Small pre-war American Firms click for more

Some photos courtesy Antebellum
La Melodia Soprano Ukulele circa 1922
La Melodia Soprano
As the first wave of Ukulele popularity grew, so a number of new companies jumped on the bandwagon. Some were Manufacturers with a history of making other instruments, some were Distributors, (or Jobbers as they were called at the time) who decided there was profit in having their own brands to market. Often now though there is very little information on what they made or sold.

Armour and Company

Armour and Co was an meatpacking and food processing company founded in Chicago, in 1867 by the Armour brothers and still in business today. Its growth helped the growth of Chicago as a major centre of commerce and industry and if you study its history it has a part to play in lots of things like labour relations and the Spanish American war but this is a Site about Ukuleles so...
They ran the main slaughterhouse in Chicago and in an effort to use every part of the beasts they slaughtered in 1912 they started production of gut strings for sports equipment and for musical instruments. Being based in Chicago they were ideally placed to cash in the the first wave of Ukulele popularity by producing strings for a lot of the major Chicago makers and ranges for music shops to sell, as gut strings were not particularly long lasting. Thus, they got their brand names known by the general public and in 1922 they decided to capitalise on this by selling a range of instruments, including Ukuleles, branded with the same name as their most popular strings, La Melodia. They didn't make the instruments, they had one of the big makers, (possibly Harmony), do that, they just branded them and sold them on. This venture can't have been very successful as they never released another catalogue but all this happened around the same time as financial troubles within the business caused the Armour family to sell its majority interest?

Manhattan Band Instrument Co

A musical instrument distribution company based obviously enough in New York They were incorporated in 1921 and in 1932 PMICo purchased all their assets at auction so the business ended before then (possibly a victim of the 1929 Wall St. crash?). They weren't really a manufacturer but they registered a number of brand names and branded a lot of Banjoleles and Ukuleles. Brand names of theirs that I am aware of are Winner (reg. 1924) and Superuke (1925)

New York Band Instrument Co.

The New York Band Instrument Co was a Shop (at 104 East 14th St. - its a pizza Parlour now) and Distributor (111 East 14th St) that were in business from before 1921 to after 1949. I have not been able to find much out about them beyond the fact they distributed all sorts of instruments including Ukuleles and Banjoleles under their house brand name Toneking. The instruments themselves were made by some of the big Chicago and New York Makers and certainly included Samuel Osborn while he was in business.

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