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Al Jolson Soprano Ukulele, most likely made by J. R. Stewart Company (mid-1920's)

Al Jolson Soprano Ukulele, c. 1920's

Al Jolson Model Soprano Ukulele, most likely made by J. R. Stewart Company (mid-1920's), made in USA, black and white two-tone finish, birch, black soft shell case.

A rare and truly spectacular mid-late 20's novelty uke. This instrument bears the grinning likeness and signature of Al Jolson both on the headstock in color decal form and in the soundhole on a paper label.

Almost certainly made by the J.R. Stewart company of Chicago, it bears a strong family resemblance to their better-known "Le Domino" series of ukes both in construction and cosmetics, although built to a slightly less exacting standard.

The body is finished in simple black paint and bound top, back and soundhole. The extended fingerboard has a celluloid stripe down the center and double pearl dot inlays. The bridge saddle is white and there is a nice tuxedo-like ornament just beneath the bridge. The nut is bone and the tuners are inexpensive black-button friction types.

New York jobber Progressive Musical Instrument Corp. (known for the P'mico line of ukes) is credited on the label with being "Sole Distributors", meaning they probably signed the deal with Jolson and had these made up. Although one of the defining stars of the 1920's, Jolson himself is not known to have played much uke - P'mico seems to have had more success with a similar instrument celebrating Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards), who was a more obvious choice for such a product! Interestingly, Al is not in blackface for the picture used to ornament this uke…and Edwards was on his. A fascinating early example of out-of control celebrity marketing, and a great period artifact!
 
Overall length is 21.5 in. (54.6 cm.), 6.75 in. (17.1 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2.25 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 13 in. (330 mm.).

Overall very nice condition. Has had a major crack along the sides and through the neck block expertly repaired and it is now completely stable.

Some minor finish wear (the paint finish is not especially durable), mostly to the back of the neck around the nut and the face. Jolson label is intact but peeling slightly at one corner and has some pencil scribbles - though none on Al's face.

In excellent condition for display and also not a bad playing ukulele. Excellent Condition.

Item # 565
 
This item has been sold.


 
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