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Anastasios Stathopoulo Style 15A Flat Back, Bent Top Mandolin (1914)
Anastasios Stathopoulo Style 15A Model Flat Back, Bent Top Mandolin (1914), made in New York City, serial # 5552, natural varnish finish, mahogany back and sides, spruce top; laminated mahogany/maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.
While the name Anastasios Stathopoulo is not generally well-known, his legacy in American fretted instruments is historically very important. Anastasios was literally "the Father of Epiphone"; that company was the outgrowth of his own operation, and run by his three sons Epi, Orphie, and Frixo. He came to New York in 1903 from Smyrna, escaping the persecution of Greek nationals like himself in Turkish territory. He was already an experienced instrument maker, and soon enough the entire family was involved in the business.
Like many other immigrants at the time, the Stathopoulo family arrived through Ellis Island and never moved beyond New York City. At the time New York City was a well-established center of fretted instrument manufacturing, already a crowded market when Anastasios set up shop. Just in lower Manhattan there were a number of (mostly Italian) family-operated shops, including Raphael Ciani on Kenmare street, Cerrito, Yosco, the Favilla brothers, and many others.
The city was also home to large retail/wholesale jobbers such as Ditson, Buegeleisen & Jacobson, and Bruno & Sons, who would often commission lines of instruments from local manufacturers. Across the East River in Brooklyn was the already-thriving Gretsch operation, and in the other direction over the Hudson was the giant Oscar Schmidt factory in Jersey City. Anastasios Stathopoulo could have easily been lost in this bustling world, but as a Greek instrument builder he had a ready-made market in other recent immigrant Greeks who wanted the traditional instruments he was already experienced in building.
The Stathopoulo family was apparently successful from the beginning, although they relocated regularly in the early years. The eldest son, Epaminondas (usually called Epi), graduated from Columbia University, which was very unusual for a recent immigrant working family. When Anastasios died suddenly in 1915, Epi took over and before long built the business up beyond his father's dreams.
Along the way the Greek folk instruments were replaced with the currently popular mandolin and then banjos, which were eventually the engines of the company's first glory days in the 1920s. After 1915 the labels dropped Anastasiosís first initial and proclaimed their source as the "House of Stathopoulo". In the early 1920s the company's increasingly elaborate and expensive banjos began carrying a new name that would become a major force in 20th century instruments: Epiphone.
Original Anastasios Stathopoulo instruments are very rare; as hand built items they lacked mass exposure and were mostly sold locally in New York. Stathopoulo was a creative builder, often favoring unconventional body shapes and sound holes, even on mandolins and more unique instruments like some spectacular harp guitars.
This very interesting mandolin has a relatively conventional body, but many unique design touches. The bound top is bent in the traditional spot but has a slight arch, and fancy double chain wood marquetry trim. The pickguard is elaborately inlaid with floral filigree with an "AS" crest at the center. The craftsmanship is very good, and certain quirks like the wide base of the headstock, multiple laminations in the neck, and the scarf joint at the base of the headstock are Stathopoulo trademarks. This is a historically important instrument, the only one like it we have seen, and a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of one of the 20th century's great fretted brands.
Overall length is 24 3/4 in. (62.9 cm.), 9 in. (22.9 cm.) width, and 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 13 1/4 in. (337 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).
While this instrument shows some general wear, for its age it remains extremely well-preserved and eminently playable. There is very fine checking to much of the finish, with small dings and chips and some pickwear, mostly to the top. Some small seam separations are visible, but on the whole the instrument is quite solid.
Although we would consider this primarily a historically important instrument, it is also playable and good-sounding, although not to the more exacting modern standards -- the action is currently 3/32" at the 11th fret and the fingerboard rises somewhat above that point, so the action cannot be lowered any further without corrective surgery. We prefer to preserve the instrument in its current form, as it is one of very few of this luthier's instruments to survive completely original and intact and stands as a testament to the earliest immigrant roots of Epiphone, one of the 20th century's most important American fretted innovators. Excellent - Condition.
Item # 7724
This item has been sold.
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