Stella Contra Bass #507DN Harp Guitar , c. 1921

Stella Contra Bass Harp Guitar,  c. 1921

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Item # 1406
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Stella Contra Bass #507DN Model Harp Guitar, c. 1921, made in Jersey City, NJ, natural varnish finish, spruce top, birch body.

This double-neck Oscar Schmidt Stella harp guitar is contemporary with the Dyer (Larson) and Gibson harp guitars of the teens and twenties, although built to the more common German-style pattern with a fretted neck for chording and an unfretted neck carrying six sub-bass strings. The two Stauffer-esque slotted single-line headstocks meet in the center creating an unusual profile.

The auditorium-sized birch body has a single oversized pyramid bridge with twelve pins in a straight line and is finished in Stella's faux-rosewood stain. The top and soundhole are ivoroid bound with oversize herringbone marquetry. There is a somewhat worn but still legible "Stella Guitar -- Made in America" label inside the soundhole.

This guitar is listed in the 1921 Oscar Schmidt catalog at a price of $15.00, a princely sum for a Stella in that era. The long scale gives some of the deep resonance of the famous Stella 12-string guitars, particularly in lower tunings and the sub-bass strings provide many sympathetic overtones. One can even play fretless bass guitar on the upper neck, although this was probably not an intended feature of this design! Even played as a standard six-string this is a spectacular sounding guitar and a highly unusual find in such playable condition.
 
Overall length is 42 in. (106.7 cm.), 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 26 1/2 in. (673 mm.).

This instrument has been restored to excellent playable condition. The top center seam has been spliced and the necks have been reset. All finish is original except minor touch-up as required; the instrument has not been refinished. Bridge, tuners and bone saddle and nuts original as well.

Moderate play wear to finish overall, for some reason lost to history a previous owner marked the numbers "6-5-4-3-2-1" under the corresponding strings near the bridge on the treble side -- this is only noticeable on close inspection. Minor repaired back cracks, the back binding between the necks has been replaced. Overall an unusually well-preserved and functional example of this very rare and somewhat fragile instrument.