Often regarded as some of the finest builders of the early twentieth Century, brothers August and Carl Larson were were born in Sweden and emigrated to Chicago in the late 1880s. They worked in the city as luthiers for guitar makers before buying Maurer & Company from Robert Maurer in 1900. Larson Brothers small Chicago workshop turned out a dizzying assortment of well-crafted fretted instruments -- guitars, mandolins, the occasional ukulele, and even harp guitars with one commonality, The Brothers would never put there name to any instrument, egocentric they were not resulting in a collection of instruments built under many name none of them Larson. They would use the name Maurer as well as Prairie State and Euphonon for their own instruments as well as building for many other companies, best known of those is Stahl and Co.
This particular instrument is labeled Stahl and Co, built by the Larson Bros. The guitar is most likely a Style 8 given its high specification, catalogs are often not exact representations and documentation for these guitars is scarce. It has a silhouette resembling that of a 12-fret Martin and with a 13 1/2”wide and 18” long body it is comparable in size to an 0 shape. Constructed of fine, thin Red Spruce top and straight grain Brazilian Rosewood, the body is a nearly 3/4 if an inch thinner than the comparable Martin, a common trait of many of the Larson built instruments. The thin red spruce top is X-braced in the conventional manner but generally the Larsons positioned it further rearward than traditionally Martin or Gibson would. The X braces are three-ply laminations with a strip ebony sandwiched between the layers of Spruce. This style of bracing is synonymous with Larson built instruments but is rare to find on Stahl branded guitars. The Mahogany neck is topped with an unusually thick Ebony fingerboard. Most Larson fingerboards are bound, and always in an unusual way. The brothers bound only the top half of the edge of the fingerboard, leaving a strip of ebony running lengthwise below the binding. Highly appointed, the guitar features an intricate Fern inlay to the bound headstock overlay, fancy fingerboard inlays to the 3rd, 5th 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th frets. The body has a bound top with Pearl inlay and fine half herringbone purfling mirrored in the bound ornate soundhole Rosette. The back of the guitar is bound with an elaborate multi-coloured centre strip.
This guitar is in excellent playing condition showing some fairly minor wear and some well-executed repairs. The bridge plate has been replaced with a fairly thin piece that is not overly large but is a bit bigger than the original. The bridge itself is a dark ebony reproduction of the original ebony piece with correct engraved pearl stars inlaid on each end. Internally there are signs of some reglued bracing and a cleated repair to a crack to the back of the guitar. The guitar neck has been reset and there are repairs to the binding. The finish shows some inconsistency under blacklight, indication there has been some finish work but it remains a fine instrument that has had some well-executed repairs and the general wear and tear expected of an instrument of this age.
The guitar plays very well with a comfortable, large rounded neck profile and generous 48.83 nut width. The action sits at 3mm at the 12th fret with plenty of movement in the saddle. The 25” scale gives the strings a decent tension. The guitar has the trademark Larson tone, bright and balanced with soft lows and a surprising volume and headroom.
It is thought that the entire output of Larson Bros. production is roughly 2500 with at least half of that figure accounted for in mandolins and mandolin family instruments. As such it's easy to see why the Brothers instruments are seldom seen for sale. If you are looking for something rare, very special, a little unusual that will honestly compete with the best that Martin have to offer then look no further.