The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41978   Message #607851
Posted By: wysiwyg
11-Dec-01 - 01:00 PM
Thread Name: Help: Autoharp Models: History
Subject: Autoharp Models: History
A friend has a very nice old Oscar Schmidt autoharp with its original owner's manual and a 1966 copy of the "Many Ways" book volume one. She bought it, used, many years ago, in its original chipboard case. It is a rectangular case with rounded corners and an unlidded pick compartment inside, lined in blue.

The owner's manual indicates the harp would be what was then designated as a BH model autoharp, specifically the 15 EBH. Chords reading left to right: E flat, D, F7, Gm, B flat, A7, C7, Dm, F, E7, G7, Am, C, D7, G.

The color is a medium warm golden reddish-brown stain, all over, with no sunburst pattern. It appears to be solid, not laminate, and there is mortise and tenon joinery visible along the side edge, near the high C string. Also faintly visible is the joinery attaching the top-- perhaps it's shrunk some and needs to be reglued. The sound hole looks a bit smaller than today's models.

The brown chord bar assembly is farther towards the pegs than how I recall 15-chord models being set up now (I have a 21), in fact it lies over the lower half of the sound hole. At the "Piano keyboard" end, instead of the keyboard decal, there is a stencilled pattern. This shows, top top bottom, the notes laid out on a staff with octaves marked off; string numbers 10 - 34 marked off in fives; and the note names. Ball end strings.

It's obviously been treated well by its original owner-- all the tuning pegs are standing up straight at the same height, with no string ends hanging out where strings were changed. The strings have hardly oxidized at all, tho there is dust on the top-- they must have been oiled at some point by the first owner. There is little wear on the felt, but it is unevenly broken in-- you can see that light pressure was applied, and to get an even sound on a chord you have to mash pretty hard to get all the strings damped out.

The serial number is gone, and if it ever had a sticker in the soundhole, it's come off. The owner's manual indicates that a warranty card with serial number would have been included, but that is gone as well.

It needs some work-- new chord bar springs I think, and some of the felt is damaged on two chords-- not worn, but pieces torn off, probably from things rattling around in the case.

The tone is really lovely. She has not played it since buying it YEARS ago! And it is still pretty well in tune relative to itself! *G*

Can anyone tell me anything about the history of harps in that time period, and what this one's value might be? Or what model might be comparable now, in quality?

I would be inclined to refelt it to get a fresh start on breaking in that felt, and because if I play it I will set it up differently for the keys I sing in. Make sense?