Small pre-war American Firms Click for more

Kalaka Soprano Ukulele
Kalaka 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.

Hafner & Sutphin

John Hafner and Eugene Sutphin started this import and distribution company in Philadelphia in 1880. In 1926 Hafner left and the company became E.A. Sutphin, I know this firm lasted the 20's but they don't appear to be in business today. Like the other distributors they didn't actually make the instruments themselves, they just brought them from the factories and sold them to all of the local shops. Also like some of the other distributors they did get the factories to brand the instruments with their name or some other branding they had registered. The Hafner & Sutphin name was certainly put on Ukuleles, (made by Oscar Schmidt and Regal possibly other firms too?) and certainly until 1924 their "own brand" name was Manono. I read that in 1925 they had changed the "own brand" name to Sterling, however Sterling was also a Tonk Bros. brand at the time so I am unsure here if both firms were trying to use this brand name or if Hafner & Sutphin were getting the instruments from Tonk Bros.? (I have seen Ukuleles with a yellow Sterling logo that was different to the black Tonk Bros Sterling logo which has TBCo included though?) I also know they branded Banjos and Banjo Mandolins Rydal but I've not seen any Ukuleles branded as such.

Kindle & Graham

These are a San Francisco Retailer founded in 1909 - They appear to still be in business but these days they sell Party novelties not musical instruments? Though they were never a manufacturer they were a major retailer in the early days of mainland US Ukulele sales and had their own brand, Kalaka. There is some debate over who actually made these Ukuleles and I think the earliest did come from Hawaii but the bulk of them were made by Leonardo Nunes in Los Angeles.

T. Eaton's

Timothy Eaton founded T Eaton's Department Store in Toronto Canada at the end of the 19th Century. Over the years it expanded into Winnipeg and launched Canada's biggest catalogue company of the 20th century. In the shops and through the catalogue they sold just about everything including a full range of musical instruments. The instrument range included their own brand instruments which, certainly in the interwar years, were made in Canada for them rather than US imports. This own brand included Ukuleles and possibly (though I'm not 100% sure) Banjoleles, usually with no name branding beyond "Made in Canada". In the 1950's when they were at their hight they marketed a Lone Ranger endorsed Ukulele (I'm not sure if it was the only one but it is certainly the most famous). By the end of the 20th Century the Big US retailers had moved into Canada, taken the bulk of their business and in 1997 on the brink of bankruptcy they were brought out by Sears

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