Stella "Italian Style" 10-string Guitar, circa 1920
This instrument was described in the 1921 Oscar Schmidt catalog, but no picture was shown. It was referred to as the Italian Style Guitar (10 strings). Three models were offered: No. 402 had one sound hole, No 403 had two additional sound holes as this example has. No 404 had a 5-rib back similar to a Neapolitan (bowl-back) mandolin. This type of instrument is known in Italy as: chitarra battente. Although the Oscar Schmidt Company made some that were smaller, our example is 14" wide across the lower bout. It has a spruce top decorated with typical Stella decals. The sides, back and neck are mahogany. The fingerboard is flush with the top and faced with rosewood veneer. It should come as no surprise that Stella's of this type and style were made. After all...the majority of the craftsmen who worked at the Oscar Schmidt factory - making Stella guitars and mandolins - were from Italy!
Above - When we looked inside this instrument with a mirror, to evaluate the restoration work it required, we noticed a piece of paper was lodged inside between the top and back. When it was removed, we were surprised and delighted to discover it was an old photograph of a group of men and a young boy. One man holds this instrument, another is holding an Italian bagpipe (I think it is called a zampogna). The third and fourth gent are about to enjoy some vino! The boy seems to have little enthusiasm for the moment at hand.
Above - These instruments originally had colorful perforated paper decorations attached to the under-surface of their sound holes, giving them a very festive appearance. Unfortunately, they have long since deteriorated in our example, leaving only a trace inside where they were once attached.
(This guy must have often wondered why his instrument wouldn't play in tune. He apparently never figured out that his bridge is more than 2 inches out of place! It was glued in that position when I found the instrument.)