C.1920 HILO STYLE 640


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A rare Hilo style 640 Hawaiian guitar made around 1920, in very good condition.

Following the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco, America was hit with full force by the Hawaiian music craze – and suddenly, everyone wanted instruments to get their fill of Old Hawaii! Thus was born the Hawaiian steel guitar, from the work of luthiers such as Chris Knutsen and Hermann Weissenborn. These guitars were intended to be played flat on the musician’s lap using a slide, and a unique feature was that they had square, hollow necks which were intended to amplify their resonance. Meanwhile, far from the sunny coasts of Oregon and California where the aforementioned instruments were built, another builder was hard at work: in the city of Boston, the Oscar Schmidt Company produced a wide variety of instruments under various brands – guitars, mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, and the infamous Hawaiian guitars! All of these instruments were mainly sold door-to-door by travelling salesmen, in remote corners of the USA which often did not have any music stores at the time. Under the Hilo Hawaiian Steel Guitar brand, several models were produced in varying degrees of elaboration and woods used.

The present model is a Hilo style 640, relatively simply built, with a spruce top and mahogany sides and back. The fretboard has basic dot inlays, and there is a rope-style binding around the top of the instrument, which is inspired by Weissenborn guitars. Despite this apparent plainness, the guitar has a beautiful tone, with deep basses and long, rich sustain.

Complete professional setup done at our workshop, ready to play.

Comes in an older cardboard case.

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