P. A. Anderberg around 1905 with the world's first trussrod

It is not often you get to work with a historical instrument. This parlor guitar made by Pehr A. Anderberg in the USA is one such. It has a fully functional trussrod that was patented by Anderberg as early as 1894 before Gibson patented its variant in 1923. Pehr passed away in 1910 and the patent was invalid when Gibson received his patent. Here is Anderberg's patent from 1894. Gibsons patent from 1923.

In the patent, in addition to the trussrod, there was, among other things, a tricky bridge that actually resembles the one I invented for my very first "renovation" (which I am now a little ashamed of)! Several flies in one go. The "trussrod" in the patent is actually not a rod but a wire.

It all started when my friend Farre (who has been an apprentice in the room twice) sent a link to a guitar for sale on a Swedish auction site, Ekenbergs Auktioner in Karlshamn in Blekinge. The auctioneer had taken very nice pictures and the guitar was very interesting, I wrote "Buy it!" in the reply email.

  • Total length: 95,5 cm
  • Top (upper round, waist, lower round): 23,5 - 19 - 33,5 cm
  • Side (neck block, waist, end block): 9 - 9,8 - 10,8 cm
  • Neck: Soft V-shape
  • Fingerboard (nut, 12th, bridge): 47 - 57 - 59 mm
  • String length: 62,5 cm
  • Lacquer: Spirit lacquer/Shellac
  • Weight: 1274 g
  • Thickness top: 2,8 mm
  • Thickness of the side: 2 mm
  • Thickness bottom 2,5 mm

After a bit of googling on Anderberg, I found this information in an old magazine, The Music Trade Review, from 1904 and also the patent.

 

WILL MAKE MANDOLINS AND GUITARS.

[Special to The Review.]

Boston, Mass., Jan 12, 1904. PA Anderberg-, who formerly made guitars and mandolins for John C. Haynes & Co., of this city, now merged in the Oliver Ditson Co., has formed a co-partner-ship with his son, Ralph H. Anderberg until recently a mandolin and guitar manufacturer of Mt. Vernon, NY, for the purpose of making guitars and mandolins. At present the factory of the two Anderbergs (father and son) is located at their home on Cottage street, Chelsea, Mass., But they contemplate moving their workrooms to Boston, in the near future.

 

By a lucky coincidence, I received an email from Bruce Cowan in the US asking for details on the Bauer guitar from the 1890s that Farre and I renovated during one of his visits to my shop. I quotes some of his emails here.

 

“George Bauer was a manufacturer, and I do not think he was a luthier. He came to Philadelphia around 1890 as a young salesman for the Boston company John C. Haynes, manufacturers of Bay State instruments and many others.

He started marketing his own make of guitars and mandolins in 1894. His luthier was Ernest Anderberg. In 1898, Bauer partnered with SS Stewart the banjo manufacturer, and then Stewart died. In the catalog linked on your site it shows two lines of instruments, the Monogram and more expensive George Bauer line.

He supplied a Monogram equivalent to the Sears Roebuck catalog company through 1903 or so. They were labeled Acme Professional, and I see one on your page. In 1898, Ernest left the company and his father Per Anderberg came to help ramp up production, as he had done with Bay State guitars in Boston. Per (usually spelled Pehr) was born near Malmo and learned the trade there. I've been in touch with Kenneth Sparr about that… perhaps you know him, as he is a Swedish guitar scholar.

(There were other Swedes at Bay State who went on to form Vega guitars and became VERY successful. Earlier, Per's brother Erland Anderberg started a factory in Mount Vernon New York. By 1900 it had 50 employees. I have not yet found out what labels went on them, but there must have been thousands! It continued until 1915. There's probably another article in these Swedish makers from the Boston area.)

Bauer had a lot of business trouble in 1901 or so, when he cut out the Stewarts, and the company reformed again in 1904 with his brother Emil at the helm. I think the company was gone by about 1911 or so. Emil was involved in the Keen-o-phone phonograph company, and it was gone by about 1914.

I found that Bauer died in 1946 in an insane asylum in Pennsylvania. I found other evidence of mental illness, and it may explain the business trouble in the early 1900s and why he disappeared from the music business. ”

 

In addition to details about the Bauer guitar, I mentioned the Anderberg guitar in the conversation with him and it turned out that he is probably the one in the world who knows the most about Pehr A. Anderberg! He was one of many in a whole collective of Swedish immigrants to the USA who made guitars of high quality, he was probably one of the most skilled and was hired as a craftsman by several large manufacturers. This is what Bruce writes in an email (where he included the auction guitar, the only one marked P. A. Anderberg that he knows of).

 

“I think I need to complete the Bauer story before I tackle the Anderberg story. With the Anderbergs I could look at other Swedish makers of that time in Boston, like the Nelsons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega_Company 

I have never seen an Anderberg labeled guitar. This is a rare object. Here's the basic PA Anderberg information I've researched. I did not include the footnotes, but I have marked the sources.

Per Andersson Anderberg was born May 21,1838, in Tygelsjo near Malmo, Sweden (Swedish reference). He was an apprentice in the cabinet shop of Carl Johan Bergman in Malmö during the period 1854-1860. (Reference from Kenneth Sparr). He came to America in 1864 (1900 US Census, Ernest's account). He made guitars for C. Bruno, the well-known Manhattan manufacturer and retailer. (Son Ernest's account).

In America, he was known as PA Anderberg or Pehr Anderberg. Records show that Pehr Anderberg married Hulda Elfrida Huppner (b. Sweden, 7 June 1851) in 1872 in Brooklyn. (footnote church record).

The 1873/4 City Directory for New York lists a Peter Anderberg as a guitar maker working at on Pearl Street, in Manhattan, and living in Brooklyn. The directory shows no music retailers or manufacturers listed at that address in that era.

Pehr's brother Erland came to America in 1873 (later passport app), and the two of them made guitars in Mount Vernon, New York and the adjacent settlement of Washingtonville. Ernest Alfrid Anderberg (DATE) and Rolf Hugo Anderberg (DATE) were born at Mount Vernon. Erland manufactured guitars and mandolins there until about 1915.

Pehr and his family moved to Malmo late in the 1870s, where his son Edvin was born in 1880. Pehr had a retail store there (Ernest, Swedish source?) The family returned to the United States in August, 1882 (immigration records).

On their return they lived in the Boston area. PA Anderberg supplied guitars to the John C. Haynes & Co. From about 1888-1891, he was the foreman in their factory.

After that Anderberg went into business for himself in Chelsea, near Boston, manufacturing fretted instruments for August Pollman, a New York retailer. In 1894, he received a U.S. Patent 516717A, an improvement on guitar design, an adjustable stiffening wire that was the forerunner of the truss rod. The only guitar this author has seen with Anderberg's name on it is likely from this period, and it has this improvement. It was sold at auction in Sweden in January 2021.

Around 1898, PA Anderberg began working for Stewart & Bauer in Philadelphia following the merger of banjo manufacturer SS Stewart and George Bauer, a maker of guitars and mandolins. Production was ramped up to supply “Acme Professional” instruments to Sears Roebuck & Co. (Anderberg's son Ernest, who had learned luthiery at his father's side, had been making guitars for Bauer since about 1893.)

In 1904, Anderberg was back in business in Chelsea, either as a repairer, maker, or both. In the summer of 1907, Hulda and Pehr visited Sweden. In April, 1908, Anderberg's shop was destroyed in the Chelsea fire.

Per Andersson Anderberg died in Chelsea on March 18, 1910. By then, his son Ernest had returned to Chelsea, and he continued working there as a repairer for a few more decades.

ATTACHED are a couple of screen shots from the main source. It is not completely accurate. I hope to visit Boston and see the author's papers. Also, the fire is out of historical sequence. I used a lot of maps and other resources.

The main source is viewable here: https://archive.org/details/contributionstoa00ayar  Searching the text does not connect with the table in the back of the book.

Anderberg had built "Tilton patent" guitars when he worked for Haynes, and knew that having a popular patent could pay off over the long run. Tilton came up with some interesting innovations, mainly a solid wood rod that was an extension of the neck running through the body to the end pin, taking some stress off the neck joint. These often had a metal disk badge floating in the soundhole, attached to the rod. They also had tailpieces. On a few, the wood grain ran diagonally.

The Anderbergs and Bauer had factories with maybe 30 employees. I see pictures of a three-story brick building. Then the Chicago manufacturing took off with huge plants, and that ended Bay State and Bauer and Erland Anderberg.

Pehr's son did not spend much time in luthiery, as I've seen him in city directories doing other work, but the mention of his work in Mount Vernon seems to indicate that he worked with his uncle Erland at least briefly. It is the only indication I have of a connection between Pehr and Erland after 1880 or so. The son was young at this time (20s) and Pehr was old (66).

Attached is death certificate for 1910.

Pehr's brother Erland Anderberg had a patent too. An adjustable bridge.
https://patents.google.com/patent/US282147A/en

Erland had a factory in Mount Vernon, New York from 1882-1915. In 1900 he had dozens of employees. He must have made thousands of instruments, but I can not find out who put their label on them. Probably one of the big New York City retailers. I have not seen any instruments attributed to him ”.

 

A really fantastically detailed account to say the least, a big thank you to Bruce Cowan!

Pehr and his brother were clearly very knowledgeable and skilled craftsmen and made many of the most beautiful guitars made in the United States around the turn of the century 1900 under different names. This guitar marked P. A. Anderberg was most likely manufactured between 1904 and 1908 before his workshop in Chelsea burned down. Maybe Pehr brought this guitar to Skåne during his visit to Sweden in 1907, the auction in Blekinge is not far from Skåne. Unfortunately, Farre did not get hold of those who sold the guitar, the only thing he learned was that many in the family for the estate were sailors. Probably the history had cooled down and the guitar hung as a wall decoration with its previous owner.

I promised Farre to repair it if he bought it, luckily he got it for SEK 8500. There was a bidding war with another buyer, otherwise it would have gone for less money. It will fit well next to his equally fine Bauer guitar which was perhaps built by Pehr's brother! Well. After a number of weeks, I got the guitar home in a Gator 3/4 case in which it was just possible to fit the guitar. A size comparison with Farres Bauer guitar and a Levin parlor. The shape was very similar to the Bauer guitar.

The guitar was in good condition but not without problems. The bridge was loose and the bottom had a crack in the middle joint and the bottom was loose from the side in some places. The top was deformed around the bridge and the bottom of oak was sunk. The tuners were very strange and as it turned out later unusable when the cog slipped when trying to tune. The neck was bent, the reason was that the trussrod had not been tightened, and it had probably been kept unplayed with tuned up strings for many years. The neck had been re-glued with carpentry glue, there was also carpentry glue in the middle joint of the bottom and at the edge of the bottom. Two brass nails had been nailed into the neck foot… The end block later turned out to be cracked in the middle. The side had received some almost invisible stab wounds in two places, they could easily be glued together with hot skin glue.

I was very curious about the construction of the trussrod, as the neck had to be reset the step was not far to loosen the fretboard to really be able to study the trussrod and make it easier to loosen the neck. It turned out that the neck had a "Levin attachment" without dovetail, it had probably gone well to loosen the neck without taking off the fretboard first.

The trussrod was not a wire as in the patent, instead it looked pretty much like a normal Gibson type trussrod. I guess it did not take long before Pehr realized that a rod works much better than a wire! The trussrod has its problems as it protrudes into the fretboard at both ends. The attachment at the neck foot is strong, the bar has been bent 90 degrees, which can be seen in the pictures, but the nut can not be tightened too hard as it only rests on the ebony nut and the end wood on the fingerboard. On this particular guitar, the trussrod does not work so well as the wood of the neck is both strong and hard. The most important thing is that it is tightened and not loose, you can not bend back the neck relief more than a little bit. I specially made a fixed 8 mm wrench to access the nut which was very tight. A crescent-shaped hole for the trussrod was recessed on the underside of the nut.

It was easy to loosen the bottom. The braces at the bottom were relatively loose, the glued spruce to oak does not sit as well as spruce to spruce. However, the braces in the top were really tight! I like the bracing in the top, it is similar to the one I use in my GammelGura. I actually got some inspiration and nowadays, I stick the ends of the braces under the kerfing on GammelGura guitars and have modified the bridge plate so it goes over the entire top.

It is noticeable that it was a skilled craftsman who built the guitar. An extremely beautiful bridge and end pin, nicely and sensibly put together otherwise.

As I said, the top was deformed around the bridge and also the bottom, I tried to get it in some pictures. The bottom still curved more when it was loosened from the side, the oak had shrunk and the glue in the bottom braces held up.

To flatten the top and bottom, the braces were removed from the bottom and around the bridge in the top. The top and bottom were thoroughly soaked with water and put under pressure for a few days.

The result was good.
The original braces at the bottom were deformed and bent in the wrong direction, I replaced one that I did not get loose whole with a replica with the same dimensions, but with a radius in the other direction. The other original braces were shaped on the underside to a radius in the right direction. An extra center stick was fitted to hold the center joint in the bottom together.
Two of the braces in the top cracked along the grain when I tried to loosen them due to run-out. They were replaced with new replicas of the same size. I could not help myself and replaced the bridge plate and the two reinforcements in thin maple with spruce. Round maple reinforcements were glued around the stringpin holes. I also made the bridge plate a little wider for a possible future installation of a K&K pickup. With the new braces, the top had a slight bend upwards, especially the new brace under the fingerboard was good as the neck angle to the bridge got better.

The bottom could be glued without major problems, part of the edge of the bottom had to be scrapped away in the narrowest place as usual. The shrunken bottom has a smaller circumference than the sides, a simple solution is to push the sides in a few mm in the narrowest place for the best fit.

The fretboard was glued back without any problems.

Because the trussrod stuck up from the neck at front and back, I could not sand the neck straight. Instead, I tried to heat and bend back the neck with a loose trussrod and about 90 degrees C of heat (as hot as I dared to use not to melt the varnish on the back of the neck). It got better, but not quite straight. The neck, made of some kind of fruit tree or possibly maple, was stiff and hard and did not want to bend back.

The neck was glued on. Despite all the measurement, it was not perfectly glued in, the biggest reason was that the fretboard was not completely straight. When the frets were removed, I sanded the board that had a 10 ″ radius plane. Unfortunately I had to sand at the top of the fretboard but also at the 12th fret. When the fretboard was straight, the string height of the 12th fret became half a mm too high. I reglued the neck a second time and got to the angle perfectly. A fret at the top of the bridge instead of a saddle places high demands, there is virtually nothing to correct if the neck angle is not perfect.

The bridge, still with its original pins, was re-glued with hot hide glue. The bridge's stringpin holes had deep worn notches from the strings, they were also not centered in the hole. I used tape as "a dam" for superglue and sanding dust of rosewood that filled the grooves. It worked well!

 

The fretboard, which was sanded flat, was re-fretted with new and higher nickel frets. The originals were saved in the case, but they were soft and not of the best quality. The light colored parts of the fretboard are the areas that were not sanded down.

To intonate better, the fret groove was filled in the bridge and a new fret was mounted 2 mm further down on the bass side and 1 mm further down on the treble side. Some previous damage on the top around the bridge was hidden with golden brown stain, the scrapped edge of the oak bottom was repaired with spirit varnish and a thin brush. New Golden Age tuners with black knobs were fitted.

All replaced parts are saved in the case for the guitar. After four days of vibration, it sounds open and loud with low tension Newtone Heritage 0.11 strings.The intonation on the 12th fret is good. Compared to an GammelGura with all the features, the tone is more brutal and more primitive than I am used to. The metal fret "saddle" on the bridge and the nut in ebony are not optional for the tone. The body in oak, on the other hand, is more resonant than expected. 100 years of drying will probably do its thing!

6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Roger! Nice work on that old guitar. It is truly rare, perhaps unique.
    To clarify the relationships… Per and Erland were half-brothers and emigrated to the US
    Ernest was one of Per's son. Ernest lived a long life in Chelsea, Massachusetts, mostly as a repairer, after he left Philadelphia. Per's son Ralph, the one you noticed in the Music Trade Review, is the one who did not pursue luthiery for long.

    • Thanks for the clarification and for sharing all this valuable information about Pehr Anderberg. I hope you will be able to publish more of your findings about Bauer guitars, Anderberg and other Swedish immigrants building guitars in the USA. It's an interesting story indeed 🙂

      The guitar will surely be treasured by Farre now when it's fully playable and sounding great again.

  2. Good day
    I`m the son of the former owner.
    It was only due to Jens that it ended up at his auction house.
    How it ended up in my fathers house we do not know.
    Yes, we have still family members in Boston, Chicago and Ilwaco area, but I think it is a long shot that one of them brought it back to Sweden.
    My Father was not a musical person at all and we have actually never seen it before.
    Alot of people from our area emigrated to US.
    So very nice that it ended up to an owner that where willing to restore it and that there are persons with such knowledge to be able to do it.
    Also nice to what an object that we where about to give away, in the right hads may lead to and that the Guitar may live on and hopefully enjoy many more.
    Very good job and you certanily made my day.

    • Thanks for the update, great to hear from you! As I feared and suspected the history of the guitar is lost. You have at least some connections to Boston, someone surely brought it back to Sweden and found its way to your fathers house somehow. The guitar was a special one, my friend Farre loves it already 🙂

      • Hi there,
        My aunt forwarded me the link to this post as we are direct ancestors of Per through his son Ernest (Ernest's son, Alfred, is my aunt's father and my grandfather). We are all still in the Boston area. I grew up knowing that my great-grandfather (and now I know my great-great grandfather even more so) was involved with making violins, but never knew that his craftsmanship extended to other stringed instruments. This is all so fascinating to me and I would be very interested in learning more about Per, Ernest, and Ralph.- I can start with the sources listed here but if anyone has any other references to share, it would be most appreciated!

        • Great to hear from you, it's amazing how information travels over the internet! Pehr was indeed a top-notch instrument maker and sure made some very nice guitars as the one I recently restored. I suggest you contact Bruce Cowan in Seattle who is doing research about Bauer guitars and the actual makers of the Bauer guitars, among them Pehr Anderberg. Maybe there is some more information to be shared by him or found in your family 🙂

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