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Hawaiian Lap Top Guitar by Nioma Circa 1937; with Amp by Magnatone. Circa 1947

Documentation Signed
Origin United States, California
Period 1920-1949
Materials Wood, Metal, Plastic
W. 8 in; H. 32 in; D. 3.5 in;
W. 20.32 cm; H. 81.28 cm; D. 8.89 cm;
Condition Good. Wear consistent with use and age
Creation Date Circa 1937
Number of Pieces 2-3
Description This Hawaiian lap top guitar was made by The Nioma Company whose examples are very hard to find; more rare than it's Magnatone counterpart who made guitars at about the same time. Nioma is an acronym and stands for "National Institute of Music and Art".
They were incorporated in 1932 by Harry Baxter and Mary Strnad. They were established to endear music to young people. They provided instruments and lessons, and even created a guitar orchestra to pursue that goal. Not much is known about the company except, we do know that they began in Seattle, and years later expanded to Los Angeles; not necessarily with the sole goal of selling guitars, but also to promote the love of music. The company folded in 1952.

This guitar, Circa 1937, originally sold for $70 and has an Art Deco style and appearance, especially with the grey "pearloid" finish. It has a lone knob to control volume, chrome palm rest, a jack opening at the base to plug into an amplifier, white button tuning gears, and a small metal logo on the peg head. The guitar comes with the original lightweight carrying case.It is in worn condition (see images) but serviceable. The guitar has a deep, fine quality sound. The tuning pegs are replacements to the original celluloid (originals are in the case); the actual machine part of the tuning pegs are original and it holds pitch fine. The guitar is an excellent professional instrument. The amp has a lot of punch and a fine sound for a small amplifier.

One theory contends that The Magna Company stole the grey "pearloid" finish from Nioma and finished their amplifiers similarly, to promote their own line of guitars.

The amplifier provided here is a 50 watt, Circa 1947, Magnatone and has the markings "Model No. M-197 3-V Varsity Magnatone, Magna Electronics, Los Angeles California." There is a brass and blue nameplate at the front base of the amp. The outer case is decorated with a leather like fabric to the outside. The speaker is 7". Obviously the amp is tube driven. The leather carrying strap to the amp is detached on one side.

Hawaiian guitars became popular in the 1930's, especially on the West Coast, and two companies appeared to promote their manufacture. The more popular Magna Company (Magnatone guitars and amps) was started in 1937 in Los Angeles by Delbert Dickerson, and the lesser known and less prolific Nioma Company was started in Seattle about 1932.
By the 1950's country music and rock and roll had become more popular than Hawaiian music and the Hawaiian guitar was replaced by electric hollow and solid body 6 string guitars by Fender and Gibson.

Guitar Dimensions: 30" long x 6 1/2" wide x 2 1/2" deep
Case Dimensions: 32" long x 8" wide x 3 1/2" deep
Amplifier Dimensions: 11 3/4" wide x 7 1/2" deep x 11 1/4" high
Styles / Movements Americana, Traditional
Incollect Reference Number 281684
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