Joseph Bohmann was no stranger to flamboyant marketing prose and at various times he laid claim to being the The World’s Greatest Musical Instrument Manufacturer and the The World’s Fastest Violin Maker, the latter being one of the stranger boasts from any violin, mandolin or guitar maker.
In the 1870s, Bohmann emigrated to America from Bohemia, where we presume he trained as a luthier. (Next to nothing is known about his early life.) In 1878 he established himself in his new home as an instrument maker when he formed the oddly named Bohmann's American Musical Industry. Bohmann is an important figure in fretted instrument history as he was perhaps the first builder to make mandolins in the United States and by the early 1890s he was supplying mandolins to Mongtomery Ward’s and Sears. Bohmann was also one of the first guitar makers to build and brace guitars for steel strings.
The turn of the Twentieth Century featured innumerable mechanical patents for musical instruments , and Bohmann was right in there with the pack. He designed, produced and patented a variety of instruments both traditional and innovative, as well as a number of “orthopedic” add-ons to help train and maintain the player’s proper hand position, or at least the proper hand position according to Joseph Bohmann.
This harp guitar was made towards the end of Bohmann’s career and it features many of his patented ideas. Perhaps the most famous of these are the sympathetic tone rods, a tunable set of resonating metal rods he patented in 1915. The rods are tuned with nuts to specific pitches just like a string. There is also a damping bar, activated via a push button in the guitar top. This guitar also features a double cutaway body, an innovation that Bohmann patented in 1916 and a thick convex top and back, another one of his patents. It has a six string fretted section and two sub-bass strings.
This guitar came to us a decade ago in very rough shape. The back had a large open crack, the handmade gears didn’t work, the tone rods were rattling, the top was loose and the finish was badly worn. We removed the back and repaired and stabilized the crack, reassembled the tone rod system, disassembled and cleaned the tuning machines and restored the finish with French polish. We also leveled and reset the frets, and this guitar now plays as well as it did when it was new. Only a handful of Bohmann’s later harp guitars survive, and they almost never come up for sale.
stock no. 58302