This is a rare early 1917 Weymann Ukulele, very similar to a Martin Style 0 soprano ukulele. Style 0 indicates that the edge is unbound and this was not introduced by Martin until 1921/22.
Originally I thought this was a 1914 Ukulele, but after contacting ukulele aficionado Tom Walsh*, he questioned the information this dating was based on. I now agree with him and believe this is a 1917 Weymann made instrument. However this is still a rare early stateside made ukulele. (please see more about this in the dating section below).
*Tom Walsh co-authored the book: “The Martin Ukulele: The Little Instrument That Helped Create a Guitar Giant” and is a director of The Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum.
Jim Temple, halfway ‘round the world (in Texas) from where I live in Brisbane, Australia, bought a little uke years ago and was amazed by its sound. He’d played it for several years before he was finally able to identify it with help from a visit to my website. He’s dang near 80 years old but he said he will remain a member of our Weymann family so long as he has breath!
In his initial email to me, he wrote:
“I owned and operated a very modest guitar store in this small East Texas town until I retired over ten years ago. Over the years, I bought and sold many used instruments and in the course of doing so I must have bought a small Keystone State ukulele among them. After cleaning it up and restringing the little uke, I found that it played and sounded better than any other uke that I had played. It has a decal label on the back of the headstock with the information: “Keystone State” with “U.S.A.” . . . and what looks a like a harp with a banner scroll containing a W&S.
“On the top edge of the headstock are two sets of numbers: “21709” and “10” which, I suspect are the serial and model numbers, respectively.
“I delight myself and my younger grandchildren by playing a tune or two when they visit and bore the hell out of everyone else. But that little uke is such a delight!”
I was intrigued because at the time I thought the serial number would date the ukulele to 1914 – way before Martin started ukulele production in 1916, and before the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco from Feb-Dec 1915, the event attributed to popularizing the ukulele for a stateside audience. (More information about this manufacture date below).
So, let me share some more photos that Jim sent me:
Please note that this ukulele appears to be made from the deep red Cuban mahogany that Weymann craftsmen preferred for many of their stringed instruments.
And the dimensions:
Dimensions Martin’s Soprano Uke Jim’s Weymann Uke
Total Length 21” 21”
Body Length 9 7/16” 9 7/16”
Body Width 6 3/8” 6 3/8”
Scale Length 13 5/8” 13 5/8”
As you can see according to the website http://www.guitarhq.com/martin_ukes.html the measurements of Jim’s uke are exactly the same as Martin’s soprano ukulele, which were introduced in 1916 (styles 1, 2, and 3). It seems most likely Weymann copied these measurements to make this model.
Weymann did however, produce this soprano uke without edge binding, something Martin did not do until 1921-22.
How do I know this uke dates from 1917?
Firstly, all Weymann stringed instruments are in the same dating sequence, there seems little doubt about that now.
According to my original** WEYMANN SERIAL NUMBERS AND DATING post, the serial number of this ukulele, 21709, dated to 1914. I thought his date was reliable because as I had explained in that post, a Weymann mandolute turned up with Jake Wildwood with a serial number of 22614 AND a purchase docket with that mandolute dated 19h May 1915.
However when I wrote to Tom Walsh about this uke he questioned that 1915 date on the sales docket:
He pointed out to me that the date on that docket was more likely 1918, not 1915. This is primarily based on the fact that the ‘5’ for the day is not the same as the possible ‘5’ in the written year. Once I saw this I accepted it was far more likely the year was 1918.
**I have since adjusted the dates on the WEYMANN SERIAL NUMBERS AND DATING post to allow for the change of date on the sales docket.
Which means serial number 22614 of that mandolute has to date before that 1918 date, and, could be quite a bit earlier if the mandolute was not sold soon after manufacture.
This ukulele’s serial number is almost 1,000 less than that mandolute, and with production of about 2,000 instruments a year, the latest this ukulele could date is at the very end of 1917.
Weymann’s changed the shape of their gold decal label often and the ‘shield’ shape on Jim’s uke was used from about 1910 to around 1917. So there is no contradiction there (Look for a post on these decal labels soon).
What is the significance of this Ukulele?
The history of the ukulele and the Hawaiian guitar and its introduction to mainland America is detailed by David Gansz on his website:
While ukuleles where brought to the mainland from Hawaii by Hawaiian bands and individual performers from about 1895, as mentioned previously it wasn’t until the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco from Feb-Dec 1915 that the instrument started to become popular. Up until then most ukuleles where made in Hawaii.
A 1914 Los Angeles music store offers Hawaiian guitar and Uke instruction from Professor George Kia. (Image courtesy http://www.gansz.org/HawaiianWeb/HawaiianHome.html ).
The ukuleles for sale are advertised as “Genuine Hawaiian Ukuleles” which I take it mean they were made in Hawaii.
At about that time there is also evidence that companies were making efforts to import Koa wood to the mainland for guitar and ukulele manufacture.
From what I glean from reading quite a bit of material about this pre-1916 era, there may have been a few ukuleles starting to be produced on the mainland, but they would have been very small in number.
C.F. Martin & Co. were one of the first to produce ukuleles in 1916, making less than 200 in that year. This ukulele was most likely made the year after, hence the significance of this instrument, and the significance of possibly H.A. Weymann and Son being a pioneer in the field of mainland ukulele manufacturer.
Whether this ukulele was made for Weymann’s retail shop or for wholesale I guess we’ll never know, but we do know that by the time the Weymann 1924 catalog came out, this style 10 was replaced with a style 15 and a style 20, both with bound top edges, and the style 20 with a bound bottom edge as well.
A Big Thank-you Jim!
I’d like to give a big thank-you to my new best mate, Jim, for contacting me about this ukulele and going to the trouble of providing some decent photos that I could share via this post! He also sent this photo to me (used with permission I hope) taken when he was about 35.
He said he was dressed up in costume for a centennial celebration but it’s going to be how I always envisage him now!
I am not a ukulele expert or historian, so I welcome comments for anyone who can add to this post, either write a comment below or email me email@example.com.
Thank you and Namaste Charlie Robinson