Early Central European Manufacturers click for more

J J Grandjon Cavaquinho Ukulele Hawaiian Mandolin
J Grandjon Hawaiian Mandolin
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Ukulele from the Otto Windisch 1925 catalogue
Otwin 1925
Otto Windisch
From very early on the the Ukuleles history there have been a number of instruments coming out of Germany (or Shoenbach, Southern Bohemia, a German speaking region of Czechoslovakia) These may have originally been designed as Cavaquinhos (but there was never a big market for them?) or something else? but they were being marked before WWI as "Hawaiian Mandolins"
The problem with early central European instruments is, as well as a lack of information about the firms who made them, the instruments themselves are usually unbranded so I'm left with some illustrations from old catalogues that give makers names or photos of instruments that were made in the region but its not clear by whom? Any help would be good...

J(ules) J(oseph) Grandjon

He was a Frenchman who worked around Europe before founding a Violin making factory in Mirecourt, France in 1850. I can find nothing to say when the factory stopped producing, and all of the Violins I have seen are dated pre 1900, (however like early Ukuleles auction houses and Violin resellers are prone to knock a few years off the actual date of manufacture to try and add value!?), so I think they were gone by WW1. Though most famous for Violins they did produce some other Instruments too, including an early Ukulele / Cavaquinho / Hawaiian Mandolin type model

Otto Windisch (Otwin)

The company was founded in 1886 and in 1903 Otto's brother Paul joined. By the mid 1920s the two brothers were still running the company, manufacturing instrument (but possibly not Ukuleles) as OW, Owi, Edelklang and Joachim Tielke as brands plus possibly Radionella. Windisch managed to survive WWII but the firm became part of Musima who used the Otwin name to brand some of their guitars in the 50's and 60's.


A maker of Banjos and Banjoleles in the early 1900's, They made other instruments too like Guitars and Mandolins but I've not seen a wooden Ukulele that I can definitely say they made. I believe they made early Gramophone players too but I have very little information on them beyond this, like where in Germany they were based, when they started or what finally happened to them?

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