February 15, 2006:Today I received some information that may shed more light on the origins of this instrument. A fellow emailed me that he also owns a guitar with "The Prize" stamped in it and informa me that it was sold by "L. Howard Foote". A google search revealed that Foote (or his family) was a retail dealer of musical instruments in New York from 1835 to 1905. A further note mentioned that Foote partnered with an instrument maker named John Stratton in the the mid 1860's. It seemed to imply that most of the goods that Foote stores sold were band instruments, but also mentioned violin family and fretted stringed instruments.
The body is small, the lower bout only measures 11 1/2" across, although the guitar has a full size (24 1/2") scale. The two-piece, bookmatched face is solid spruce with a rather wide grain. The trim around the sound hole is painted on. The rosewood "pyramid style" bridge with metal saddle is a clue to the dating. The back and sides are cherry-stained maple.
Regardless of what the distributor's stamp says, this appears to be a Lyon & Healy guitar. That could be true even with the J. Howard Foote distributors marks. The unadorned neck appears to have been made on the same jig as my Washburn and the other L&H flat top shown in this collection. Both are turn-of-the-century models. This one looks like it could be older then the other two - maybe 1880's. The tuners are solid brass and have European style riveted gears - possibly indicating that this guitar was built before the rise of the American guitar hardware industry - or the maker simply used imported tuners... This guitar had some pretty severe splits on the back that I had to repair. I also reglued several interior braces and installed a Bridge Doctor. This guitar plays great and has excellent tone. The spruce top and maple body account for the instrument's surprising volume.