Samuel C. Osborn Mfg. Co.

Osborne SammoS Soprano
Sam Osborn masonic Sammo soprano at Ukulele Corner Sammo
Conservatory Quality Soprano (Osborne made)
Conservatory Quality
Samuel Osborn was a piano distributor who in 1916 founded The Samuel C. Osborn Manufacturing Co. in Chicago stating "The concern will specialize in Ukuleles and import others from the Hawaiian Islands. The manufacture of the domestic article is expected to be specialized in by the concern and the incorporators of the new company predict that it will become the largest manufacturer of Ukuleles in this country."
Samuel Osborne Manufacturing co. bankruptcy notice december 1921

They produced 2 levels of Ukulele and Banjolele. The budget end which was called Sammo and have a Triangle trademark and a wooden nut and saddle, with the high end, which was called SammoS having a quartered circle as the trademark and a bone nut and saddle.

Mandolins, Guitars and patent Zithers were soon added to the catalogue, and by 1920 they had Saxophones too. The firm moved into making Piano's in early 1921 and opened a second factory in Chicago with the help of a large bank loan. Less than a year later the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy, production ceased, then Osborn himself died, age 50 in November and the firm closed down finally in 1923 with a lot of legal wrangling by all of the creditors.

In Osborne's opening statement he say they would "import Ukuleles from the Hawaiian Islands", however I have never actually seen one that was Hawaiian made and would not be surprised if this was just a marketing ploy because at a time Hawaiian made Ukuleles were considered better than mainland ones, (it was this sort of practice by some mainland makers that led to the introduction of the Tabu mark). I have also seen it suggested that the instruments were actually made by other Chicago firms? This may be the case but I think unlikely, they certainly had large enough premises to hold a factory and with Ukuleles they were very early to market in the Mainland for them to organise others to do the manufacture

Genuine Conservatory Quality

There are quite a few early mainland made Ukuleles with a big yellow soundhole label claiming this and I, like everyone else I am aware of, am unsure who put them out? The only thing I am sure of is that there are some that also have the Sammo headstock triangle as well as this label These ones were undoubtedly made at the Osborne factory but I can't be sure all of them were? And I have no documentary proof that Osborne ever used this label all I can say is they were OEM for some of them, it is possible that this was a distributor brand? Though the label says "trade mark" on it I haven't found the trademark in any of the databases Circumstantially, Samuel Osborne Mfg Co was making Ukuleles from 1916 to November 1921, (when they went bankrupt) which seems to fit in with the suggested age for all of the Conservatory quality Ukulele I have seen. Sam Osborne as an ex piano salesman did like to use the term "Conservatory" in some of his press statements, (but mainly when he opened the piano factory that bankrupted him) and there are a lot of similarities between Conservatory Ukuleles and Osborne Ukuleles, both in the headstock styles and the bridges. The big difference is most Osborne Ukuleles have a small tongue-like fretboard extension onto the body and most of the Conservatory Quality ones don't.  It may have been made by one of the early Californian makers started out making them for a Distributor and Osborne took over or it might be how Sam Osborne marketed his early models before the SammoS and Sammo ranges? I'm looking for any firm evidence...

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