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   Founded in 1864, Chicago's Lyon and Healy company was America's largest distributor of all kinds of musical instruments at the end of the nineteenth century, claiming an annual production of over 100,000 Washburn-brand guitars, mandolins, and zithers. They sold a wide range of guitars at all price levels, but also offered models that were far fancier than those of nearly any other American company. Although unlabeled, this unique guitar was likely a custom order from Lyon and Healy, as certain details bear similarity to their high-end instruments. Whereas the fingerboard inlay on other ornate guitars and banjos from this period typically shows symmetrical patterns in a classical style, it was clearly the Art Nouveau movement that inspired the bold, asymmetrical leaves on this instrument. There are many other pleasing touches throughout the guitar, from the artistic engraving in the pearl inlay to the ornamental flourishes that terminate the light wood inlay on the rosewood sides. As the twentieth century progressed, and less expensive guitars began to be offered, most buyers became less interested in paying for a spectacular piece like this one.



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