Richter Flat Top Acoustic Guitar with Period Western Decoration (1930's)

Richter  Flat Top Acoustic Guitar with Period Western Decoration (1930
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Item # 9360
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Richter Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1930's), made in Chicago, sunburst lacquer with stenciling finish, birch body, poplar neck, original brown chipboard case.
Overall length is 36 1/2 in. (92.7 cm.), 13 in. (33 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 13/16 in. (9.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 1/4 in. (616 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.).

This small flat-top guitar is typical of many thousands of beginner-grade instruments sold in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s with one interesting customization -- there are hand incised Western symbols in the top that have quite an authentic look to them. While it is probably more of a decorative art piece than a player's instrument, the guitar has had quite a bit of carefully done luthier work and is in fact quite playable, and actually sounds pretty decent.

The instrument itself is a fairly generic 13" birch-body flat-top, finished in a gentle sunburst with some colored stencil floral work to the face. The guitar is structurally pretty basic but there are a couple of nice touches; the bound sound hole has wood marquetry trim and the fluted headstock has a carved ledge around the face. The "Richter" brand is stamped on the heelblock, and "Richter MFG. CO. Chicago ILL" on the reverse of the headstock. There is some debate about whether The Richter Company actually built these instruments, but they did claim to have their own factory in the 1930s.

There are a number of repaired cracks to the top and a fairly large splice in the back. The finish could best be described as "weather-beaten" and shows considerable wear overall while maintaining a nicely rustic look. The top has a large worn-through spot in the place strumming fingers would make heavy contact, and two screw holes there give evidence of a pickguard long gone. For modern playing the fingerboard has been neatly trued and refretted, the rosewood pin bridge is newer but all else seems authentic including the period openback tuners.

The real interest in this guitar is some folk art decoration on the top, which looks period and authentic; i.e. done by someone actually familiar with Western symbols and not an enthusiastic child-age fan! These images are all made by carefully done shallow incisions into the wood through the finish, neatly executed with a graver's tool. These include a large number of what appear to be vintage-style cattle brands scattered around the bridge area, with the initials "CAA" in larger letters in the midst of them. On the upper bouts are decorated with a large steer head and a very nicely executed silhouette of a wild horse standing in plains grass. While we cannot absolutely vouch for the origin of these symbols, this guitar is a very cool and slightly mysterious conversation piece, at least! Very Good Condition.