1926 Weymann 225

 

The lines between instrument manufacturers, retailers and distributors were often blurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Builders such as Epiphone and Lange kept retail stores in or near their factories that sold directly to the public. Distributors often developed their own brands sourced from a variety of builders, as Buegeleisen & Jacobson did with their Wondertone banjos. A few distributors even purchased manufacturing companies, as Sears did with Harmony. Retailers and music schools frequently sold mass-produced instruments under their own name, as Hager’s did. Occasionally, a retailer would give rise to a formidable manufacturing company; one such example was Slingerland, and another was H. A. Weymann and Son.

The Weymann store was a mainstay of the Philadelphia musical instrument market for about eighty years after its opening in 1864. Henry Arnold Weymann initially purchased an existing store and sold a variety of good including imported musical instruments. By the end of the 19th century, Weymann and Son were employing luthiers to build some of the company’s own guitars and other instruments. A separate factory was eventually established to produce guitars, mandolins, banjos and ukuleles. It has been suggested that some of the parts and workers from the defunct S. S. Stewart factory were purchased by Weymann; there is certainly some design influence in the company’s banjos, particularly in the neck adjuster.

However, Weymann also made some innovations of their own. Their Orchestra line of banjos featured a “megaphonic tone amplifying” rim that directed sound toward the edges of the resonator and out toward the listener. Their geared tuners, built in-house and occasionally seen on other manufacturers’ banjos as well, had the gears sunk into the headstock for a streamlined appearance. Some of their less expensive banjos had hooks that went through the permanently-attached resonator for easy adjustment. These features gave Weymann an edge in the crowded banjo market, and their tenors and plectrums are still considered some of the finest instruments of the jazz era.

Weymann’s mandolins, guitars and ukuleles are also highly regarded. This is an example of their only banjo-ukulele model, No. 225. Although it lacks many of the features that made the company’s tenors and plectrums unique, this small creation was not built as an afterthought. The rim is too small to incorporate the megaphonic design, but the neck adjuster has been specifically built in a shorter dimension especially for this model. The flamed neck and resonator are made of maple worthy of Weymann’s Orchestra series. In keeping with their instruments of the 1920s, the decal on the back of the headstock bears the “Keystone State” name; this started as Weymann’s primary brand, but by the 1920s it had become more of a by-line underneath the Weymann name. The Model 225 was sold as an open-back banjo for $20 or with the optional resonator for $25 – very affordable prices compared to the company’s cheapest tenors and plectrums. Other examples of this model are known to have fancier fretboard and headstock inlays, but that variation was probably never included in a catalog.

Weymann ceased manufacturing around the turn of the 1930s and began selling more instruments by Harmony and other factories. Although many still bore the Weymann name, none were of comparable quality to the earlier instruments built by the company.

 

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