1902/1904 Gibson Mandolin Style A
According to traditional estimates, this instrument has a manufacture date of 1902. The serial number is 2526, with no FON (factory order number). According to 'Spann's Guide to Gibson', this Style A Mandolin has a shipment date of 1904.
The above information was collected from the current owner Rick Van Krugel and the mandolinarchive.com, which includes the following photos in their site.
Currently, the contents of this website have been dedicated to my own personal collection of prewar Gibson instruments and ephemera. The above Gibson print ad from 1904 is in my possession, but recently I was contacted by the current owner of the actual mandolin (far left) in the Ozburn photo.
Because this is such an important piece of Gibson history, the current owner, Rick Van Krugel, has granted me permission to include the following photos that he took while restoring this historic instrument.
From the information I had received from the original owner, I believe it is important to hear the entire story of this unique instrument in his own words.
The following photos and statements are from the current owner, Rick Van Krugel:
'The original owner is William Howarth, according to his grandson(a jazz bassist who must at least be in his late seventies now) here in Victoria. He's the owner of the photo. I tracked him down with some difficulty and called him when I finished getting the mandolin back together several years back... The mandolin came with a very good 8x10 glossy (photo) copied from the original, and as I spoke to him he got the photo out of its frame and read the inscription on the back which he said was in his mother's hand: Ozburn Quartet, Toronto, 1901.
This date created a real stir amongst the heavy hitters all discussing my mandolin when I sent the photo to Dan (Dan Beimborn's site, MandolinArchive.com) for the archive, because people were saying the date on the photo and the serial number 2526 just couldn't possibly jive.'
Rick Van Krugel cont'd:
'I think it may have been Roger Siminoff who said it was too bad the tailpiece had been hacked up, whereupon I drew the experts' attention to the original band photo, modified tailpiece cover and all. I believe this was a cheap model made in a low production time in the shop's history, and my theory is that somebody messed up a cut on a tailpiece cover at the shop; rather than discarding it, they just set it aside for a bottom of the line instrument. I also can't help thinking Orville was still around when this was made, and that he may well have carved the bridge, which is a rather exceptional little piece of work on a cheaper instrument.'
'In the end it appears this little A model may have cracked the puzzle of where the serial numbering starts, which I think is going to be agreed(if it isn't already) to be 2500 for instruments bearing the factory label with Orville's picture in the lyre mandolin. I believe this is the 26th instrument to leave the factory with that label...and I believe Orville Gibson was still on the scene hands-on and handing things over at that time.'
'I am a player and luthier, and got this mandolin in a trade almost ten years ago. It was cosmetically near mint on the sides, back and neck, but the structure had failed in the unbraced red ceder top at some time, and it had suffered a couple botched repair attempts. I managed to restore it and preserved about 90 per cent of the top's original finish in the process, so all things considered its a pretty neat old specimen.'
The following is a bit more of the description from Rick:
'...the carved bridge, the hollow neck, radiused Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, thick sides cut from one big plank of walnut and complete absence of bracing are a real window into the originator's head. Assuming it to have been built when strings were very light for Neopolitan style instruments, I keep it strung with GHS A240's, which go from .009 to .032 inches. I suspect later heavy strings may well be the culprit in the instrument's initial self-destruction; as a repairman I've seen lots of heavy string damage to century-old guitars and mandolins.'