Thornward Guitar c 1905 | $1500 | (v2305) Thornward was a brand of the Montgomery Ward company, early pioneer of the mail-order catalog. The Thornward brand was used on a variety of items in the early catalogs including cameras, music boxes and stringed instruments. The history of the name is a bit elusive, but it's evident that the 'Ward' part comes from Montgomery Ward, who founded the catalog business in 1872. In 1873 his brother-in-law, Geroge Thorne, became a partner so the Thornward name likely derives from a combination of the names of those two entrepreneurs. The brand appears to have fizzled out by the early twentieth century, based on a perusal of early Ward catalogs. It's difficult to determine a precise maker and date of manufacture for the guitar. Most ascribe the Thornward brand to the Lyon & Healy factory in Chicago. L&H was a profuse manufacturer and was known to use elaborate inlays on their high-end guitars; some of the construction features of the Thornward are similar to L&H products.
Regardless of maker, the Thornward is a visual stunner and sports one of the most aesthetically pleasing fingerboard inlays to come out of any makers shop. The intricately engraved abelone inlay is set into an ebony fingerboard and features flowers, flower buds and leaves, on a trailing stem with the stem made from copper. The neck is mahogany and carved in the typical 'V'-shape of the era. Both the neck and head stock are bound in white celluloid. The headstock is overlaid with Brazilian rosewood and features two engraved inlays and an engraved abelone banner with the Thornward logo. The back and sides are straight-grained Brazilian rosewood. The back features a fancy inlaid prufling strip and is bound in white celluloid. The top is spruce, ladder braced and bound in white celluloid and herringbone marquetry. The sound hole features inlaid abelone surrounded by 'rope' marquetry. The bridge (replacement) is ebony. The tuners are older replacements.
The Thornward is a grand-concert size guitar, measuring 14 3/4" across at the lower bout. The body measures 4 5/16" deep at the endpin. Scale length is just over 25 1/2". The neck is 1 3/4" across at the nut, with string spacing 2 3/8" at the saddle.
The guitar is in mostly original condition but for a replaced bridge, two replaced end pins and the finish. It appears that the guitar was finished in a thick laquer at some point. Additionally, three top cracks were sealed, along with a back and side crack. We recently removed and replaced the split original bridge; reset the neck; glued the loose fingerboard; leveled and dressed the frets; installed a thin overlay on the bridge plate/brace. The guitar is solid and braced for steel strings. There is one brace below the bridge, two above the bridge, and a brace and 'popsicle' brace under the fingerboard extension. Additionally, there are two small cleats east and west of the soundhole to support the top in that area. All braces appear original to the guitar. The guitar handles 11-50 steel strings with no problem. The finish, although still sparkly, shows a lot of craquelure from inherent guitar stresses, and some blushing at the heel from steam. The tuners were replaced at some point, and two of the bone bridge pins are replacements. The end pin appears replaced, too.
In addition to its aesthetic beauty, the guitar plays well and sounds great! The big rosewood body provides plenty of low-end power, and the rosewood allows good projection. A competent player for all the fingerpicking styles, and holds its own when flat picked.
Comes with a really nice, c 1950, plush-lined hard case in excellent condition.
Check out the sound clip!
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