Saturday, September 26, 2009


The instrument on the right is an intriguing example by Harwood, a little-known New York maker from 1900 to 1930.

Though known mainly from his existing parlor guitars, The Harwood Guitar Company also made at least two harp guitars. This guitar, with twelve sub-bass strings and "double-barrel" sound holes, is large -almost nineteen inches wide. It's extremely well made, with aberrantly-grained Brazilian rosewood back and sides.


Harwood was a brand name used by the J. W. Jenkins Company, a Kansas City, MO musical instrument dealer and wholesaler. They introduced the Harwood brand in 1885. That same year the Jenkins Company established a factory and produced guitars using the brands Clifford and Washington.

Some guitars marked "Harwood, New York" have been seen. It is not known if these are also by Jenkins. There is a town in New York State called Harwood, which may give us a clue.

An article from The Music Trades, dated July 26, 1902, shows what may be the first Harwood harp guitar, though the name is not mentioned. Clues are the last fret marker (on both necks, in this case) - a bone rectangle engraved "HARWOOD" (look at the last fret marker on each of the pictures), the carved bridge that matches some of the known specimens, the joined headstock, and the position of the necks on the body.

It is advertised as the new guitar from J. W. Jenkins' Sons Music Co (a continuation of the Jenkins Company referred to above?). Interestingly, they don't call it a harp guitar or similar - just a 14-string guitar. The eight bass strings utilize geared tuners, and the two necks are centered on the body.


Although we know about the Chicago built Harwoods, we are not certain who built the New York Harwoods. Frank Ford, who has examined some of the parlor guitars, believes that they are nearly comparable to Martin quality (but not made by Martin). I am told the bracing pattern is the distinction. Most Martin guitars utilized the "X" bracing pattern, while Harwood guitars utilized "ladder bracing."

All Harwoods appear to be made with stunning Brazilian rosewood back and sides. This above harp specimen has a perfectly flat top, strung with 12 steel strings, yet is only ladder braced. Perhaps this is helped by the fact that amongst the evenly-spaced braces (~ every 2-1/2"), one is situated directly above the bridge, and the bridge plate itself appears to be a solid thin piece of an unidentified wood that completely fills the space between the braces and from side to side.

My own Harwood is currently unplayable, but one of these day I hope to have it repaired.

Like all Harwoods the bone inlay at the last fret that spells the company name Harwood.

The logo is engraved on the neck block and states Harwood Guitars, NY. The same logo appears on the back side of the headstock. Another feature is the extreme V shape of the neck. My thoughts are this shape deterred the neck from warpage. As with many guitars, there is a strap button on the butt of the guitar's body, however there is another strap button on the distal back side of the slotted headstock.


The tuners are ancient and made from ivory, which has deteriated through the years causing them to shrink. The top appears to be spruce and the back and sides are rosewood. I keep strings on the guitar, although they are loose. The guitars of this era, 1890's, were designed for gut strings. I use silk & steel strings as they do not have the tension of bronze or steel core strings. Additionally I tune down a whole step when I played the guitar.

This guitar was given to me by my wife for a Christmas present many years ago. She bought it from an antique store. It is a treasure.


Scott Gilliom said...

I have a Harwood guitar, plain appointments, yet it is a similar dimension to martin single O, 12 fret. Brazilian rosewood sides and back, in the original Coffin Case.

A.S. Jackson said...

I have a Harw3ood guitar with a double oval stamped with Harwood New York # 5 [model?] and 7566 [serial # ?] with a photo of my grandfather Alvin R. Jackson dated 1898/99 playing it. At present guitar needs repair and ivory pegs missing.In a leather case with red interior in bad shape.

brad mayfield said...

I have a Harwood parlor guitar that is in excellent playable shape, i play it daily. Recently a traveling vintage guitar buying company looked at it for five minutes, "researched" it on the web and offered me $150 for it... i walked away as politely as i could.

Anonymous said...

I just acquired a Harwood Lyre mandolin (for want of a better term). I have a friend that also has one. These strange instruments have 12 strings. The scale length is 16.5 inches... which puts it somewhere between a mandola and an octave mandolin. Top nut indicates strings were arranged in 6 pairs. This leads me to believe it was tuned in 5ths rather than something like a tipple which was tuned like a uke. Tiples had 10-12 strings but ther were arranged in triplets rather than pairs. I doubt this instrument was made in-house in KC by Jenkins. I have seen lots of odd parlor guitars and I would bet on upper midwest. But I wouldn't rule out east either. Kansas City... not a chance.

Sir Gregory said...

Hi Marcus - I'm trying to locate where in your blog you reference me or my site. This seems to be lifted from there, no?
Thanks for clarifying.
Gregg Miner

Sir Gregory said...

Marcus - 4 months later and your blog remains a direct lift of my article (written in MY first person yet!). At this point I have to insist you take it down. Thanks, Gregg Miner said...

Greg, I wrote this article in September of 2009. the date is listed at the top of the page. This article was a result of some research that I did on Harwood guitars after my wife purchased one for me. I have no idea who you are are or what article you are accusing me of lifting.
Please send me the article with the date you wrote it. The only site I have come across with your name on it is which references harpguitars. I did find a piece in your blog regarding Harwood guitars which references an article in Fretboard Journal from 2011. That article was written by Bill Graham and refers to Bob Jenkins, whose family owned Harwood after the company moved from New York state. The Fretboard Journal article was done several years after my article. The earliest date I find on your blog is September 21, 2010. It would appear that you started blogging a year after I published my article. My wife is a professional journalist and I would in no way plagiarize anyone. Sincerely Marc

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