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Guitar Player
Encore -- Colonel John Hancock III's 1900 Washburn White Rose

October 1996
by Bianca Soros



Link to Guitar Player Magazine

olonel John Hancock III, great-grandson of American patriot and founding father John Hancock, was a U.S. Cavalry soldier, horse breeder, and prominent guitar collector. Like the elder Hancock's dramatic signature on the Declaration of Independence, the Washburn White Rose, custom-ordered by Hancock III around 1900, was a bold statement for its time. Departing significantly from the accepted norms of aesthetics, design, and construction, the guitar brings together elements of the country's diverse heritage in a unique manner.

   The White Rose's design reflects simplicity of form and detailed execution. The patterned inlay in the headstock, fingerboard, and rosette were not acquired from European vendors, as was the usual practice, but were custom designed and made at the Washburn factory. The unique pattern surrounding the rosette-based on ancient Apache pottery excavated in the Southwest at the turn of the 20th century-is delicately intertwined with pearl, ebony, and red- and green-wood marquetry. The fingerboard's engraved copper and pearl rose-vine inlay recalls Roman Empire designs that symbolized victory, pride, and triumphant love. As a whole, the organic execution of these design features embodies elements of American Art Nouveau.

   Washburn began producing steel-string guitars in 1880, beating most other manufactures by more than 40 years. To handle the added tension of the steel strings, the company built guitars featuring a metal reinforced truss rod, bolstered X-brace, and fortified Durkee-patent bridge. The White Rose's body was large for its era and remains so even by modern standards. Its innovative construction foreshadowed the large-body guitars that would appear during the next century. Guitar courtesy Hank Risan, Washington Street Music, Santa Cruz, California.End

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