Lyon & Healy

L&H Washburn Soprano Ukulele
Washburn with Oak Leaves
Founded in Chicago in 1864 by George Washburn Lyon and Patrick Joseph Healy who had originally been sent out by Ditson to start a new branch in Chicago, (and who put some money into the venture). They was the first big Chicago manufacturer and for a while it was the biggest musical instrument manufacturer in the US, (they also gave a start to a lot of the other big Chicago firms like Regal and Harmony) making pretty much every common musical instrument you can think of, and some obscure ones too, not just chordophones. However in 1928, (quite a while after both George and Patrick had died), all of the fretted instrument manufacturing equipment was sold on to J R Stewart, (who was also a former Lyon & Healy employee and went bust in the Wall St. Crash the next year because of this deal), and the brand names and wholesale side of the business was sold to Tonk Bros., with the firm from then on only producing Harps, (which they still do), and the name Lyon & Healy was never again used on a Ukulele.

When they were producing Ukuleles they produced a number of interesting designed body shapes as well as 3 different brands of standard figure 8 ones. Washburn was the brand name given to the best Lyon & Healy Instruments, American Conservatory, (registered 1927), was given to the next best and Mauna Loa, (nothing to do with the 1950 Fin-der designed plastic models), was the brand name for the budget line. This line actually started a Mouna Loa because, though Lyon & Healy were trying to sound Hawaiian here to boost sales, they failed big time and spelt the name of Hawaii's biggest volcano wrong, (it must have been a fun day at the office when they realised this!). They registered the name Trijo for use on Banjoleles, (though I have not seen it actually used - all of the L&H Banjoleles I have seen have been one of the three main brand names), they also registered the name Camp in 1923, (though they first started using in on Ukuleles in 1921), showing that Camp is an L&H brand name and not a general description for round bodied wooden Ukuleles, (though it is often used as one). They made a number of variants of the Camp over the years including a Sopranino Camp Jr.

As well as the round Camp the other non standard Ukulele shapes were the Shrine, (introduced in 1927), a kind of rounded triangle, the Bell, fairly self explanatory and the Venetian, a kind of lute or teardrop. I don't know if these names were registered but they were sometimes uses with the general brand names so you had Washburn Bell and American Conservatory Bell.

In addition to the names another motif that was regularly used by Lyon & Healy was the golden Oak Leaf Pattern around the bottom. This was only used on their top end models and I have seen it on some of the non standard body shapes as well as on figure 8 Washburns. Another common mark on Washburns was the curved Diamond on the headstock (they usually have Washburn stamped on the back of the headstock too). Finally I should mention the "moustache" bridge as a common design on the Washburns and a number of the other models too. This design was patented, (Lyon & Healy liked patents), though even after the patent had been obtained they still stamped a lot of them"patent appd for"

As I said all of the brand names were sold on to Tonk Bros. who certainly used Washburn throughout the 1930's on Regal made instruments and the Washburn brand name is currently in use by the US Music Corp. (and its a long story as to how they got it but they do like to claim some link back to these originals even though there is nothing remotely direct!)

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