1897 Washburn - Lyon and Healy - Presentation Guitar
Incredible rare Vintage 1897 Washburn Lyon and Healy era deluxe Brazilian Rosewood Presentation Parlor guitar in Near Mint condition. Only a very few of these still in existence. Indeed, we've only seen two other examples in over 50 years of dealing guitars, one was Joan Baez' oft played guitar, the other was played by Roy Clark. This fantastically beautiful instrument is a collector grade guitar with only superficial small handling pecks and no breaks or issues of any kind. It came strung with silk & nylon strings and played great with a fine loud, dark, and throaty woody voice and great playability and action up and down the fretboard. This is truly an exceptional guitar!
The few Presentation grade guitars of this era were custom made by only the best most experienced luthiers. Even the bracing is sculpted to make the most of potential resonance. Constructed of Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce, the phenomenal old-school craftsmanship and inlay work is exemplary and brilliantly executed. Wonderful abalone rosette, headstock, and binding; fine Mother of Pearl neck inlay and fretboard with finely crafted detailed scrimshaw; with beautiful tonewoods throughout - this little old jewel is very special indeed. So much so that John Teagle, author of the definitive Washburn History Book calls it the "finest American guitar made".
The instrument features a 24 1/4" scale length, a 1 7/8" nut, a 12 3/8" wide lower bout, 8 3/4" upper bout, and body depth of 4 1/8" at the endpin and 3 1/4" at the neck block. There is consistent fine checking on the nitrocellulous lacquer finish which has aged to a lovely amber hue. The only marks on this are a few very minor small nicks and scratches but there is no real playwear evident on the body or the fretboard. The entire guitar consistently green glowed properly throughout under a blacklight with no finish issues at all. The guitar plays great with about 3/32" string height at the 12th fret and fine action overall up and down the fretboard.
A delightful rare and fine guitar will make a brilliant addition to any collection of special instruments. Indeed, this guitar with it's Durkee bridge is considered one of the finest guitars ever made, "far grander than the Martin top-of-the-line".
George Washburn Lyon and Joseph Patrick Healy established a retail music store in downtown Chicago in 1864. By 1883 they decided that manufacturing and wholesale would be much more profitable than retail.
They set up their original factory was at Michigan Avenue and Wabash Street in Chicago. They began to manufacture guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, harp guitars and zithers under the Washburn logo, using the middle name of Mr. Lyon. Washburn was house brand of music retail store.
During those days Chicago was a large industrial town and an important musical center. It was home to orchestras and dance bands, blues performers and WLS radio, which used live performers as entertainment.
Of course this era was prior to the days of the dreadnaught guitar and even steel strings. Guitars of the day used catgut, which was made out of sheep intestines and very expensive. Nylon strings were not yet invented In fact Nylon was not produced until the 1940's.
Most of the Washburn guitar line was parlor guitars. Some of the Chicago blues players built guitars during the day and played them at night.
Back then Washburn guitars ranged in price from two dollars up through the hundred dollar range. The presentation models were in the $250 dollar range, which at that time was about twice the price of Martin's top of the line instruments. Most of Washburn's line was very well constructed using X bracing and Waverly tuners.
By custom request, Washburn created presentation guitars. The inlay work on all of these 19th century Washburns was very much in the neoclassical style with mother of pearl floral motifs and Grecian lyres on the headstock, elaborate inlay on the neck and around the neck heel and fancy binding surrounding the body and gold plated Waverly tuners.
Presentation guitars take their name from Presentation swords, which were an elaborately crafted gift usually presented to high ranking military officials, military heroes or government figures as an honor. These expensive weapons were made by the finest craftsmen and not meant to be used in battle, but to be displayed as a sign of prestige.
WWI came along and in 1914 Lyon and Healy ceased manufacturing ornate instruments.