by National-Dobro Corp. (1935), made in Chicago, gold enamel finish, cast aluminum body, rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The Bronson Company was a Detroit-based spinoff of the Oahu publishing empire that did a virtually identical business selling Hawaiian guitar arrangements to teaching studios, and the guitars to go with them. Bronson-labeled instruments are mostly Hawaiian guitars, and this appears to be the earliest electric lap steel model they offered. Over the next couple of decades the firm would be supplied by several different subcontractors including Rickenbacker and Regal; in this case the National/Dobro Corp. is the builder. This gold-finished cast aluminum steel is a re-labeled version of the first Supro model, in itself a rare and very early down-market electric instrument, possibly the first such guitar intended primarily for students.

This is basically a simplified version of National/Dobro's first generation electric lap steels, using the same blade pickup and cast aluminum construction in a considerably smaller and lighter form. These instrument came to market soon after the Rickenbacker "Frying Pan" and used similar materials, the Supro version being closer in feel to the Rick than the larger and heavier National and Dobro instruments. Bronson must have contracted with National early on, as this re-branded steel is identical to the first 1935 Supro version.

The Deco-styled long thin body is an aluminum casting with the tailpiece and pickup housing cast in, finished out in a gold-tinted metallic enamel. A wooden guitar fingerboard is affixed to the top, not fretted but with dots and inlaid lines for visual guidance. This first National pickup is mounted from the rear; it has a blade polepiece with an internal magnet and is controlled by a single volume control near the back edge of the body. The minimalist headstock has the central area cut away with gently rounded edges on the face; it mounts openback strip tuners with plastic buttons.

This very striking design is a pure Deco classic, simple but elegant despite its budget intentions. "Bronson Singing Electric" is emblazoned on a decal on the face of the body; this rare steel is not only the earliest known style of Bronson-branded electric, but the earliest Supro electric instrument and one of a handful of the first commercial electric steels extant. It is a neat piece of history and still a fine and fully playable instrument.
Overall length is 32 3/8 in. (82.2 cm.), 6 1/16 in. (15.4 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 in. (584 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This nearly 90 year old steel is fully functional and sounds really cool; the pickup has a less bright and loud character than the competing 1935 Rickenbacker but plenty of output and a quite pleasing sound. The guitar appears all original with numerous dings and chips to the finish but no really heavy wear, while the flocking on the bottom is nicely preserved. The plastic-button Waverly tuner strips appear original but are slightly mismatched (one has a stamped pattern on the bottom, one does not) so it is possible one or both sides were replaced at some point. The original cool fitted case is nicely intact, with some general wear. This is simply a neat playable piece of history, a very early electric instrument and still unique looking and sounding lap steel. Excellent - Condition.