Thursday, September 30, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Grandpa's Mandolin

My grandfather, Merrill Haskell, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1915. I found a note in my grandmother's address book that said he was in the Mandolin Club when he was at college. Here is a photo of his mandolin, which we found in the attic of his house when he passed away. The bowl-back mandolin was made by C. F. Martin & Co. Looking inside the bowl, I found the serial number (3112), which after a little Internet research, I was able to determine that the instrument was built in 1911. This makes sense, as my grandfather would have started college in 1911. It seems that mandolin's were all the rage around the turn of the century. This article at the Mandolin Cafe gives a brief history of the instrument.

Research action items - Make a research trip to the Dartmouth College Library in Hanover, NH and see if I can find any photos of the Mandolin Club between 1911 and 1915.

© 2010, copyright William C. Haskell


  1. I recently started playing the ukelele. I did a little research on it and found that in the 1910s and 1920s it was at the peak of popularity along with the mandolin. Both are fairly easy to play (easier than guitar) and music was written especially for these instruments using a numbering system (easier to read than notes on a staff) I've found lots of songs online written in this "ukelele tablature" The songs conjure up images of the Big Man on Campus, that iconic college man of the 1920s in a racoon coat playing the ukelele (or the mandolin!)

  2. Is that a photo of the actual Mandolin? If so, do you know what model that is? I've also just inherited a mandolin from my Grandfather which looks just like that. I've looked on the web for Martin Mandolins and yours is the only one I've seen so far that looks the same. Most of the others I've seen have different headstock. Would appreciate your help.


  3. It is the actual instrument. The only thing i know is the serial number, as mentioned in the post

  4. Hello Will,

    My Grandfather, Leonard "PUG" Lawrence Owens also played the Mandolin which has now been passed on to my brother. He also played the accordion, banjo and violin. It was his intentions that all his children learn to play a musical instrument. My Mother was intent on not learning the mandolin so those skills were not passed on to us. Although my youngest son has the musical talent and plays the piano. He picked it up with ease. I have so some of my family tree on my blog as well if your interested. It is a work in progress. Nice to meet you!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thank you for your comment and note and sorry for the delayed reply. Unfortunately, I have not had much time for my blog lately. I'm not much of a musician - I did play the trumpet for a while in grade school and junior high, but that is about it. I will take a look at your blog when I get a chance.