Dating washburn bowlback mandlins
Its sound is notably different from later Gibson mandolins, but very much like the few other Orville-made mandos that are still playable. The instrument was on display at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo until 1961, when company president Ted Mc Carty made a ceremonial presentation to Maurice Berlin, the CEO of Chicago Musical Instrument Company (CMI). After Berlin’s death, the instrument was passed to his son, Arnie, who had assumed the CEO position at CMI after his father’s retirement.
It appears to have served primarily as a display piece, and thus shows very little playing wear.
Since playable examples of his work are scarce, it is possible that had he not been successful in selling his design concept to a group of Kalamazoo businessmen who incorporated the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company, his instruments might be forgotten.
Any surviving example of his work is an extremely important artifact.
He made guitars in a variety of sizes, and most are notably large for instruments of the 1890s.
While this mandolin clearly did not influence the owners of the Gibson Company to revert back to his early design concepts, as the finest presentation-grade handmade Orville Gibson mandolin ever made and very possibly the last instrument he produced, this is without doubt an extremely significant instrument.
So 3 weeks ago I bought this little mandolin just to hang on my wall with my 19th-century German zither.
What few records remain hint that Orville did not support company management’s decision to alter his design concepts to accommodate customer demands or easier production.
Why Orville produced this mandolin in 1906 is speculative.