The Barrow’s Music Company

Source: Kalamazoo Saturday Telegraph, August 3, 1895.
Source: Kalamazoo Saturday Telegraph, August 3, 1895.

Orville applied for his patent on May 11, 1895. Three months later, in August, this article appeared in the Kalamazoo Telegraph. The editor of the Telegraph was William L Eaton, a fellow stage brother of Orville’s who often wrote about and reviewed their stage activities. Taking this relationship into consideration, I feel the information in this article can be taken at face value.

Why Orville did not remain the in-house luthier at The Barrow’s Music Company is not known. But there are clues as to what may have been the reason. In 1891, Barrow’s became the Michigan selling agent for Waldo banjos and guitars. In 1895, they began manufacturing the Waldo brand themselves. This may have been a point of contention between Orville and Barrow’s as to whose name and whose design would prevail.

The length of time Orville was employed by Barrow’s is not known. It might have been a day, a week, or maybe a month. But in the September Saginaw newspapers, Barrow’s was still advertising the Waldo brand and design. My guess is that this information is buried somewhere in their business records, if those still exist.

Barrow’s  continued to manufacture a more traditional line of instruments and was later reorganized as the Waldo Manufacturing Company.

From his studio in Kalamazoo, Orville continued to flourish as an individual craftsman and serve an ever growing elite clientele.

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3 thoughts on “The Barrow’s Music Company

  1. What was the connection between Charles Waldo and Barrows Music Co? Did he actually make guitars or was he just a musician? If Orville left and started Gibson manufacturing did Waldo make instruments under the brand name ” Waldo “? Barrows was renamed in1902 to Waldo Manufacturing with 51 employees making 500 instruments a month and went out of business a year later. Isn’t that when theGibson factory started?
    I recently stumbled across a Waldo guitar and wonder if Orville Gibson was a luthier with “Waldo Co” at that time. Apparently there were a lot of Waldo banjos made ,but guitars are quite rare. I also have seen a picture of a Waldo harp guitar but don’t know if Gibson ever made any. Found a listing of harp guitar luthiers at the turn of the century and was surprised by how many were listed. Wondering if there is any info on Waldo guitars which might help me estimate what the one I have is worth.

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    1. You’ve found an error in my post. C. D. Waldo of Orville’s Orpheus Mandolin Club is actually Clarence D. Waldo. He was a grocer in Kalamazoo and a hobbyist musician by night.

      Orville may not have spent much time actually working for Barrow’s in the fall of 1895, possibly none at all. Barrows’ business records would probably answer this question, if they still exist. Their focus on banjos doesn’t surprise me. Their foreman, Victor Kraske, was a banjo maker from Chicago. And I believe Waldo went out of business in 1905. The Gibson company was organized in 1902.

      I would get in touch with Paul Ruppa via The Mandolin Café here… http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?47-General-Mandolin-Discussions

      Paul has written articles on the Waldo company and their output. If he doesn’t have an estimate for your guitar (he’ll need detailed high res photos), he can probably put you in touch with someone who can help.

      Good Luck to you.

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      1. Thank you so much for your reply! My journey is now beginning. Having played the guitar for over fifty years I realize that I have stumbled accross something truly extraordinary. It is a wonderful instrument and I feel fortunate to be able to play and hear it a hundred years after its creation.

        Thanks again
        E. Brazzale

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