About Stromberg-Voisinet and it Successor, Kay Musical Instruments and How This Relates to D. Rickert Musical Instruments
This article relates to several new instruments to be announced soon (or will have been announced by the time you read this) by D. Rickert Musical Instruments and available from the Don Rickert Musician Shop.
These new luthier-built (i.e. not factory made and not cheap!) instruments by D. Rickert are all based on a design motif introduced by a company called Stromberg-Voisinet in the 1920s. The design motif is quite distinctive and is called the “Venetian” style.
Stromberg-Voisinet and Kay Musical Instruments
The Groeshel Mandolin Company was established in Chicago in 1890. In 1921, the company was renamed to Stromberg-Voisinet. In 1923, Henry Kay Kuhrmeyer joined the company. He later became president. In 1928, with help of an investor, bought the company. The new company, "Kay Musical Instruments" was formally established in 1931 from the assets of Stromberg-Voisinet.
Stromberg-Voisinet primarily manufactured mandolins, tenor guitars, tenor banjos and 6-string guitars under its own brand as well as a large number of other brands, as Stromberg-Voisinet was an OEM supplier to many other manufacturers. Kay Musical Instruments continued this practice; however, Kay did sell many instruments under its own brand, “KayKraft.”
Stromberg-Voisinet has a special place in guitar history. Stromberg-Voisinet produced the first commercial electric guitar, the Stromberg Electro, in 1928.
Stromberg-Voisinet is particulary well-known among serious students of stringed instrument design for its unique “Venetian” body shape, which was used for its mandolins, tenor guitars and 6-string guitars.
Kay continued the Venetian body style after acquiring Stromberg-Voisinet. In fact, the Venetian shape is probably better known for its use with many instruments sold under the KayKraft brand and other popular brands such as Recording King in the 1930s through the 1950s.
D. Rickert Instruments Based on the Stromberg-Voisinet Venetian Body Shape
The first three master luthier-built (hand-made one at a time; i.e. NOT factory made) instruments being introduced by D. Rickert Musical Instruments are:
- A 4-course (8-string) Octave Mandolin
- A 4-course (8-string) Mandocello
- A 6-string concert guitar (about the size of an OM)
- A mandolin
- A tenor guitar
None of the new D. Rickert instruments are replicas of particular Stromberg-Voisinet or KayKraft instruments. First the Octave Mandolin was not even invented until the 1960s and Stromberg-Voisinet did not make a mandocello (note: Gibson had close to a monopoly on mandocellos in the 1920s; however, Kay did make a mandocello in the 1930s).
Second, the construction, particularly the bracing, of the D. Rickert instruments is state-of-the-art…far advanced to the the 1920s instruments.
Why did D. Rickert Musical Instrument Adopt the “Venetian” Body Style?
There are primary two reasons:
Sound: the Venetian shape affords a much larger capacity sound box than the ubiquitous teardrop or oval “Flatiron” used for flat-top mandolin family instruments, with no increase in overall instrument size. We designed our instruments to produce a BIG, full-bodied sound.
Cool Factor: The Venetian shape is simply as cool looking as it gets for a fretted instrument. Put simply, we just loved the design from an aesthetic perspective.
We believe that the world has enough “A” and “F” style mandolins and more than enough teardrop shaped octave mandolins and mandocellos.