1. MARTIN INSTRUMENTS made for WEYMANN & SON.
When his father died in 1888 and Frank Henry Martin took over the mantle as the head of C.F. Martin & Co, the company was dealing with a distribution problem. C.A. Zoebisch & Sons had exclusive distribution rights to all Martin instruments and Frank Martin did not think they were devoting sufficient effort to promote their guitars. At that time, H.A. Weymann & Son were retailers and had been purchasing Martin guitars from Zoebisch & Sons and selling them in their shop (see c.1890 Weymann retail catalogue).
In 1895 Martin started selling guitars direct to mandolin dealers and the relationship with Zoebisch slowly deteriorated until 1898 when the last guitar was sold to Zoebisch. This was about the same time that Weymann started wholesaling their own instruments.
There has always been speculation that C.F. Martin & Co. made some instruments for Weymann’s wholesale enterprise, particularly guitars and ukuleles. From Martin’s records, from 1922 to 1927 Martins did supply ukuleles and a few guitars to Weymann (see tables below supplied by Martin’s research and archives departments).
Below is a table of ukes, guitars and taropatches “booked” by Weymann with Martin. Weymann also bought one 2-17, three 0-18, two 0-21, one 000-28 and nine T-18 (of which 6 had fan bracing!) between 1924 and 1926. All of these were regular Martin guitars with serial numbers (I expect the twelve 2-17 guitars mentioned in the table did not have serial numbers). (This note provided by Martin’s researcher)*
*(from the table above, and the accompaning note from Martin’s researcher, this totals 28 guitars that Martin supplied Weymann, of those probably 12 had no Martin label).
In 1925 Weymann & Son had over-ordered on Martin’s ukuleles and cut back their order during the year. This suited Martin as they were struggling to meet demand from their other clients. So not all of the instruments ordered in 1925 were supplied. Below is the table of actual instruments supplied in 1925 (In the other years the orders were filled).
Tables supplied by C.F. Martin and Co.
Totals shipped to Weymann 1925: 18 guitars, 350 uke 0, 150 uke 1 and 18 taropatch 1.
This is a total of approximately 700 ukuleles, 13 taropatchs and 28 guitars sold to Weymann from 1922 to 1927. Why the ukuleles were ordered without the Martin stamp is confusing. I believe all of these instruments were most likely sold through their large retail store in Philadelphia. It does not make sense that Weymann put their own name on these instruments and then could wholesale them at a competitive price.
The Martin sales records plus correspondence (below) between Martin & Co and another instrument retailer in Philadelphia, E. J. Albert show, that Weymann received no special discount on instruments purchased:
July 16, 1925
To C.F. Martin
If you have no objection we would like to know definitely whether you make ukuleles for a firm here without your name on them.
This firm states that these instruments are genuine “Martin” ukuleles, made in the “Martin” factory, especially for them, and that they are exactly the same as the ones marked “Martin”.
This condition is affecting the sale of the genuine “Martin”. We will appreciate it very much if you will definitely answer this inquiry which we assure is entirely in the interest of “Martin”
Yours truly, E.J. Albert.
(Note: The bold ‘definitely’s’ was originally underlining and not bold in the original letter)
And Martin’s reply:
July 17, 1925
To E.J. Albert
In reply to yours of the 15th, we wish to advise that you are correct in your statement that we do make ukuleles for H.A. Weymann & Son without any stamp; however, these instruments cost him exactly the same as the regular Martin in the same style.
Is there any further information that you would like to have?
Yours very truly, C.F. Martin & Co. Inc.
From this letter it is uncertain whether Weymann put their own label on these Martin made ukuleles. But there will be a limited number of Martin ukes out there without Martin’s labelling, and with or without Weymann branding.
C.F. Martin & Co started experimenting with making ukuleles as early as 1907 but it was not until the mid-teens that sales took off for them. But Weymann were also making ukuleles at that time (I have seen a Weymann ukulele dated about 1915 from the serial number). However with their banjo, mandolin, guitar and booming mandolute production Weymann could obviously not keep up with the growing demand for this little 4 stringed instrument. It makes sense then that they turned to Martin to supply ukuleles for their shop in Philadelphia.
But still Weymann did make their own ukuleles, and they look a lot like Martin ukuleles. But there are lots of differences in body dimensions, sound hole placement, scale length etc. between the two makers. There is a great photo comparison between the Martin and Weymann made ukuleles here:
To further substantiate that Weymann made their own line of ukuleles is this undated note in the Martin archives that looks to be from the 1920’s, and from the same typewriter that was used by Martin & Co.:
Also Weymann made their own guitars. They are rare because Weymann were more focused on banjo, mandolin and mandolute production. They are distinctive from any other manufacturer and are fast being recognised for the quality instruments they are. Catalogues from that time period (see footnote below) show that the prices of Weymann and Martin guitars were comparable.
2. The RELATIONSHIP between H. W. WEYMANN and F. H. MARTIN and the possibility of sharing techniques and technologies.
There are parallels (or coincidences) I found between the two men and their respective companies:
- Frank Henry Martin at the age of 22 took over running the company in 1888 when his father died. Harry William Weymann at the age of 26 took over Weymann & Son in Philadelphia when his father died in 1892. There was just a 2 year age difference between the two of them. So you had two young men in their early twenties running instrument manufacturing companies in reasonably close proximity in the early 1890’s (Martin’s Nazareth factory was 82 miles from Weymann’s Philadelphia shop and factory). It’s easy to see how they could have struck up a friendship. There’s also the common German heritage. Something else they shared is that Frank Henry Martin had 2 boys born in 1894 and 1895, while Harry William Weymann also had 2 boys born in 1889 and 1891.2. Both men went on to run their respective companies until the 1940’s in the case of F. H. Martin and 1930 in the case of H.W. Weymann. During this time they were members of the same organizations and obviously ran into each other at different functions, meetings and trade shows as evidenced in the Music Trade Review magazines of the time. Furthermore at the time Philadelphia was an important port and it was the closest big city to Nazareth.
- Martin started serializing their guitars some time after they started serialized mandolins at the request of one of their mandolin dealers in 1895. It would seem that Weymann followed suit in around 1900. More precise dating of Weymann instruments in this early period awaits further research/information (See WEYMANN’S SERIAL NUMBERS AND DATING post). Quite a few companies had been serializing their guitars before this: the Haynes Company with their Bay State label, Lyon & Healy with their Washburn guitars, and The John Church Co. with their Imperial branded instruments to name a few.
I have been in touch with ukulele player and musician Dan ‘soybean’ Sawyer after he suggested in a blog post that possibly Frank Henry Martin and Harry William Weymann had exchanged technical details for some of their instruments.
In a personal email, Dan Sawyer said that this was something that Mike Longworth (who was the official historian for the Martin company for many years and who wrote the book ‘Martin Guitars – A History’) talked to him about. Here is part of the email I received from Dan:
“Yes, I did discuss their friendship (H.A. Weymann and F.H. Martin) with Mike Longworth. He brought it up. I got the impression from him that the two of them were at least business acquaintances if not personal friends as well. Your points (see above) about their similar age and background are fascinating. It certainly points up how easy it would for them to be pals. Longworth specifically told me the story that Martin wanted to get in the banjo business. They would be crazy not to, considering the popularity of tenor and plectrum style banjo. Weymann wanted to get into the ukulele business, so they swapped trade secrets. It was in their mutual interest. As I mentioned above, the Martin banjos were not successful. However, Weymann ukes were successful artistically and (on a modest level) commercially. Banjos were their biggest success”.
But there is no evidence of such a friendship in the Martin archives. In a further communication with me, Dan Sawyer emphasised that Mike Longworth knew things that were not in the archives and that if he said something Dan believed it would have been true.
Whether they were friends or acquaintances, Dan Sawyer and Mike Longworth are correct in that Frank Henry Martin did seek some outside help to find one or more banjo makers to help him develop a saleable banjo for Martins, as per this three page letter from Martin’s archives:
Letter from Fred Meyer & Co. to C. F. Martin & Co. 1922.
There are no letters in Martin’s archives that show Frank Henry Martin approached Weymann directly for help in producing banjos, and no correspondence that even hints that the two heads of the companies where friends. All there is in those archives between the two companies are straightforward business dealings for the purchases of the ukuleles mentioned previously.
There is one other letter from the Martin archives that throws a little light on the character of H.W. Weymann. It is from the W. J. Smith Music Co to Frank Henry Martin:
Quoting from this letter:
“We received one (article) from H.W. Weymann, but we could not use his, or at least if we do use it we will have to blue-pencil lot of it because it reads too much like an ad. In other words, he did nothing but boost the Weymann instruments, which in doing so, I think he used very poor judgement.”
3. WEYMANN GUITAR CHARACTERISTICS.
Weymann guitars have some similarities to vintage Martin guitars so it is understandable that they are often mistaken as having been made by C.F. Martin and Co: the shapes are not exactly the same but they are similar, they have the same tenon joint instead of a dovetail heel joint, they often have the same finishes, they both have the tapered, rounded sound hole, and they both have high levels of workmanship.
It is not hard to imagine that Weymann used Martin guitars as ‘inspiration’ when they started making their own instruments. Weymann was all about quality and Martin guitars have always had the quality that other makers aspired to.
Other characteristics of Weymann guitars:
- After about 1910 they are marked with a style number and a serial number on top of the headstock.
- They are lightweight, being made from thin timbers on the top, back and sides which allows them to be very lightly braced.
- They are exceptionally loud and resonant with a unique tone.
- Most are ladder braced but a few of their top end guitars, such as the Jimmy Rogers Special, are X braced.
- The headstocks/pegboards have a more acute angle than most vintage guitars of their era.
- The workmanship is beautiful, having been made to tight tolerances.
In summary, Martin made some ukuleles and a few guitars for H.A. Weymann & Son and supplied the majority of them unlabelled. They were most likely sold through their large retail outlet in Philadelphia from 1922 to 1927. For wholesale (and retailing in their own shop) Weymann also made their own labelled guitars and ukuleles as well as their more popular banjos, mandolins and mandolutes.
While on the surface Frank Henry Martin and Harry William Weymann had much in common there is nothing to indicate in Martin’s archives that they were anything more than business acquaintances. There is no evidence of direct correspondence between the two and information at times came from third parties to Frank Martin about Harry Weymann. However Martin historian Mike Longworth in a conversation with ukulele player Dan Sawyer suggested that such a friendship possibly existed.
There is no evidence that the two companies exchanged information about banjo and ukulele construction techniques.
To me the relationship appears a little ‘icy’, possibly because of the way Weymann ran his company and/or because that Weymann produced their guitars (as early as the 1890’s) closely resembling the Martin product in look and construction.
On the back cover of a 1928 Weymann catalogue held by Vintaxe:
There is a hand written note obviously from a salesman to a prospective guitar buyer
“Weymann instruments are the best, but Martin’s are very good too and lower in price. The (Martin) instrument that you saw at Place’s for $45.00 is very satisfactory and can get for you for $40.00. The Weymann does not (offer) so much off and that’s why the prices remain the same thru out the country.”
On another page in that catalogue is the Weymann Style No. 748 guitar he is referring to, comparing the price of it to a Martin guitar. To me all this shows is that Weymann guitars were at a comparable price to Martin guitars at the time.
Thanks to C.F. Martin and Co for the historical data:
and also to their research and archive department, especially Greig Hutton and Richard Boak
Dan ‘soybean’ Sawyer:
for use of images in this article.