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Review: Guitars and Mandolins in America Featuring the Larsons’ Creations

Review: Guitars and Mandolins in America Featuring the Larsons’ Creations

Robert Carl Hartman

Maurer & Co., 1984

$39.95 from amazon.com (1999)

Originally published in American Lutherie #2, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



Every fine luthier of creative and abundant output should be so lucky as to have a memory book devoted to preserving his art and times. Robert Carl Hartman has done a thorough job of this for his grandfather Carl Larson and Carl’s brother August, who together maintained a lutherie business from the 1880s to 1944. A great portion of the Larsons’ output was built to order to receive the manufacturers’ and distributors’ labels of Maurer, Prairie State, Dyer, and Stahl. If you are not yet familiar with the Larson brothers or their instruments (am I too far east of Midwest?), you’re in for a treat.

The Larsons built beautiful and highly original instruments, and a large sample of designs are given here among the book’s 150 photographs and drawings. Included are mandolins, mandolas, mandocello and bass, flattop and archtop guitars, acoustic bass guitar, and harp mandolins and guitars. A chart of measurements is given with each instrument. Reprints of the guitar patents give very thorough drawings, descriptions, theory, and reasoning behind such innovations as laminated braces, further developed X bracing, through-the-body truss rods, and building under tension. Testimonials from Stefan Grossman, George Gruhn, and Johnny Cash, and a humorous reminiscence from Les Paul give further incentive to look into the Larsons’ designs.

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