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20th Century Guitar
Rara Avis -- 1899 Larson Presentation

May 2000
by Bianca Soros

Link to 20th Century Guitar Magazine

n 1899 one of America's greatest artists, Winslow Homer (1836-1910) painted "The Gulf Stream," depicting the perils of the sea, U.S. pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi Cola, which rivaled Coca Cola, and American composer, Scott Joplin popularized ragtime with his tune, "The Maple Leaf Rag." In France, Louis Vuitton adopted his marketing technique of including his initials on his luggage products to prevent imitation, and French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) painted his first interpretation of the water lilies series. Meanwhile, the British defeated the South African Boers in a war that had lasted three years and launched the largest ship in the world, the Oceanic, measuring 704 feet long.

    This one-of-a-kind 1899 Larson presentation beauty was custom ordered with a fabulously organic Art Nouveau tree-of-life pearl fingerboard, which extends upward and into the headstock design. According to Robert Hartman, an acclaimed authority on Larson guitars, Larson most likely built the instrument for the Maurer company. The Larson brothers bought Maurer a year later in 1900. The Larson brothers lived and worked in Chicago during the 1890s until the early 1940s. This is Larson's crème de la crème-one of their fanciest instruments ever built, in terms of construction and ornament. The top is made of quartersawn Appalachian spruce and the sides and back are constructed of six phenomenal sections of perfectly bookmatched Brazilian rosewood.

   The guitar was made using Larson's earliest bracing technique, incorporating ladder-bracing versus the laminated x-bracing used in construction in later designs. This instrument was constructed to withstand steel strings and is one of Larson's most ornamental examples, featuring pearl diamonds and exotic arrowheads set in black mastic bordering the guitar's edges. Larson also incorporated the diamond and arrowhead design on the instrument's backstrip. The standard-shaped ebony bridge is inlaid with snowflakes and diamonds, making it unique. This particular instrument was previously owned by guitarist G.E. Smith, the former bandleader on NBC's Saturday Night Live.End

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