S.S. Stewart "Snow Queen" Mandolin (1930s)

THE “RICHES TO RAGS” EFFECT OF THE 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression of the early ‘30s was felt strongly in the musical instrument trade. Many manufacturers and distributors of guitars and mandolins quickly shifted their focus to the creation of an extensive line of low-budget, cheaply made instruments. Many of these bargins were made available through large mail-order houses such as Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and often sold for under $10. The Regal Musical Instrument Company was one of the large Chicago-based instrument manufacturers and distributors that dealt primarily in such low-cost products.

The S.S. Stewart (originally a manufacturer of banjos) “Snow Queen” mandolin, with its white finish and embossed red logo and ski designs was probably produced by Regal.  According to vintage-instrument expert George Gruhn, all of the S.S. Stewart arch-top guitars were made by Regal, and we are assuming that this is also true for the Snow Queen. Apparently sking was a big fad in the ‘30s, which is reflected artistically in many products of the time. This mandolin has a carved top with f-holes, and is a perfectly functional instrument.

(from Tone Poems CD booklet , used by permission)

Photography by Eric Harger