That the Weymann manufacturing business evolved out of their retailing is significant. Their retail establishment initially allowed Weymann to have a ready market for what they produced, as well as access to the end user that we would today term ‘extensive market research’.
It allowed them to experiment and produce a wide range of instruments, where other makers could not.”
As soon as Harry William Weymann took over the business in 1892 when his father, Henry Arnold, died, he was determined to build a music company, not just as a retailer but also as a wholesaler of their own finely crafted instruments.
1894 is the first evidence of Weymann’s manufacturing their own musical instruments:
“The 3rd and 4th prizes in this class were kindly contributed by Weymann and Son, manufacturers, No. 45 North Ninth Street, and are known as ‘Keystone State Mandolins and Guitars”. The S.S. Stewart’s Banjo & Guitar Journal, May 1894.
Also at about this time there is evidence of Weymann’s employing for a short time a talented new luthier newly arrived from Germany, Carl C. Holzapfel. (From an article by Neil Harpe in the Fretboard Journal No. 11, Fall 2008).
During this time Weymann’s may have confined their production to repairs and producing instruments for sale in their store as there is little evidence that production was of any significance until 1899.
In 1899 the S.S. Stewart Banjo factory in Philadelphia closed following the death of the company’s founder the previous year. There is conjecture Harry Weymann took advantage and purchased some of the materials and equipment from this factory and hired retrenched Stewart workers to greatly expand his manufacturing.
This is the time that H. A. Weymann and Son, the company, started getting press in the Music Trade Review, and local newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, as a significant music instrument wholesaler. Banjos then became a big part of their manufacturing. I’ve been told that early Weymann banjos from the late 1890’s and early 1900’s have traits of S.S. Stewart instruments; and some are obviously made with Stewart parts.
From 1913 to 1927 H. W. Weymann registered 7 patents relating to stringed instruments:
Undoubtedly the most successful was the patent registered in 1913 for the new instrument, The Mandolute:
This instrument was a cross between a lute and a mandolin and was a big hit with the public and a money spinner for Weymanns. For a good decade a large part of their output was dedicated to the production of this instrument. While the patent was registered in 1913 it was being sold as early as 1910:
As well as the 7 patents registered by Harry W. Weymann the company experimented with some interesting guitars:
- Jumbo and Super Jumbo models, some of the first ever built. See this post.
- 14 Fret guitars (a guitar where the neck joined the body at the 14th fret). The development of the 14 fret guitar has generally been attributed to one ordered by a banjo player, Perry Brechel, from Martins. Researcher Spencer Gorman disputes this and provides a compelling argument at the end of this page that Weymann produced 14 fret models before or at least at the same time as the Perry Brechel guitar.
- A double ‘f’ hole flat top guitar. Post to follow on this.
- Various other guitars which appear to be one offs. I have a small budget guitar with a very large sound hole that I will post about after it is restored.
- I am not knowledgeable about Weymann Banjos but from what I’ve read H. A. Weymann and Son’s banjos introduced various innovations including a screw-on resonator (without a flange) just before 1920. Banjos they made in that era are some of the finest instruments of their type and are highly collectable.
All in all the Weymann company with H. W. Weymann as it’s head was a forward thinking company that helped shape the American guitar into the instrument it is today.