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Robert Flemming, inventor of the guitar?

PoppaGator 06 Feb 09 - 03:10 PM
Don Firth 06 Feb 09 - 05:58 PM
Darowyn 07 Feb 09 - 04:43 AM
Melissa 07 Feb 09 - 05:26 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 07 Feb 09 - 08:00 AM
kendall 07 Feb 09 - 08:27 AM
PoppaGator 07 Feb 09 - 09:29 AM
Don Firth 07 Feb 09 - 02:13 PM
kendall 07 Feb 09 - 02:24 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 07 Feb 09 - 05:45 PM
Melissa 07 Feb 09 - 05:53 PM
Melissa 07 Feb 09 - 06:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Feb 09 - 06:53 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Feb 09 - 06:54 PM
Uncle_DaveO 07 Feb 09 - 09:36 PM
Uncle_DaveO 07 Feb 09 - 09:37 PM
Don Firth 07 Feb 09 - 10:28 PM
Melissa 07 Feb 09 - 10:41 PM
Darowyn 08 Feb 09 - 05:33 AM
pdq 08 Feb 09 - 11:29 AM
Darowyn 08 Feb 09 - 11:59 AM
bald headed step child 08 Feb 09 - 12:02 PM
pdq 08 Feb 09 - 01:57 PM
wyrdolafr 08 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM
PoppaGator 08 Feb 09 - 03:09 PM
wyrdolafr 08 Feb 09 - 03:52 PM
M.Ted 08 Feb 09 - 06:29 PM
PoppaGator 08 Feb 09 - 09:28 PM
M.Ted 08 Feb 09 - 10:02 PM
Melissa 08 Feb 09 - 10:15 PM
Darowyn 09 Feb 09 - 07:10 AM
wyrdolafr 09 Feb 09 - 07:26 AM
Darowyn 09 Feb 09 - 10:43 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Feb 09 - 10:47 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Feb 09 - 11:06 AM
Malcolm Douglas 09 Feb 09 - 11:08 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Feb 09 - 12:35 PM
Don Firth 09 Feb 09 - 01:20 PM
GUEST 17 Feb 09 - 04:12 PM
GUEST,victorie lozier 17 Feb 09 - 08:44 PM
Don Firth 17 Feb 09 - 09:58 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Feb 09 - 10:58 PM
Don Firth 18 Feb 09 - 12:24 AM
Melissa 18 Feb 09 - 12:30 AM
GUEST,cloudohana 24 Feb 09 - 05:51 PM
Melissa 24 Feb 09 - 06:34 PM
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M.Ted 27 Apr 09 - 05:25 PM
GUEST,AALDS (African American Designers&Luthiers S 08 Dec 09 - 12:27 AM
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Subject: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 06 Feb 09 - 03:10 PM

Well, it Black History Month here in the States, and this year is a very historical year indeed in Black American history.

Yesterday, I was in my local Walgreen's drugstore and saw a display of Black History T-shirts. One displayed a long list of Black inventors and their creations. Now, I am sure that there have been many African-American geniuses who made important contributions to the modern world of technology, and that many have been uncredited or underappreciated; curiosity got the best of me, so I took a close look at all the fine-print silkscreened onto this shirt.

One entry caught my eye: someone named Robert F. Flemming Jr. supposedly "invented the guitar" back in the 1880s, on a particular date in March.

Now, you and I know that the guitar existed long before 1880, and probably had its origins in Spain. And the date given for Mr. Flemming's accomplishment is to early for him to have invented the electric guitar.

When I got home, I did a Google search, but couldn't find any satisfactory answer. I found and read through at least 20-25 places on the web where people were asking the same question as me, and a couple of very brief mentions asserting what I had seen on the T-shirt but with no clarifying details. I found NO real answers. There is no Wikipedia entry, either, by the way.

Since a particular date is listed for this man's "invention," I think it's reasonable to conclude that he was granted a patent on that date, for some special kind of guitar, or part of a guitar, or something. But who knows what?

Anybody? Anybody?


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Feb 09 - 05:58 PM

A bit taken aback by this claim, I did some googling, and the best I was able to come up with was that there are a whole bunch of people asking who Robert F. Flemming, Jr. was and how did he come to invent the guitar, or what was it about the guitar that he invented. Speculation about maybe the electric guitar, but was electricity sufficiently available in 1880 to make an electric guitar even feasible? I don't think so. Edison was patenting a lot of stuff about that time, but how many houses were actually wired?

Besides, wasn't the electric guitar invented by one Adolph Rickenbacker in the 1930s, with its popularity being given a great boost by Les Paul, with his development of the solid-body electric in the early 1940s and his and Mary Ford's subsequent recordings in the 40s and 50s?

This claim requires a lot of detailed substantiation.

Some members of various groups, both political and ethnic, like to make the claim that a member of their particular group invented or discovered a whole variety of things first, but because they were an oppressed minority, they were shunted aside and someone else took credit for it. This sorry penchant can verge on the downright silly when it flies in the face of solidly established history.

I knew a young black man at the university who, as the civil rights movement gathered steam, grew increasingly militant, and as time went on, he began to distanced himself from reality. I was in solid sympathy with his cause, but his revisionism started me worrying about him. On one occasion, while having coffee with him in a restaurant near campus, he went off on a toot, explaining to me how "the white man," who writes the history, tries to erase the greatness and the accomplishments of other races, especially his.

His history lesson to me included, among many other things, his taking issue with the movie Cleopatra, with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role. "Cleopatra," he informed me, "as everyone knows, was a black African ." (She was not; she was Greek.) And, he informed me that Beethoven was black. "You can tell by his features." Really?

I knew better than to argue with him. I just sat there, saying "Hmm!" and "Really!? I didn't know that!" a lot.

What, I wonder, was that instrument that Fernando Sor, (1778 – 1839) was playing and for which he wrote so much music?

And where did the painter Vermeer get his ideas? The Guitar Player (circa 1672).

This sad bit of revisionism is certainly not limited to any particular group. This penchant was spoofed in a couple of episodes of Star Trek, TOS, when Ensign Chekov claimed that something had been invented by Russians, drawing a raised eyebrow or two from other crew members.

That's a really extraordinary list. I was particularly fascinated to learn that a W. A. Lavallette invented the printing press. Eat your heart out, Johannes Gutenberg (1398–1468)!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Darowyn
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 04:43 AM

Interesting that the electric guitar was invented in 1880. I picture the unfortunate inventor wandering forlornly around, with the lead in his hand, looking for something to plug it into--- for twenty six years!
Lee DeForest invented the valve (tube) that allowed anyone to design an amplifier, so any claims of electric instruments prior to 1906 are a little shaky.
Paul Tutmarc has a reasonable claim to have the earliest electric guitar, and electric bass- though clearly there were many people working on the problem in the early 1930s.
If it is any consolation to the African American history advocates, the person who showed everyone how to use an electric guitar was the great Charlie Christian, who was black, for sure.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 05:26 AM

He appears to have been given a patent for a guitar design--March 3, 1886.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 08:00 AM


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: kendall
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 08:27 AM

Even that upstart, Martin, goes back to 1833


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 09:29 AM

Don ~ You said exactly what I would have said, in greater detail. You apparently found the same stuff I did when you tried to Google(all questions, no answers). I didn't know about Rickenbacker, by the way; I did know about Leo Fender and Les Paul as major electric-guitar developers, but they both came after Charley Christian. (Maybe even after T-Bone Walker, too, for that matter.)

Melissa ~ Your single sentence is the only real information I've yet found. Can you elaborate, or tell us where you found the info so we learn more?


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 02:13 PM

Why I waste my time on this stuff, I don't know. But I was curious to see if Robert F. Flemming, Jr., had actually developed some variation or adjunct to the guitar that could be considered noteworthy. The best I could come up with was

1. A repetition of the list with expressions of pride and admonitions about how much the world owed to multitudes of black inventors;

2. Angry but factless attempts to refute the list, posted by folks who were pretty obviously in a white-supremacist bag; and

3. The most reasonable, posted by people who identified themselves as black, who said that this list is absolutely ridiculous, and that those who insist on repeating it during Black History Month undercuts the validity of Black History Month and gives ammunition to racists.

On one forum, a black man felt sufficiently incensed by the silliness of the list and what it did to the cause of credibility that he did a fairly monumental amount of work taking each claimed invention and writing a brief history of how it really came about. Unfortunately, whatever Robert F. Flemming, Jr., may or may not have done regarding the guitar was not included, but the poster certainly made his point.

HERE. Scroll down to "Lurker" and his "Black Invention Myths" post.

As to the guitar, I am perfectly willing to give Flemming credit for anything he may have added to the guitar that was useful or advantageous, but the claim that he "invented" it is patently (pun intended) ridiculous.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: kendall
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 02:24 PM

In schools they still teach that Columbus discovered America even though he was 500 years too late.In fact, he never set foot on the North American continent.

Remember the story of George Washington and the Cherry tree? Total rubbish.
Abe Lincoln walked many miles to return 3 cents to a woman he over charged?
He read by the light of the fire place? Have you ever tried that?
The most popular book of all time is full of myths and morality tales. We love our legends and myths.

We also love to make heroes out of bums.Billy the kid was a homicidal moron. Wyatt Earp was a womanizer, a gambler and all around trouble maker.(He never actually killed anyone before the OK corral rumble.

John Wayne (Marion Morrison) spent his adult life pretending to be someone else, as did Ronald Reagan.
No wonder Diogenes gave up.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 05:45 PM

Here's one of the lists in question: CLICK

The problem appears to be that it's mainly a list of patents, which are usually enhancements to or variations upon pre-existing inventions, not the literal inventions themselves. Mr. Flemming apparently patented a variation upon the guitar, but the only description given on the list is "guitar". Apparently, Mr. Flemming invented a guitar (apparently one that was sufficiently different from pre-existing guitars to merit a patent), but some moron got hold of the list and misinterpreted it to mean Mr. Flemming invented the guitar.

According to the list, a W.A. Deitz received a patent for a shoe on April 30, 1867. I don't think anyone would interpret that to mean Mr. Deitz invented the shoe, only that he received a patent for something shoe related. Everyone knows that shoes were around long before 1867. That someone would think Mr Flemming invented the guitar just indicates that he or she doesn't know squat about guitars and doesn't know how to do a bit of simple research.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 05:53 PM

PoppaGator:
I'll try to see if I can find the links I ran across last night. I intended to put more than one sentence..but that was the most concise way I could think of to say "I was looking at this and clicked on some damn thing that tried to start downloading something I didn't want..and it wouldn't stop no matter how many times I hit 'cancel' so I'm going to give a date before I forget and close this machine down"

I might be able to find it again--looked like maybe I had found a nest of partial (yet uninformative) tidbits but I didn't get them all looked at before getting hacked off and shutting down for the night.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 06:25 PM

from: http://www.elsegundousd.com/eshs/be04-05/aafcont.htm

"The Guitar- Many of us love rockin' out on guitars, but very few of us know its origin. Although the invention of the guitar dates back to ancient times, Robert F. Flemming, Jr. helped to modernize it and was the first man to patent it. This was done on March 3, 1886."
******

It looks like the patent number is 338727


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 06:53 PM

A bit like all those people who have had a go at copyrighting traditional songs.

Is it too late to get a [patent on the wheel?
.......................

I>"He read by the light of the fire place? Have you ever tried that?"

Yes, and I suspect most kids who grew up in the 1940s in Europe did as well. It might require more concentration than reading by electric light or candle light, but concentration is quite a good thing when reading.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 06:54 PM

A bit like all those people who have had a go at copyrighting traditional songs.

Is it too late to get a patent on the wheel?
.......................

"He read by the light of the fire place? Have you ever tried that?"

Yes, and I suspect most kids who grew up in the 1940s in Europe did as well. It might require more concentration than reading by electric light or candle light, but concentration is quite a good thing when reading.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 09:36 PM

Maybe he invented the whine Hawaiian guitar? Or the steel guitar?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 09:37 PM

That was supposed to be a strikeout, not an underline. mea culpa.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 10:28 PM

Okay, folks, here it is!

Patent No. 338727

The only thing I can figure out from the drawings and the text (which, admittedly, I haven't gone over with a fine-toothed comb yet) is that this is a cross between a banjo and a guitar. The text speaks of the head being made of "vellum," which, these days, usually means a kind of fine quality paper, but in times past was treated and cured animal skin. The word is from Old French and literally means "calf skin."

I may be way off base, but what tends to support my theory is that there appear to be the sort of hooks (what do you call them?) that hold the rim of a banjo all around the periphery of the guitar body.

Dinner time for me right now, so I'm giving it up for now for others to examine.

But I don't think Mr. Flemming's apparent guitar-banjo hybrid caught on.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 10:41 PM

...and the date is March 30, 1886--not 3/3.

Thanks, Don. I couldn't find the patent info when I was looking and I had almost decided that I wanted to see what the thing was like.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Darowyn
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 05:33 AM

That's interesting. It looks like an early form of resonator guitar, using banjo technology, and it fits in well with the many pre-electric attempts to make a louder guitar, the most renowned attempt being the Dopyera brothers' "Dobro" in the early 1920s.

Ignoring Dave Oesterreich's intervention (is it possible to have a thread on here without denigrating someone else's preferred genre of music?) It is possible that Mr Flemming would have been intending his invention to be played in slide style, but at that time the slide influence would have been from African sources. There are many suggestions of African derived folk instruments being played with knife handles and such.
Hawaiian slide, according to legend, originates with Joseph Kekuku about ten years later, in the mid 1890s, when he slid a railway spike along the strings of a guitar donated by Portugese cattle men.
It would be a big contribution to understanding the origins of slide guitar in Blues if evidence could be found as to how Flemming's guitar was played, assuming that the evidence pointed in that direction.
Sadly, it does not seem to do so. The Nut is shown as low, which inplies finger fretting.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: pdq
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 11:29 AM

One of this lists linked to (above) credits the invention of the "Super Soaker" to one Lonnie Johnson.

The great guitar player, Lonnie Johnson???

When I here the term "super soaker" I automatically think of a politician.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Darowyn
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 11:59 AM

I thought it was the Uzi of water pistols!
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: bald headed step child
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 12:02 PM

Not the same Lonnie Johnson.

super soaker

He did seem to do for squirt guns what the other did for guitar playing in the 30's though.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: pdq
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 01:57 PM

It does get a bit silly...her are some more famous inventions by Black folks {copied in order}

: : curtain rod S. R. Scratton November 30, 1889
: : curtain rod support William S. Grant August 4, 1896
: : door knob O. Dorsey December 10, 1878
: : door stop O. Dorsey December 10, 1878
: : dust pan Lawrence P. Ray August 3, 1897
: : egg beater Willie Johnson February 5, 1884
: : electric lampbulb Lewis Latimer March 21, 1882

Heck, everybody knows who invented everything...






The Russians!


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: wyrdolafr
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 02:34 PM

My favourite thing on the 'littleafrica.com' list is that H.A. Jackson invented the kitchen table.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 03:09 PM

It's too bad there are so many of these spurious claims, because there are some truly important little-known stories of African-American innovators and inventors.

One of the most poignant involves the black doctor who had the idea for blood transfusions. Before him, I believe, medical science only knew to transfuse blood directly from one person to another ~ this man's contribution was the basis of the whole modern-day system of blood banks, blood donation, etc.

This doctor was in an auto accident is a southern state (North Carolina, if I'm not mistaken) and bled to death because he was not admitted to the nearby "whites-only" hospital, which was equipped to give blood and save the life of such a victim. He died en route to the more distant black hospital.

Sorry I don't have the name and other details, and don't have the time to do the research. However, I'm quite confident that this is a true story and not an "urban legend" ~ I've heard it more than once, from reputable sources.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: wyrdolafr
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 03:52 PM

Poppagator, blood banks and transfusions are touched-on in one of the sites linked to above. The following Link was posted on one of those sites.

This matches everything I've seen so far about the transfusions and blood banks.

If you were thinking of Dr. Drew, then I think it's a more a case of improving or advancing what existed previously regarding the storage of plasma. No small feat in itself, but different from coming up with or developing the actual concept.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 06:29 PM

It seems that the story, which has circulated widely, is not true--according to Dr. John Ford, one of the passengers in Drew's car, "We all received the very best of care...The doctors started treating us immediately."

Drew didn't receive a transfusion because his injuries wouldn't permit it. "He had a superior vena caval syndrome--blood was blocked getting back to his heart from his brain and upper extremities," Ford said. "To give him a transfusion would have killed him sooner. Even the most heroic efforts couldn't have saved him. I can truthfully say that no efforts were spared in the treatment of Dr. Drew, and, contrary to popular myth, the fact that he was a Negro did not in any way limit the care that was given to him."

Straight Dope on the death of Dr. Drew


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 09:28 PM

You guys are better than Snopes...


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 10:02 PM

If Snopes had come up in Google, I would have linked to it;-)


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 10:15 PM

I didn't quite understand the thing sticking out the bottom of Flemming's guitar. How did it work?

(there is a LOT more information on this thread than I saw on any of the sites I visited looking for tidbits!)


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Darowyn
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 07:10 AM

Like I mentioned earlier, this was a resonator guitar, but instead of using a loudspeaker style cone like the dobro, the idea was to increase volume by fitting a further set of strings inside the body. The extension of the tailpiece that looks like another tuning head, is another tuning head to tune the internal strings.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: wyrdolafr
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 07:26 AM

Darowyn wrote: "Like I mentioned earlier, this was a resonator guitar, but instead of using a loudspeaker style cone like the dobro, the idea was to increase volume by fitting a further set of strings inside the body. The extension of the tailpiece that looks like another tuning head, is another tuning head to tune the internal strings".

Depending on how close the strings were to the head itself, wouldn't this be similar to a snare drum?


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Darowyn
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 10:43 AM

The resonating strings look on the diagram to run about half an inch away from the back of the guitar body, so I don't think it was a snare drum rattle that he was going for- more of a Sitar-like sustained sound.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 10:47 AM

Does it work?


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 11:06 AM

Was there ever more than the patent diagrams and/or model? Many 'inventions' never got any further than that as they either were impractical or better equivalents already were out there.

Useless or hare-brained patents outnumber good ones thousands to one.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 11:08 AM

The Patent Office presumably thought that it would, but you'd have to build one to find out how well it worked. I expect that Flemming made or commissioned prototypes, but I doubt if the invention was ever manufactured commercially. Even given the fashion for novel musical instruments at that time, it's unlikely that many potential backers would have thought there was a market big enough to justify investment: it looks to have been rather too ingenious.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 12:35 PM

Looking at his parent specification I see that what he patented was in fact "an instrument which I term 'the Euphonica'". "Guitar" is a bit misleading.

Unfortunately, though googling "Euphonica" comes up with a lot of hits, they don't seem to have anything to do with the instrument.

Maybe someone will get round to making one some time...


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 09 - 01:20 PM

In my first post way above, I linked to a forum on the matter of black inventors, calling particular attention to a post by "Lurker," a black man, who refuted some of the spurious listings and gave a thumbnail sketch of how the invention really came about. He drew a flurry of rather vicious criticism from others who took issue with him, saying that, by contesting validity of the list, he was denigrating his own race. He responded to this posts as follows:
It is posts like this that make me cringe. Blacks are the only race of people who want to be something else. We straighten our hair, bleach and whiten our skin, colour it blonde, and chase the beauty ideal of the white.

By the same token, this Black inventor crap is a tacit admission to the racist view that Blacks are not as smart as whites. For example, you do not have posts of Black athlete contribution to sports. You do not have posts of Black contributions to the priesthood. You do not have posts of Black contributions to music. So why do you feel that you have to prove that Blacks are as smart as whites? Those of us who are smarter than the average person, black or white, know it within our heart of hearts and don't require bullshiite validation.

This "we is good as dems" crapola is just our secret fear of inferiority showing through, and our bravado and our low self-esteem as a race. I am just as good as any man, regardless of skin colour, and I don't need a dam bullshiite list to buttress my secret low self-esteem.
I'd say that Lurker has made a pretty good point.

Races, ethnic groups, or nationalities don't invent things. People do.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 04:12 PM

DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND INFO. ON ROBERT FLEMMINGS JR.? MY DAUGHTER CHOSE TO WRITE A BIOGRAPHY ON HIM FOR SCHOOL, SINCE SHE PLAYS THE GUITAR HERSELF. ANY INFO WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED SINCE I AM COmming up short on info myself....thanks!             valletribe@comcast.net


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,victorie lozier
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 08:44 PM

i need to know the biography of robert flamming and how he can came with this invention ,yet the information about their family.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 09:58 PM

GUEST, I believe if you will read the information in the posts above, you will see why there is little information to be found about Robert F. Flemming Jr.

He did not actually invent the guitar. The guitar has been around in one form or another for at least 5,000 years. No one person can claim to have invented the guitar.

Flemming did invent a variation on the guitar, and he patented it. I have posted the information and a link to the papers and drawings that Flemming submitted to the patent office above. You will find it at above, 07 Feb 09 - 10:28 p.m. Just click on the patent number.

I did a fairly exhaustive search of the internet, and other than many unsubstantiated claims that said only that he "invented the guitar," I found nothing, so I checked the U. S. Patent Office and that's what I found.

He did not invent the guitar. He invented a variation on the guitar that never became popular.

Sorry, but I'm afraid that's all there is.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 10:58 PM

Before the electric guitar, we had the steam guitar....and one powered by overhead belts. Back in the days of silent radio,


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Feb 09 - 12:24 AM

The best I can figure about Flemmings' guitar design is that it appears to be the love-child from a ménage a trois between an actual guitar (the shape), a banjo (the "vellum" head replacing the soundboard), and an Indian sitar or possibly a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle (the sympathetic strings).

Flemmings didn't even call it a "guitar." He called it a "euphonica."

I can only imagine the sound. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 18 Feb 09 - 12:30 AM

Guests:
I also did quite a bit of searching..didn't turn up anything other than what can be found within this thread (which is more concerned with the "invented guitar" notion than information about the man himself)

Ah..silent radio.
Those were the days...


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,cloudohana
Date: 24 Feb 09 - 05:51 PM

My son has to write a report on Osbourn Dorsey, the "inventor" of the door stop, and "improver" of the door knob. The most that I can find is his name, the patent #, and date on the "lists". Not even enough info for the Kindergarden report. Does anyone know anymore?


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Melissa
Date: 24 Feb 09 - 06:34 PM

with the patent number, you might be able to find information on the 'invention' itself by going to the link for Flemming's patent above..and pegging in your numbers on the patent site.

Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,pds5888
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 11:24 PM

Well, there you have it folks. The white man has spoken. We can all go back to the fields now & keep picking cotton. There is no "Emancipation Proclamation". It was just a myth, a legend. We's still slaves. HYAH!!


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 05:25 PM

Sorry if the facts don't tell the story that you want.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,AALDS (African American Designers&Luthiers S
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 12:27 AM

Robert Fleming didn't invent the GUITAR but, he invented THE guitar namely his KIND of guitar. The facts is such, he didn't have backers or investors because he was a BLACK MAN. Not one black man in the 1800 as and inventor have ever received a fair Loan or investment for his concepts. In fact when the white man wanted something back then ..he took it.   The next thing that one must note, the BANJO an African invention was very popular for minstrel’s shows in those times.   The sad fact of the matter was Fleming awesome concept was in competitions with his native invention of the Banjo. Of course there were no percentage or trust funds set up for Black inventors back then as black men were consider by our judicial systems as animal. So there wasn’t any TRUST-FUNDS set up to help Black inventors. Fleming also had competitions with Christian Martin Guitars.. and again more than likely white men had the money to support the business of there choice and 99 percent of the times it was there on Race. I am not a bias person but, here are some strong facts on Mr. Fleming inventions and life.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 01:40 PM

AALDS needs to read what was quoted from "Lurker" above. As for blacks and invention-funding, some got it and some didn't, some inventions were trivial, some were great, some caught on, some didn't, and many were stolen by richer or less-honest people.

And the race of any of the people in those categories was not the issue. Did blacks get robbed of their ideas? Yes. Did ALL blacks get robbed of their ideas? Hell, no.

And AALDS has Fleming's "awesome awesome concept [ ] in competitions (sic) with his native invention of the Banjo." I'm assuming that AALDS means the banjo was an invention of Fleming's race, not he himself, for if the latter were true, Fleming would have been something like 250 years old, given the earliest mention of banjos (banshaw/bango/etc.) among Africans in the New World.

And, given the description of Fleming's invention, I doubt it was even an "awesome concept." The latter half of the 19th century was a time of great commercial innovation, and instruments combining concepts such as guitar fingering plus banjo heads (or banjo-anythings, really -- mandolin, ukes [later], guitar, or [who knows?] violini) were rife. Heck, if Fleming had met the Marx Brothers (no, the makers of the ukelin, Hawaiian Tremeloa, Marxophone, etc., not the comedy act), he might even have gotten financing.

Was the late 19th Century hard on blacks? Yes, for sure. The end of Reconstruction brought on the Ku Klux Klan, Jim-Crow laws, "Coon" songs, and black flight to Northern cities were all part of that period. But to assume that all black inventors had no chance is to ignore evidence to the contrary, as well as to ignore the fact that Fleming's "improvements" to the guitar were not so very "improving."

It is not necessary to find a conspiracy when simple facts of commercial life will suffice to explain Mr. Fleming's commercial failure.

And trust-funds for inventors weren't even there for white inventors. That development in commercial product financing didn't come till probably the 1960s (if then).

I don't know why I got carried away, but I did. So sue me.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,AALDS
Date: 13 Dec 09 - 10:17 PM

Subject: RE: Rbt Fleming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 01:40 PM

Professor Bobsong, I apologize for being so harsh on the frailty of our American past. Please note that I understand and forgive Americas past and present injustices. I take solace in knowing that God had to get Africans to America, kicking and screaming; whether they wanted to or not, in order to give America some flavor or season to taste.

Maybe you are part of that lingering group of people who fill that they must avenge their crest of honor. I want to debate obvious historical facts in lieu of some dating discrepancies. However, after all meager words are spoken to discount Robert Fleming¡¦s great efforts to bring his music invention into American music culture, let us not forget that I am simply here to convey an obvious major fact: that during the 18th century, support for African American anything was about as vigilant as a snowflake in hell; and my friend those are terrible odds.

BEST REGARDS
AALDS



Bob wrote
AALDS needs to read what was quoted from "Lurker" above. As for blacks and invention-funding, some got it and some didn't, some inventions were trivial, some were great, some caught on, some didn't.

AALDS Reply
Okay, may I ask a question since I am the student and you the professor? Sir, how many white inventors in American history, during the 18th century received a loan or investment or joint partnership, from an African American to help them with their invention in Robert Fleming¡¦s times?



Bob wrote
and many were stolen by richer or less-honest people.

AALDS Reply
Now you are cooking! However let us get a brighter picture with this question. Sir, how many inventions were stolen by rich or less honest African American in Robert Fleming times?




Bob wrote
and the race of any of the people in those categories was not the issue.

AALDS Reply
Okay, this is some kind (sic) joke right?



Bob wrote
Did blacks get robbed of their ideas? Yes. Did ALL blacks get robbed of their ideas? Hell, no.

AALDS Reply
I am caught off guard to know that you would even cite a belief that African Americans were robbed of their concepts ending with your simple ¡§yes¡¨.
But, were they all robbed, I am assuming by the rich or less honest people in Robert Fleming¡¦s Time? You wrote a healthy ¡§hell no!¡¨ Well, did Mr. Fleming squeeze through Jim Crow¡¦s good grace, not being robbed of his ideas? Well I don¡¦t know but because Melrose City Hall and their libraries can¡¦t even find a pinch of his history it suggests something went terribly wrong.




Bob wrote
And AALDS has Fleming's "awesome awesome concept [ ] in competitions (sic) with his native invention of the Banjo. .   

AALDS Reply
Okay, agan to drive my only point here¡Khow many African American minstrel shows in the 18th century, that you know of, were exploiting a concept with painted white faces in principal, that could promote the sales of said stolen concepts from the rich or less honest individuals (white man).   And Bob thanks for the free class on the history and origin of the American Banjo. Don¡¦t forget the gory details¡K banjo sales went up over 50 percent because of those minstrel shows, which of course debased African America¡Xhorribly, even ¡§Martni¡¨ was probably affected.













Bob wrote
And, given the description of Fleming's invention, I doubt it was even an "awesome concept."

AALDS Reply
Awesome is indicative of profoundness, artistry, and uniqueness, all of which describe Mr. Fleming¡¦s courage and innovation during a era of institutionalized prejudice that threatened and killed people like Mr. Fleming. Evidently there is some profoundness with Mr. Fleming who himself never made the claim that he invented the first guitar but, yet we are in 2009 clearing up some accusations about him one hundred years later.




Bob wrote
The latter half of the 19th century was a time of great commercial innovation, and instruments combining concepts such as guitar fingering plus banjo heads (or banjo-anythings, really -- mandolin, ukes [later], guitar, or [who knows?] violini) were rife.

AALDS Reply
Was it an African American scholar who said beauty is in the eyes of the beholder (maybe not) ļ Well we can definitely say that the beholders in the music industry in the latter half of the 19th century were mainly the eyes of the rich and less honest people (white man). Again, Professor Bob, how many African American musical inventors, that you know of, were involved in the structuring of commercial innovations in those time? Also were they compensated properly?






Bob wrote
Heck, if Fleming had met the Marx Brothers (no, the makers of the ukelin, Hawaiian Tremeloa, Marxophone, etc., not the comedy act), he might even have gotten financing.

AALDS Reply
One thing we know for sure is that African musicians and luthiers were plentiful in those times. The ability to reach out a helpful hand was within the caress of any Guitar Company executive including the Marx Brothers.
\

Bob wrote
Was the late 19th Century hard on blacks? Yes, for sure

AALDS Reply
May, I ask the statistic severity of how hard it was?



Bob wrote
The end of Reconstruction brought on the Ku Klux Klan, Jim-Crow laws, "Coon" songs, and black flight to Northern cities were all part of that period.

AALDS Reply
Okay, I¡¦m convinced, you got me; maybe I was wrong in assuming that Robert Fleming Jr didn¡¦t have a commercial chance in succeedingƒº.




Bob wrote
But to assume that all black inventors had no chance is to ignore evidence to the contrary, as well as to ignore the fact that Fleming's "improvements" to the guitar were not so very "improving."

AALDS Reply
Bob, I really want to believe that there was a ghost of chance for Mr. Fleming concepts to succeed fairly. So I will not as you stated, ¡§ignore evidence to the contrary¡¨. Now please anybody give one piece of evidence where a African American music instrument concept was illuminated, supported, and profitable in Robert Fleming times, so that I can¡¦t ignore it :-)




Bob wrote
It is not necessary to find a conspiracy when simple facts of commercial life will suffice to explain Mr. Fleming's commercial failure.

AALDS Reply
Yeah, what about those millions of Ku Klux Klan, Jim-Crow supporters, and ¡§Coon" songs writers you mention who were rich and less honest business owners. Thank you but I¡¦ll find it necessary to gravitate toward conspiracy unless we can find one successful African American guitar inventor from Robert Flemin¡¦s times.



Bob wrote
And trust-funds for inventors weren't even there for white inventors.

AALDS Reply
Okay. trust fund is being used improperly here. Investment funds first. then after the business succeed if it succeed we leave a T-Fund to the next Christopher Martin to operate the business




Bob wrote
That development in commercial product financing didn't come till probably the 1960s (if then).

AALDS Reply
Right again Bob, I¡¦m sorry I meant the CIBACOS funds (Can I Borrow A Cup Of Sugar).   Bob, come on man even though some people built their business from their own personal wealth; I am sure there were inventors less fortunate who had to borrow from someone. Even the Bible mentions the practice of lending and borrowing before Christ.




Bob wrote
I don't know why I got carried away, but I did. So sue me.

AALDS Reply
Bob, Bob, Bob, you got carried away because you needed to defend your ancestral honor. Are you a musician? Have you ever thought of buying a guitar from Master luthier Woody Phifer. He is African American and one of the best builders on the planet. We are few but we need your support to help us succeed. We can go back and forth on these chat lines forever but why don¡¦t you try making a difference in the 21st century. Google ¡§WOODY PHIFER¡¨.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Mick Woods
Date: 14 Dec 09 - 06:01 AM

What a load of bollocks! What has a persons colour got to do with an invention? It's quite clear that whatever this bloke patented. It wasn't much good. Even if it had been worth stealing by the evil whitey surely there would have been some record! As for publishing these stupid lists of trivial items invented by africans (egg beaters etc) I find it insulting to a whole section of our society.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 14 Dec 09 - 04:25 PM

AALDS has several points above that I can't answer directly at this time. For one thing, he (I assume) gets lots of his information mixed up (the 1800s was the 19th C., not the 18th, for example, and "the sales of banjos went up 50% because of the minstrel shows" -- they went up 100%, because before the minstrel shows, THERE WERE NO BANJO SALES*). For another, I am late leaving work, and also don't have the research materials for several of the other points raised.

AALDS seems to think that NO black inventor had his invention brought to the public unless a white man stole it. Bullshit. Some of the very people in that list that started this thread were inventors -- real inventors -- in the same period. All I'm saying is that the invention/improvements/whatever-you-call-it that Mr. Flemming made to the guitar did not catch on, and there is no reason to assume racism as the reason when functionality, salesworthiness, or even a crowded commercial market -- remember, there were LOTS of musical inventions at this time, few of which ever "made it" in the marketplace.

I am not denigrating Mr. Flemming, nor even his intention to improve the guitar's sound, but pointing out that it didn't work well enough to get him noticed.

Bob

* The banjo was essentially a hand-made instrument till brought to the public's attention by the minstrel bands, starting in 1842 (The Original Virginia Minstrels). Commercial banjos (made to sell to the general public, not made to order) didn't start appearing till around 1850 (Buckbee and Boucher are two names from that period). When the end of the Civil War brought soldiers home who had encountered the instrument in camps, the banjo began to pass into urban society, and banjo orchestras eventually spread (mandolin ensembles did too, as well as brass bands -- returning soldiers often brought their instruments with them). Before 1870, most banjos were fretless; by 1880, most were fretted, and various companies were vying to make improvements in them, for volume, tone, and even pitch (short-scale banjos for the soprano parts of arrangements were devised, and even bass banjos).


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 02:02 PM

Maybe if someone with the necessary skills could get round to building a Euphonica that would make it easier to assess Robert Flemming's contribution.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Steve of Falls Church
Date: 22 Feb 14 - 12:43 AM

Some good posts here. It is true Mr. Fleming did not invent the guitar only a version that he got a patent on. I just now heard on a TV channel that he invented THE guitar - no no no. Blacks and African Americans have plenty of real things they can take credit for without making mistakes or a false claim which I assume is only a simple error. Just in music alone the African Americans basically gave birth to an entire genre of spiritual music as well as the blues. The blues was and is still a huge influence on all kinds of music including the ever popular American Rock music and Rock and Roll. The electric pick up was invented about 1926 for the banjo which was king before the guitar surpassed it in national popularity. The pick up was improved and made smaller and found it place finally when put in a guitar. I forget the first pick up company - perhaps National. Anyway Rickenbacher became the early leader, but National and a few others were all putting out early electric guitars and lap steel guitars and were soon joined by the Vega company and many others - all in the 1930's.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Bert
Date: 22 Feb 14 - 01:18 AM

"He read by the light of the fire place? Have you ever tried that?"

Yes, and I suspect most kids who grew up in the 1940s in Europe did as well. It might require more concentration than reading by electric light or candle light, but concentration is quite a good thing when reading.

Right you are McGrath, of course we did, not that big a deal.

But I still agree with everything else that Kendal said.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Feb 14 - 04:25 PM

There have been stringed instruments since prehistoric times. Generally a combination of strings under tension amplified by a tortoise shell or box of some kind. Ancient Greek lyres, Celtic lyre-harps, lutes of various sizes (actually, mandolins are descendants of small lutes), et al.

The first instrument to actually look like a guitar—and be called a guitar—is now known as a "Renaissance guitar." It was a bit larger than a baritone ukulele, and had four "courses" or doubled strings—although the string that was highest in pitch was single (called the "chanterelle"). Generally, it was tuned like the top four strings of a modern guitar, but about a fourth higher. It was generally looked down on by lute-players (the lute being the "serious" instrument of the era) as the instrument for non-musical young ladies to "strum on." Hence, Vermeer's famous painting of "The Guitar Player."

Alonzo Mudarra (1510–1580), was the first composer to write serious music for the instrument. Lute players wondered why he "wasted his time writing for such a frivolous instrument." However—

Here is a Renaissance guitar being played:   CLICKY.

About 1600, the guitar was enlarged a bit, inlay work and the bridge and rosette were fancied up a bit, and a fifth course was added to the guitar. It was tuned like the top five strings of a modern guitar. This was known as the Baroque guitar, here played by Seattle's own Elizabeth CD Brown, who graduated from the guitar program at the University of Washington, does about 50 concerts a year on various kinds of guitars, and teaches at Pacific Lutheran University. CLICKY.

It was sometime around 1750 that the guitar was modified again. Instead of five "courses," it had six single strings which were tuned like the modern guitar. This was the instrument that many famous virtuoso guitar players and composers such as Fernando Sor played and wrote music for. Ms. Brown with her Romantic guitar.

Antonio de Torres Jurado (Almería, Andalucía 13 June 1817 – 19 November 1892) was a Spanish guitarist and luthier, and "the most important Spanish guitar maker of the 19th century." Torres enlarged the guitar somewhat and developed the fan-bracing system now used by modern top-quality classical guitars.

Almost all acoustic guitars in use today are derivatives of his designs.

So I'm afraid that the claim that Robert F. Flemming Jr. "invented the guitar" in the 1880s doesn't quite wash.

=======

Interesting to note in the light of the deprecating remark that Renaissance lute players made when the guitar first appeared, when I first decided to enroll in the University of Washington School of Music in 1957, I had been warned by a jazz musician friend attending the school not to mention that my main interest was in folk music, because I wouldn't be taken seriously. So I said that my interest was in classical guitar. Their attitude was that the guitar, classic or otherwise, was in the same category as the kazoo or tissue paper and comb. No dice. This, despite the fact that Segovia had been to Seattle several times and a couple of months before I tried to register, John Williams had played a concert in Meany Hall, on the U. of W. campus.

Fortunately, Professor John Verrall intervened in my behalf, and I was admitted.

The University of Washington School of Music now has a guitar department, headed by Micharl Partington, and from which Elizabeth Brown graduated.

I like to think that I helped knock a few bricks out of the wall.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Serenity
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 10:38 AM

when did Robert J Flemmings Die


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,John from "Elsie`s Band"
Date: 03 Mar 16 - 12:22 PM

There is, at present, an excellent exhibition of Samuel Pepys and his times at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, SE London which I heartily recommend. On display is a ten stringed guitar,(five pairs), of Italian origin, a type of which Pepys owned and played. It is dated circa 1660. The form of the instrument is just as we know it today.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 05:52 AM

V interesting post, Don; for which thanks. But Vermeer's young lady is actually playing a 6-string.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Idisi
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 10:04 PM

MGM·Lion--He looked like a pretty Cool Cat--Obit: Don Firth (1931-2015) 


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 09:56 AM

Oh dear! Sorry all!


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 12:29 PM

Since our beloved Don can no longer answer you, Michael, I will take up the mantle and respond to your point--the Renaissance guitar had four courses, which could be a combination of pairs and single strings-the higher strings would often be single since the melody tended to played there. This instrument seems to have two paired courses and two single courses.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 03:13 PM

Thank you, Stim. Looking at the biggest reproduction I could find online, I think you may be right at that. This painting has an interesting recent history, having been 'kidnapped' 42 years ago, held to ransom, and only recovered by good police work.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guitar_Player_%28Vermeer%29

It has long been a favourite of mine, as I lived near Kenwood House, where it 'lives', and loved it particularly, along with their two Boucher pastorals of peasants gathering cherries, in my many visits to the House until leaving London in my 30s when my late first wife won a Mature State Scholarship & we moved to Cambridge.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 17 - 06:16 PM

He patented both in u.s. and Canada the Euphonica guitar.


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Subject: RE: Rbt Flemming, inventor of the guitar?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 17 - 06:22 PM

Fleming patented in both us and Canada the Euphonica guitar, which was louder etc. than the tradictional guitar. He was a navyman for the union but very little else is known of him.


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