Small pre-war American Firms click for more

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Albert and sons Banjolele Banjo Ukulele
Albert & Sons
almost certainly a German Import
As the first wave of Ukulele popularity grew, so a number of new companies jumped on the bandwagon. Some were Manufacturers with a history of making other instruments, some were Distributors, (or Jobbers as they were called at the time) who decided there was profit in having their own brands to market. Often now though there is very little information on what they made or sold.

Albert & Sons

More famous for their Violins than any other instrument and established by John Albert a German Violin maker in Philadelphia in the 1850's, who later brought his two sons Charles Francis (CF) and Eugene John (EJ) into the business. On the Violin side CF was a better maker than EJ though neither were as good as their Father and when John died in 1887 the business was split in two, although the brothers worked within a few blocks of each other. CF's quality also started to drop as Charles brought his own son (another Charles) into the business and CF jnr. wasn't as good a CF snr. In 1901 snr died and in 1916 jnr died so CF Albert stopped trading and EJ took on the mantle of a single business again. However EJ Albert increasingly became an importer and distributor of instruments rather than a manufacturer, and along with everyone else in the early 20's started distributing Ukuleles and Banjoleles which he may have, but almost certainly didn't, make himself. I don't think this business saw out the 20's and I have read that EJ sold it on to a New Jersey distributor.

Albert Houdlett & Son

They were a Drum and Banjo Maker from Brooklyn. The company was founded in 1865 and closed in 1930. They never made Ukuleles but they did make a range of Banjoleles under the Nu-Way brand some of which they supplied to Ditson. Another brand name they used was Lynbrook, (a play on Brooklyn), Nu-Art. This is also the firm where Fredrick Gretsch learned the trade before going off to start his own firm.

Illinois Musical Supply Co.

Another Distributor on Wabash Ave., this one was at 316 until 1927 when they moved to 615 (which certainly until some time after 1922 was Wurlitzers Chicago office, so they might have been something to do with Wurlitzer but I don't think so). They distributed all sorts of instrument including Ukuleles and Banjoleles which they branded with a circular decal with "Illinois Guarantee" on it, presumably from one or more of the Chicago manufacturers, (the Ukulele pictured was made by Richter & Co. - thanks to Zoran Dragutinovich, who owns it, for this information). I have no information beyond this like founding or finishing so any further info would help?

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