Charles A., head of household, age: 34,
born: Sweden, arrived in U.S. in 1888
Employment: manufacturer of musical
1910 Census data of Suffolk County, Chelsea City, Massachusetts
Charles, A, age: 43, born: Sweden,
manufacturer of musical instruments
1920 Census data of Somerville, Massachusetts
Charles A, head of household, age: 54, born:
1866 Sweden, manufacturer drums
1930 Census data of Somerville, Massachusetts
Elmer F, head of household, age: 34,
mechanic - musical store
The Stromberg business was started in Boston, Massachusetts in 1906 by Charles Stromberg (born in Sweden 1866) who immigrated to Boston in April 1886. Charles Stromberg was a master luthier.
He specialized in banjo, drum, mandolin, and guitars after working for several years at Thompson and Odell (est. 1874), a Boston based firm that manufactured brass instruments, percussion instruments, fretted instruments, music publications, stringed instruments, and accessories.
Thompson & Odell sold the manufacturing of the fretted instrument business to the Vega Company in Boston in 1905.
Stromberg was one of the country´s leading repairers of harps with his masterful ability in carving headstocks, replacing sound boards, and making new machine mechanisms. His reputation among Boston´s early engravers, violin, drum, banjo, and piano makers was very high.
Charles, in addition, repaired violins, cellos, and basses.
Repairs were a steady source of income for the Stromberg business.
His oldest son, Harry (born in Chelsea, Massachusetts 1890), worked with Charles from 1907 on and his youngest son, Elmer (born in Chelsea in 1895), apprenticed at the shop with older brother Harry from July 1910 until March 1917.
Elmer left the business to serve in World War I. He returned to the business in March 1919 after serving his country for two years in France.
At that time, the shop was located at 40 Sudbury Street and later moved to 19 Washington Street in early 1920s.
Shop locations were in an area based in the heart of Boston´s famous Scollay Square with burlesque and theater establishments.
The Strombergs produced drums, mandolins, guitars, and banjos during the early 1920s from the 19 Washington Street location.
Throughout the 1920s (the Jazz Age of banjo music), the Strombergs produced custom tenor banjos. They competed with other banjo manufacturers, and were part of the eastern corridor in banjo manufacturing.
The Stromberg reputation was very strong in Boston and the New England area. Banjoists who often desired a custom-made instrument chose the Stromberg banjo as it was highly decorative and the sound would carry for the player in large dance halls.
In October of 1926, Elmer Stromberg applied for a patent for a series of tubes around the tone chamber of the banjo just under the head.
This created a new sustaining sound and more volume and was called the "Cupperphone." The Stromberg Cupperphone banjo consisted of forty-one hollow, perforated metal tubes 13/16 in. high and 13/16 in. in diameter fitted to the wooden rim to produce a louder and clearer tone.
This was an option for the banjos, and this Cupperphone feature made the Stromberg banjo one of the loudest and heaviest built in the country.
The two models offered at this time were the Deluxe, and Marimba models. The patent was granted in June of 1928.
Harry Stromberg left the business in 1927. By the late 1920s, banjo players were beginning to switch from banjo to guitar to create deeper sounding rhythm sections in orchestras.
As the style of music changed, the guitar needed to be heard better. While musicians´ needs focused towards the guitar, the banjo´s popularity declined and Elmer began producing archtop guitars for Boston musicians.
In June of 1927, the shop relocated to 40 Hanover Street where they began producing archtop guitars.
By the early 1930s, banjo players began ordering guitars. As early as 1927, Elmer began taking guitar orders, and offered several types based on a 16 inch body, called the G series.
The models G1, G2, and Deluxe models were offered featuring a small headstock, with laminated body and segmented f-holes.
(Courtesy - Jim Speros)
Frank "Pops" Mondello was best friends with Charles
The began working together in the early 1900's at the Thompson-O'Dell Banjo factory on Boston.
Charles was a supervisor there.
Later they worked at Fairbanks and at Vega as well as in the Stromberg shop.
They ate dinner every Wednesday and my Dad had an excuse from school for last period, to work in the shop.
The final Stromberg shop was at 40 Hanover St.
Both Chas. and Elmer died in 1955
Around 1000 banjos is the estimate of banjos made - none were serial numbered
640 Guitars, they had other forms of Identification inside.
STORY BY DR. JEFF GROSSER
FIGA MAGAZINE - 1999
(Courtesy - Jeff Grosser)
Excerpt , from Jim Speros
Author of the Stromberg Story
Jim is a personal friend of our family and interviewed Dad on several occasions.
(Courtesy - Jim Speros)
Picture of Elmer on Rare Stromberg Recording guitar
My Grandfather had a 6 String, I had a 4 String
(Courtesy - Jim Speros)
I had the Tenor version for some years
STROMBERG BANJO BROCHURES
My Grandfather on Vega Guitar Banjo, early 1900's Boston Mass
My Father is the small boy, My Grandfather on his left (facing)
Boston Mass, 1920s
Grandfather's banjo, Stromberg Deluxe
Dad's - Slingerland Maybell
This was made at Stromberg and assembled by my Grandfather and has unique inlay
The banjo went missing in the 1960s and has never surfaced
No 2 pegheads are exactly alike nor are the inlay, so its a long hunt.
Uncle Victor Mondello "Vic"
Vic was taught by his brother, Grandfather Frank ("Pops"), who taught many East Boston Banjoists.
Frank could play as well right handed as left, totally ambidextrous
In the early days with Scotty Holmes, Stromberg Deluxe banjo (on the left)
In a Vega Advert, with a Vox 3
Later in the 60s with the Deluxe
James "BUSTER" Mondello
in the 30's with his then new Stromberg G3
Custom block inlay, same as the Deluxe Banjo
Notice the black top
Also notice that's a fake backdrop, they are on Revere Beach!
BEST FRIEND - IRVING ASHBY
They hung out together at the Stromberg shop and corresponded thru life until Irving's' death
In the Army in Texarkana Tx.
Notice the White Top
If anyone asks, I'll tell the story!
OK, here it is...Short version
A Surly on a dance floor drunk tried to grab it and his diamond ring gouged the top, Dad hit him with it and broke his jaw, went to court, won the case and Elmer put him in another top.
He told Dad "That's not covered under the lifetime warranty, but the first one is free"
More Army -USO Club, Texarkana Tx.
Stage Band work
Now thats one "Out of Place" Yankee!!!!!!!!
The guitar was sold in the 1950's when Dad started playing
Bass and Banjo again full time
THE GUITAR AS IT IS IN 2013
Expertly restored in a sunburst, it was seen in a Guitar Store in NY and I was fortunate to get these pics
Dad was all about "Quotations"
I get that honestly
He signed that before the top was put on when it was made.
The Guitar is now in a museum in Shanghai, China
NOW FOR ME
Dad on Vega Artist and Me on my Stromberg Openback
The first year I went on the web and started my Banjo repair business
WITH MY STROMBERG DELUXE - 2005
With Hands like that, who needs feet!
R.I.P. - 2011
In the 60s. playing Bass on some local gig that was in the paper
At Elicia's Latin Quarter, on his Epiphone
Probably wishing he hadn't sold the Stromberg
Granpa and Dad playing together in the 70's at my cousin Anna's christening
Grandpa on the leftie Vega Mando
And the Shakey's Days, 11 yrs, Longview Tx
Uncle Vic's Deluxe