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View Full Version : Vintage SS Stewart 'Professional' Tenor Guitar/Baritone Ukulele-1890's $1100



rhiggie
08-04-2017, 03:56 AM
Finally got some help getting rid of old photos so I could add some new ones. Here's a few different shots than Kevin posted for me. Thanks Kevin!

I have a very interesting vintage SS Stewart "Professional" model tenor guitar that is strung, tuned and played like a baritone ukulele. It was originally listed as a baritone uke but someone more knowledgeable said it is really a tenor guitar. So that's what I know. I play it as a baritone uke and it has an incredible rich full sound as you would expect vintage solid spruce and mahogany to sound! And it's not fragile either, very solid, extremely playable. I never thought I would sell this beauty but I have my eye on a nice Brazilian rosewood uke, so I need some cash. $800 firm. I have lots more photos with higher res. PM me for more. Thanks for looking.

Note, there is no confirmed dating on this instrument and I don't feel like paying $45 for an appraisal. I tried to get some dating assistance but they were more interested in buying it at 50-60% of value or consigning it for 20% commission. I guess a shop that deals in vintage instruments has to buy cheaper to make a profit. They did say it was "probably" from around the turn of the century and that it could have been built by SS Stewart or a few other local builders in those days. The info below was from the person I bought it from. SS Stewart has been making instruments from the timeframe the previous owner's research dated it. But I can not guarantee it's age. It's vintage for sure, very well made and totally playable. And I think my asking price is fair for a solid vintage instrument close to or more than 100 years old and still in wonderful unrepaired condition. But I will entertain offers as well and maybe even a fair trade. I have a few high end ukes and guitars currently up for sale. I'll get that cash for the Brazilian eventually. Thanks for everyone's input and help on the photos!

Second Update - I've received additional info that similar tenor guitars where either built by or sold under several names including Slingerland, Maybell, Harmony, Sears, and even Martin made similar tenor guitars. They all have a variety of distinct design features, more or less. And also it looks like the majority of these were built from 1930 on. That said, I'm reducing my sell price to $800 and making it firm. It's too much fun to play and sounds so much better than any bari uke I've heard, that I'll keep it rather than selling for less. A tenor trade may be considered as well depending of what it is. I'm a tenor player 80% of the time and I've got enough of the other sizes to use up the remaining 20% of non-tenor play. Thanks again for everyone's input! And by the way, the Brazilian Rosewood tenor with 2500 yr old Giant Sequoia Redwood top is on it's way to me! Can't wait! Of course as good as I am researching and dating instruments it may turn out the top is only 1500 years old!

Here's some details from the person I bought it from:
"This is a very rare 1890's S.S. Stewart 'Professional' model baritone ukulele with it's original factory case, in excellent fully original condition. These are next to impossible to find today, and one still in it's factory original finish and trim with it's original case and in this kind of outstanding overall condition even more so. The instrument has a spruce top with mahogany neck, sides, and back. Ebony/bone bridge, bone nut, rosewood fingerboard with 3 MOP dots, brass frets in excellent condition, and rosewood head stock. 31-1/2 inches overall length, scale is 22 inches, upper bout is 7-3/4 inches, lower bout is 11-1/4 inches. Body measures 3-1/2 inch thick tapering to 3-1/8 inch at top of instrument. Original tuners still work perfectly. Has ebony bridge pins with MOP inlay. The instrument has ladder bracing, black and white ivoroid binding top and back and 3 ring sound hole binding as well as black inner sound hole binding. Original S.S. Stewart label on front head stock. I have had this Ukulele for many years now, and when I bought it, I bought it from the original family that had owned the instrument since new. There are no cracks in the body, just some tiny dings and light scratches here and there. There is one longer light scratch in the back, but it is not deep into the wood at all. There is some age crazing in the clear finish over most of the instrument, and the back of the instrument shows fading as well as age crazing in the finish. Intonation is excellent, the instrument plays true all the way up the neck with no buzzing or off key 'clunkers'. The string height at the 12th fret is approx 5mm. The sound of this instrument is exceptional, thanks to the 120+ year old aged woods. Rich, full bass, nice balanced mid-range, and wonderful high end with the beautiful warm tone that only age and time can give a great instrument. The instrument plays easily with it's narrow neck (width at nut is 1-1/8 inch). Has it's original black alligator embossed chipboard case with flat leather handle. Hinges and clasp intact and working well. I just installed a brand new set of Martin M630 baritone Ukulele strings, clear fluorocarbon, which are E-.0220, B-.0251, G-.0340, D-.0350. This instrument has clearly been exceptionally well cared for over it's entire life, and is proof that having a case to keep an instrument in makes all the difference in the world over a great number of years. I have truly enjoyed owning and playing this fine old instrument for many years, it is one of those rare instruments that sounds great both acoustically when playing alone as well as through a miked sound system when playing with other musicians. People have always commented to me what a beautiful sounding instrument this is. The instrument is very well constructed and still very solid even after all these years, a true testament to the outstanding quality of the S.S. Stewart brand. The early S.S. Stewart instruments are simply incredible."

Mezcalero
08-04-2017, 12:12 PM
Interesting instrument Rick! I am guessing it was originally strung with steel strings. I am going to try and attach some photos here for you until you can get your question answered regarding deleting the photos from your previous post.

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I have done multiple transactions with Rick. He is an expert packer and the instruments have always arrived as described. Buy with confidence!

librainian
08-04-2017, 02:11 PM
A remarkable time traveler. It's rare to find one so old in such good condition. I particularly like the bridge shape and the ebony pins. The banjo-like headstock is an unusual combination too. Best of luck with the sale.

Ukulele Eddie
08-04-2017, 02:52 PM
That's a gorgeous instrument. I'm curious as to how you determined the date? I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that the tenor guitar emerged sometime around the 1920's as banjo fell out of favor.

Good luck with the sale!

rhiggie
08-05-2017, 02:07 AM
That's a gorgeous instrument. I'm curious as to how you determined the date? I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that the tenor guitar emerged sometime around the 1920's as banjo fell out of favor.

Good luck with the sale!

Great question, and one I asked from the previous owner who seems very knowledgable with many vintage instruments. It was listed as an 1890's instrument and here's his reply:
"When I first bought the instrument I wrote to several 'experts' asking about the instrument's age, and several of them including Lowell Levinger, told me this was a tenor guitar, while a few others told me it was indeed a baritone uke, so I never really knew for sure what it was to be honest. I have always been playing it as a baritone uke. As far as the age goes, I had seen a similar early 6 string S.S. Stewart (I think on Antebellum guitars) with the same head stock label and it said something about the few short years that particular label was used."
That's what I based the age on, but I am only going on what I was told and am no authority. WHat I do know is it sounds incredible, very full and warm, and plays like a dream. Thanks for asking, RIck

mountain goat
08-05-2017, 02:16 AM
Great question, and one I asked from the previous owner who seems very knowledgable with many vintage instruments. It was listed as an 1890's instrument and here's his reply:
"When I first bought the instrument I wrote to several 'experts' asking about the instrument's age, and several of them including Lowell Levinger, told me this was a tenor guitar, while a few others told me it was indeed a baritone uke, so I never really knew for sure what it was to be honest. I have always been playing it as a baritone uke. As far as the age goes, I had seen a similar early 6 string S.S. Stewart (I think on Antebellum guitars) with the same head stock label and it said something about the few short years that particular label was used."
That's what I based the age on, but I am only going on what I was told and am no authority. WHat I do know is it sounds incredible, very full and warm, and plays like a dream. Thanks for asking, RIck
the headstock, bridge and nut width speak tenor guitar to me.
but hey, same tuning, right. all good.
wish I could afford it man. it's a stunner.
someone is gonna be mighty happy.

Cornfield
08-05-2017, 02:44 AM
Is there a serial number somewhere inside? I have a 1927 Martin tenor guitar, the serial number is inside, in the area below where the fret board comes in.

I searched these S.S. Stewat Journals and didn't find any reference to tenow banjo or tenor guitar before 1900
https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action;jsession id=C41EC90FA86658C8685A4C8E8367FA13?institutionalI temId=2330&versionNumber=1

The original date of the instrument, not withstanding, really doesn't matter. I bet that it sounds fantastic. S.S. Stewart had several manufacturers build their guitars, including Martin and Gibson. If I had this guitar/ukulele, I would take it to a luthier and have him check to see if he would withstand steel strings.

BTW: It could be that the case is worth more than the guitar if it is original and in great shape.

Cornfield
08-05-2017, 06:09 AM
I don't think that pick guards were common before 1929. I've looked at a lot of earlier instruments and don't believe I've ever seen one . You might want to check with Gruhn's book on the history of guitar. That bridge on yours seems unique.

Ukulele Eddie
08-05-2017, 08:51 AM
Great question, and one I asked from the previous owner who seems very knowledgable with many vintage instruments. It was listed as an 1890's instrument and here's his reply:
"When I first bought the instrument I wrote to several 'experts' asking about the instrument's age, and several of them including Lowell Levinger, told me this was a tenor guitar, while a few others told me it was indeed a baritone uke, so I never really knew for sure what it was to be honest. I have always been playing it as a baritone uke. As far as the age goes, I had seen a similar early 6 string S.S. Stewart (I think on Antebellum guitars) with the same head stock label and it said something about the few short years that particular label was used."
That's what I based the age on, but I am only going on what I was told and am no authority. WHat I do know is it sounds incredible, very full and warm, and plays like a dream. Thanks for asking, RIck

Soprano ukuleles were the only ukuleles until the 1920's when the concert was first introduced, so if it is a baritone ukulele it would date way later as I believe the baritone first appeared in the early 1950's. Here is one source on the history of the baritone uke:

http://www.ukulelemag.com/stories/news/great-ukes-the-birth-of-the-baritone

As @mountain goat suggested, the headstock suggests tenor guitar, as does the neck profile. As I wrote earlier, tenor guitars appeared in the early 1920's insofar as I know. You might want to contact these folks who are experts in vintage instruments:

https://bernunzio.com

They can help you accurately date it.

Good luck! Eddie

rhiggie
08-08-2017, 01:24 AM
Thanks, I sent all the info I had plus all photos to bernunzio.com. I will update the listing if they can help me out.

Cornfield
08-16-2017, 06:37 AM
Thanks, I sent all the info I had plus all photos to bernunzio.com. I will update the listing if they can help me out.

Any updates on this instrument. It looks fine but its difficult to ascertain a value while its history is in doubt.

rhiggie
08-16-2017, 10:10 AM
I got a response back but it wasn't much help. Just said they would make an offer to buy or do an appraisal for $45. He did say it was somewhere around the turn of the century. I guess I should update the listing title and just say date is uncertain. Thanks for everyone's input.

Cornfield
08-17-2017, 03:11 AM
I sent you a PM on this.

rhiggie
08-17-2017, 03:31 AM
No serial number I can see anywhere.

Cornfield
08-17-2017, 03:39 AM
No serial number I can see anywhere.

I sent you another PM about the research I have done. I'm pretty sure that I have identified the manufacturer and the year.