(Jonah) Kumalae

Kumalae number 22 koa standard soprano at Ukulele Corner
Style B Soprano
Kumalae type e ukulele
Style E Soprano
Sherman Clay & Co. Banjolele banjo ukulele circa 1922 made by Kumalae
Jonah Kumalae started his Ukulele manufacturing company in Hawaii in 1911 and was the first person to mass produce Ukuleles - making 300 a month at the start. (He may also have been employing other local luthiers to do piece work at this time?) In 1915 they were the manufacturer who sponsored the Ukulele exhibit at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition. This was the show that really launched the Ukuleles initial popularity, (and earned the P.P.I.E. Gold Award that was proudly put on the headstocks of all Kumalaes after this). Kumalae also signed an exclusive deal for distribution on the Mainland with Sherman Clay & Co. which ran for a while. For most of the time Kumalae was in business they had a standard catalogue of 6 levels of decoration from style O with a crown headstock and a single ring around the soundhole for a rosette, through A, (3 rings) to E with "fancy inlay around soundhole and down center of fingerboard; fingerboard and top edge bound with fancy rope pattern inlay; fancy scrolled head". Outside of this they did make some with other decorative features as special models for distributors like Ditson

Kumalae is also credited with inventing the Sopranino Ukulele, and calling it "the Mini", (as he invented it and called it Mini then so do I, rather than Sopranino). This might have come about as a result of the small 5 fret sales samples they made which are reputedly perfectly playable and I have seen a couple come up for sale. Unusually for Hawaiian manufacturers Kumalae also included early "California style" Banjoleles in their range, (though these could have been brought in and re-branded?)

There is an unanswered question as to whether Kumalae made other brands of Ukulele or even made unbranded Ukuleles for others to brand? The official answer is no given the number of Ukuleles sold by others, (like Sherman Clay and Bergstrom), that still prominently carried the Kumalae logo and often had "Made by Jonah Kumalae for..." on the soundhole label, however there are a number of more obscure brands from Hawaii at the time, (brands like Enos Kealoha and Nuuanu), that look almost, (and given the handmade nature of production at the time not even every example of the same model is identical), identical to ones branded by Kumalae. This is where the suspicions lie but there is no firm evidence of other brands and it is not a long stretch of imagination for people who learned luthiery working for Kumalae to then make very similar Ukuleles, or like Bergstrom, have other small outfits do piece work for them, outfits who would then have very similar models as they own brands

Production continued until 1940 when Jonah Kumalae died and the factory closed.

There is now a Japanese firm selling new Kumalae Ukuleles but I don't think these have anything to do with Jonah, his family or the original brand

Please contact me if you have any information or pictures that would improve the page

contact Web Administrator if you think your copyright has been infringed