Object Record

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Title Ukelin: instrument distributed by the International Musical Corp., 14th and Bloomfield Sts., Hoboken, N.J. No date, circa 1926-1931.
Object Name Ukelin
Catalog Number 2006.031.0013
Collection Hoboken Manufactured Products Collection
Credit Museum Purchase.
Description A ukelin, an instrument distributed by the International Musical Corporation, 14th and Bloomfield Sts., Hoboken, N.J. No date, circa 1926-1931. Varnished wood with 8 bow guides each side; 32 strings with tuning pegs; printed decal decorations surrounding sound holes plus chord notations. Body dimensions: 27-1/2" long x 7-1/2" wide x 2-3/8" thick.

Guitar shaped or "classic" ukelin. No patent, model, batch or serial number found on object. Two sound holes each having a printed label on the soundboard. The upper sound hole is smaller than the bottom. The printed labels have the same text, but the upper one is a smaller diameter with smaller type used.

Labels read: Price $35.00 | UKELIN | Distributed Exclusively | by the | International Musical | Corporation | 14th and Bloomfield Streets | Hoboken, N.J.

Instruments with this company's name and address are known to have been distributed from 1926 to 1930-31. While the company sold its own labeled item and some details of it may have differed from other ukelins, it was not the 'exclusive' distributor of this instrument. See notes for background.

Fully strung with 32 strings as called for. WITH: string bow, unstrung, lacking horsehair (blind stamped: Germany); instruction book (archives 2006.031.0014) and 37 pieces of printed sheet music (archives 2006.031.0015) that typically were issued with the instrument. Original two-piece plain corrugated cardboard box present (29-1/2" long x 9" wide x 3-1/2" high), unmarked and unlabeled. Instrument LACKING: wire music holder, tuning key and rosin block.

Place of actual manufacture is not known, possibilities include Czechoslavakia and Jersey City, N.J.
Date 1926-1931
Year Range from 1926.0
Year Range to 1931.0
Search Terms Fourteenth St.
Bloomfield St.
International Musical Corp.
Caption front view
Notes Displayed in 2007 exhibition: Hoboken Tunes: Our Musical Heritage.
From the website of the National Music Museum, 2006:

What is a ukelin (violin-uke)?

A patent (#1,579,780) for the ukelin was filed in 1923 and awarded to Paul F. Richter in 1926. He assigned the patent to the Phonoharp Company which later merged with Oscar Schmidt International, Inc., of New Jersey. Ukelins were sold by various subsidiaries of Oscar Schmidt, including the International Music Corporation and the Manufacturers' Advertising Company of New Jersey. Ukelins were mass-produced by the Oscar Schmidt Co. until production was finally stopped in 1964. Instruments similar to the ukelin were also sold by the Marxochime Colony of New Troy, Michigan, from about 1927 to 1972. These related instruments bore trade-names such as Violin-Uke, Hawaiian Art Uke, Pianolin, Sol-o-lin, Pianoette, and others.

The purpose of the ukelin and its many derivative types was to combine into one compact instrument attributes of both the bowed violin and the plucked Hawaiian ukulele. Following numerically-coded music prepared specifically for these instruments the 16 melody strings were to be played with a short violin-like bow held in the right hand while the 4 groups of 4-string bass accompaniment chords were strummed by the left hand.

The ukelin and its derivative types were usually sold for $35-$40 on time-purchase plans by door-to-door salesmen, as well as through mail-order companies such as Sears. Although the instruments were billed as easy-to-play, many purchasers were frustrated in their attempts to master them. Decades later, ukelins, violin-ukes, and many similar types are being rediscovered in numerous household closets, attics, and offered for sale in antique shops and flea markets.


From the Smithsonian Institution website, 2006:

"Ukelin" is one of the more common trade names of a type of stringed musical instrument marketed from the early 1920s until about 1965.

Ukelins combine two sets of strings, one group of sixteen strings tuned to the scale of C (from middle C on a piano to the C two octaves above) plus four groups of four strings, each group tuned to a chord. The instrument is meant to be placed on a table with the larger end toward the performer, and while the right hand plays the melody on the treble strings with a violin bow, accompanying chords are played on the bass strings with the left hand using either the fingers or a pick. Each string and chord group is numbered, and sheet music is provided in a special numerical system intended to simplify playing for persons unable to read standard musical notation.

Ukelins were sold by the Phonoharp Company of East Boston, Massachusetts, and its subsidiaries, which apparently included the Bosstone Company. A patent for this instrument (Patent #1,579,780) was filed December 3, 1923, and awarded April 6, 1926, to Paul F. Richter, who assigned it to the Phonoharp Company. In 1926, the Phonoharp Company merged with Oscar Schmidt International, Inc., of New Jersey, and ukelins were then sold by them and their subsidiaries, which included the International Music Corporation and the Manufacturers' Advertising Company of Newark, New Jersey. Similar instruments were sold by the Marxochime Colony, New Troy, Michigan, under the names Pianoette, Pianolin, Sol-o-lin and Violin Uke. Other names sometimes encountered include Banjolin and Hawaiian Art Violin.

Ukelin-type instruments were usually sold by door-to-door commission salesmen, often on a time-payment plan, and were intended for home music-making by persons without a formal musical education. Judging from the volume of inquiries received by the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment they are not yet rare and frequently turn up in attics and second-hand stores. The International Music Corporation published an instruction booklet for the Ukelin, a complete copy of which is preserved in the files of the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment. A photocopy of its 17 pages, which include playing and tuning instructions and 14 tunes, may be ordered for $5.00 from the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, AHB 4127, MRC 616, Washington, DC 20013-7012 (please make your check or money order payable to the Smithsonian Institution).

Classification Music
Business & Commerce
Social & Personal Activity