The Bluesbox Collection

1936 Richter arch top (for Montgomery Ward)

This guitar is one of the few I own that I am able to date precisely. That is because there is a manufacturer's date stamp on the inside of the body, on the heel plate, which reads, "RICHTER" and underneath, "JUN 6, 1936". The top of this guitar, which appears at first glance to be flamed maple, is actually solid birch with a very good faux finish. The "binding" around the sound hole is also painted on. As can be seen with some of the other instruments in my collection, birch seemed to be the wood of choice for low cost guitars in the 1920's through the 40's. The pickguard shown here is not original. When I received the guitar, there was a large patch next to the original pickguard where the finish had been sanded off. My first thought was to just stain that area dark to match the color of the top - but that proved elusive, so I fashioned this pickguard to cover the damaged area, but retained the original guard just in case. The back, shows an identical "flamed" finish. Of interest about this guitar is that it has a pronounced, arched top, but the back is flat. This was probably meant to be a poor man's alternative to the Gibson L-50 arch tops (with round holes and flat backs) which made a brief appearance during the same era. The neck is carved out of a single piece of mahogany. The head stock appears to be a take off on the Gibson "snakehead" style. Like several guitars I own from the 30's, this one has a wooden nut. The tuners are not original. The original tuners had one knob missing, which I was not able to replace to my satisfaction. These are off of a mid-40's Harmony Stella junker that I bought on eBay. A look inside the sound hole shows a Montgomery Ward sticker.

When I saw this guitar on eBay, I remembered that I had seen the Richter brand name somewhere. I eventually tracked it down in the Bluebook of Guitars, 4th edition. There was a one paragraph entry that stated that Richter was a known house brand manufacturer that sold guitars through Montgomery Ward, but that not much else was known about them. The author of the paragraph speculated that the examples seen by him were "30's or 40's" era, but that precise dates had not been established. It would appear that this example confirms that, at least in June of 1936, Richter was making guitars for Montgomery Ward.


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