Friday, January 28, 2011


Carl and August Larson were among the more obscure guitar makers of the first half of the 20th century, but their flattops—made under their own Maurer, Prairie State, and Euphonon brands, as well as for such companies as Dyer, Stahl, and Wack—have a distinct sound and look, along with a collectable appeal that approaches the better-known Gibson and Martin models.

The Chicago-based Larsons regularly built jumbo-size models, but with a whopping 21 inches across the lower bout, this late 1930s Prairie State guitar is an extreme example, even for them. The Larsons braced their tops with a slight arch, but this is still considered a flattop guitar, despite its elevated pickguard and archtop-style bridge. The Larsons’ names didn’t appear on any of their instruments, and in this case, the Prairie State brand stamp is visible through the soundhole on the back center brace. The metal support bar through the middle of the body—also visible through the soundhole—is a distinctive Larson feature, found on all Prairie States and on some Maurers and Euphonons. This guitar is braced for steel strings, as are all Larsons, with their patented laminated braces; they were the first flattop maker to specialize in steel-string guitars, predating Martin and Gibson by more than 20 years.