American Standard #2090, anyone know year/origin of this bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by standup17, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. Hello, I have a line on an (apparently) old American Standard Bass (#2090). Have not seen it yet, and I'm wondering if anyone can help interpret this serial #.

    If this is in OK shape, what might it be worth?

    I do know a little about Kay, and play old-time country on a mid-90's Englehardt.

    Thanks in advance for your time.

  2. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I have #2047 and am also curious about the "right answer" to this question. There are 2 conflicting pieces of history on the web, saying that the serial no for the Cleveland instruments start in 1925 with the 2xxx no's made in the next year. The other page has the string bass instruments coming out in 1935, corresponding with about the same time frame as the beginning of the Kays. I'm inclined to believe the latter explanation due to the usual industry competetion practices.

    As far as worth, it depends on condition, but the Standards are generally considered the cream of the crop of older ply basses. I've seen them asking anywhere from 2k - 5k. Here are the two pages of info:
  3. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
  4. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    This is from the H.N. White page, mentioned above:

    For two years The H. N. White Company made instruments for Cleveland to help fill back orders. Mr. White saw the Cleveland brand as the perfect fit to cover the growing school band market which demanded high quality instruments at a low price. The Cleveland brand, along with American Standard were marketed to marching bands and schools. Both were about 40% less in price than a "King."*

    If that held true with the string division, that's kind of interesting in comparison with the now-used market on Kings and Standards.

    On a side note, I was at Jim Ferguson's shop here in Nashville yesterday to get my Standard up-to-playing snuff and noticed Billy Linneman's Standard sitting there(or one of them). As Jim put it, "it looks like it stood a little too close to the BBQ". Looked as though it was painted black in a former life.
  5. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I would be useful if someone undertook a project like Roger Stowers did with the Kays, and with a bit of beginning info and detective work, form a data base, and come up with an educated guess as to how old these instruments are and other related things.
  6. Mine (also painted glorious black) is #93. Sadly, it's getting to be more glue than wood anymore: bad ply separation going on, currently in the hospital for at least its second major (and I do mean major ) neck repair, etc. I'm gonna keep dragging it out on gigs with my jump blues band and fixing it as long as it's fixable.

    I'd like to know more about the history on these big girls myself, but I have this feeling that there might not be much primary source material left anymore. That story may just be lost to the ages.

  7. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I thought I'd start a sub-thread on email correspondence on what I'm finding out on the Standards' history. So far, I'm writing to Chris Charvat of the HN White site and Roger Stowers of the Kay site, and have received an email from Chris. So here's the first exchange:

    > Hello-
    > Very good site on the White Co. and King Instruments! A number of us
    > bassists on have some of the old American Standards, which
    > proven to be the "cream of the crop' of the old ply basses. We are very
    > curious as to the age of these instruments according to the serial no.'s.
    > Mine is #2047 and there are some with 3 digits, but none has seen any
    > no.'s than 3000.
    > According to your site, the King bass was introduced in 1935, and
    > it states, the Am. Standard was brought in as a cheaper alternative to
    > orders where the King instruments couldn't keep up, or something to that
    > effect. My guess would be, the Standards came in around 1937 and stopped
    > about 1941 when the war effort took over, then it looks like the co. only
    > made the more profitable wind instruments after the war. This is only a
    > rough guess after reading your site and any leads to additional
    > would be helpful to our curious bunch who hold these basses in high
    > Sincerely,
    > Ike Harris

    > Nashville TN
    Hello Ike,

    Nice to hear from you! I have one point of clarification that needs to be
    made, and that is American Standard Basses were made up to 1965 in limited
    amounts. The attached picture is from the 1962-63 White Way Catalog Number
    20 which shows at least the availability of the instrument. Now, if they
    were on back order or not is not known but what I do know is that King and
    American Standard Basses were in demand. The company carried almost no
    finished inventory of either brand. My Grandmother was responsible for
    putting together the White Way Catalogs and one of the things that I have
    asked her was if "the company ever advertised a product that they were no
    longer making?' The answer was "no".

    American Standard Basses shows up in White Way Number 9 which was printed in
    1936. Given the timing I would say that the change in brand is due to the
    Great Depression.

    All instrument production stopped during World War II. The company made
    radar components for the Navy and the Army.

    I will update the web site to reflect more accurate information. If you
    have any material or information please let me know.
    Best wishes!--Chris Charvat

    I've tried to upload jpg's of the pics Chris sent me but they are too large. If you wish to see the 1962 AS ad and King ad, contact me at and I'll send directly to you. If there's a more efficient way to do this, let me know.

  8. Thanks guys. Jeez, and I thought serial # was supposed to make things easy to interpret!

    So, to the best of your knowledge #2090 would have been built:

    -which decade

  9. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN

    In this case, it looks like the the Standards were one of the rarer White products sprinkled over the space of about 30 years. What I thought once was a late 20's instrument could have been made in the 50's or later. As to where, it looks like at the White factory in Cleveland, possibly alongside the Kings. Here is another installment of my exchange w/Chris on the subject:

    > Chris-
    > Thanks for the quick reply. I've already learned more from this than what
    > I've seen previously. Am I correct in thinking that your grandmother is no
    > longer alive? If that's unfortunately the case, I'd certainly like to come
    > across someone that might still be around that would have knowledge of the
    > co.'s history. But having someone like yourself is the next best thing,
    > a good amount of the history and certainly the interest to do a site on
    > subject.
    > I was looking at Roger Stower's Kay site for clues on this as well. He
    > to think the Cleveland co. was started by White, but looking at your site,
    > you're saying the co. was a pre-existing one and the Standards may or may
    > not have been already produced. Looking at the hardware of the Kings and
    > Standards, one can see the identical tuning pegs of the two instruments
    > it would tend to lead one to think the two were made about the same time
    > frame(1935-?). What do you think?
    > Any clues as to attaching serial no.'s to years made, or sequence of
    > numbers? The musictrader site gives Cleveland no.s as starting off each
    > in another thousand(10,000, 20,000, etc.). Given what I've seen so far,
    > seems unlikely for the Standards.
    > I'm not sure what you mean when you said, "change in brand name". King -
    > Standard?
    > Again, thanks for your continued interest and info, and I will forward
    > whatever findings we come across to the guys at Talkbass.
    > Ike

    Hello again,

    My Grandmother is still alive but not in the best health. She still has her
    good days and we talk about the company allot then.

    Cleveland was not started by HN White but bought by him. King supplied a
    number of Cleveland's instruments and there was a close working
    relationship. I am not sure who was the head of Cleveland and I would love
    to find out. From what I hear HN White bought Cleveland for a very low
    price. Cleveland never produced any string instruments and it is my opinion
    that HN brought in outside help from Europe to help set up production but I
    have no real hard proof on that.

    Serial number are (as you know) very hard to pin down, and I have not spent
    much time working on them. Instead, I have focused on when model changes
    are made and what year the instrument enters and ends production. So, I am
    not much help when it comes to serial numbers. Sorry. I think that the
    music traders numbers a way off and do not account for even World War two.

    "Change in brand name". What I mean is that as far as I know there were not
    many differences between and true King and an American Standard string
    basses. The addition of string basses to the American Standard line up was
    as easy as changing a label.

    It seams like most of you bass guys stick together, is there anything that
    you would like to see on the "string page?"

    Thanks again,--Chris
  10. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    I figure like this.... If White started producing American Standard basses in '35, and continued until oh, say '65, that gives you 3 decades of production. Being that it's assumed that about 3000 total were made, and IF yearly production numbers were fairly consistent, a number around 2000 would place it as being built somewhere in the the latter half of the second decade of production, or early half of the 3rd and final decade. So let's say yours was built somewhere around 1955. Actually, maybe it's better to peg it near the late '50s given the several years without production during WWII. Where was it built? Cleveland! :rolleyes:

    My additional (unsolicited) $.02: I don't think any of this business about HN White filling backorders for Cleveland or the Standards being a cheap alternative for when Kings ran thin has anything to do with basses. If the scenario is correct, the time places HN White buying Cleveland a full decade before they even got into the stringed instrument business. It appears that when they DID enter that market, they merely followed the model that had been created by the aquisition of Cleveland, and specifically designed two very distinct lines of basses to offer at different key price points.

    About where Kay fits into all of this: Implied relationships between HN White and Kay periodically crop up.... Roger Stowers states he believes there were common parts shared between the two companies, and the HN White site I submitted states that the White stringed instrument division was sold off to Kay in 1965. I'm pretty confident that both of these claims are false. In regards to Stowers' claim, it's not tough to see that there was little, if anything that could be interchanged between the Kay and King/AS basses, if anything. Not even the tuners are the same. Both companies had their own forms, patterns and other tooling; ribs, tops, backs, necks and scrolls were all distinctly different between the two companies. I highly doubt there was any part-sharing relationship of any kind and frankly, I don't think this can be stressed enough -- I've seen Kays on Ebay falsely represented as American Standards because of this implied relationship. Not cool, IMO.

    As for Kay acquiring the King/AS division from White? There would be little point in picking up the division if there were no plans of doing anything with the forms and tooling UNLESS Kay was simply able to do it on the cheap with the goal of eliminating a competitor. Hopefully we'll be able to find more information on this...
  11. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
  12. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Here are those pics Ike was talkin' 'bout... Sorry for the reduction in quality, but I wanted to make 'em small enough to load quickly, but large enough to read...


    Alright, so this next one's tough to read... The copy (under the little photo) reads:

    "IT CAN TAKE IT. -- A regular Stock Instrument ready for shipping. -- Proving the ingenious construction and strength of the KING String Bass -- made entirely of wood. Notice even the graceful curvature of the KING Bass front was unaffected by Mr. Miller's weight of 360 pounds."

  13. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Roger Stowers of the Kay history site chimes in here. This is the content of our email exchange:

    > Hi Roger-
    > Hope you are well. I've written to you a time or 2 before to date some
    > This time I'm curious about the Am. Standards because I have one(#2047)
    > have been writing several other owners over at and we're very
    > curious about these basses. There are some conflicting clues about when
    > these were actually produced. I noticed on your site that you said:
    > > The Cleveland Musical Instrument Company began in 1925 as an off shoot
    > > King and the H.N White Co. They made band instruments including upright
    > > basses. Their products were known as "American Standard."
    > And then "King started making upright basses in 1935".
    > On the HN White site: , it states
    > that the Cleveland Musical Instrument co. was purchased by White, as if it
    > was a pre-existing co., but doesn't state anything about string
    > being made.
    > It says clearly that King started making it's String Bass in 1935
    > with pic of the ad) but the Am. Standard bass still is not mentioned. On
    > label of a Standard is the name HN White underneath the Am. Standard &
    > Cleveland M. I. Co. name. If you look at the tuning pegs of Kings and
    > Standards you would see that they're identical. Probably there are more
    > similarities, but I don't have them both to look at right now.
    > This leads me to think that the Standards were made some time after 1935
    > fill in the market with a cheaper instrument, and then ceased when the co.
    > started helping with the war effort. King picked up later with only wind
    > inst.'s, it looks like, which were more profitable. None of us at talkbass
    > have seen a serial no. higher than 3000, so it wasn't likely a very long
    > run, as Kays enjoyed. Also, since we know that Kays got underway in the
    > mid-30's, it's unlikely that a plywood bass made for the school market
    > have been produced for 10 years or more prior to that date without any
    > domestic competition.
    > I'm interested to hear your opinions on this, and if you have any other
    > on this company, we Standard owners would be grateful for any other clues
    > the subject.
    > Thanks,
    > Ike Harris
    > Nashville TN

    I went back through all the info I received by "accident" about American
    Standard basses and I do not have any serial numbers over 3000. I have about
    10 numbers. Not a lot, but enough to indicate you might be correct.
    I think you are probably correct about the origin of the company, as I
    could not figure out if the company had been pre-existing or was developed
    by White. Of course, that was not my area of interest at the time, and I
    did not spend much time looking for the relationship.
    The reason I investigated H.N. White at all is because of the Kay bass
    model M-1W. I have never determined what the W stands for. I keep thinking
    the W might be related to H.N. White. Did Kay borrow start up money from
    White and pay it back with basses? Was Kay producing basses being sold out
    of White stores or distributorships?
    At one time I thought maybe White might have made the basses for Kay.
    Maybe Kay was selling faster than than they could produce and White helped
    them out. This is not a very likely scenario since the Kay's are a
    different shape and I talked to one person who was a VP for Gretsch and he
    said that would never have happened. He said Kay was a much bigger produced
    than American Standard ever thought of being. Kay made all of the Gretsch
    basses and all the basses for Selmer.
    I hope you continue your investigations of the American Standard bass.
    They are a wonderful bass and the records need to be re-established. If you
    continue with your research and establish a web sight I will be happy to add
    a link to my page and I am sure Bob Gollihur would help also.
  14. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I just received a note from a guy named Matthew who owns #606 and #693, which is for sale. He also has a friend who owns #467 with a receipt from the original sale dated Sept. 1941. He has seen one with the #3080. The plot thickens.

    If anyone is interested in #693, I'll hook you up if he hasn't already posted on the For Sale page.

  15. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Here's another reply from Chris regarding the White Co. In this exchange, he states that his great-grandmother was Mrs. White, which I didn't realize. If anyone else has any more questions about Standards or Kings, or the White Co., please relay them via email or PM to me, and I'll send them on to Chris. In the meantime, I'll work on setting up a database of Standards to attempt to correlate what information comes in relating serial no's to purchase/manufacturing dates. One thing I've thought about since I've been working on this project, there seems to be more Standards than Kings out there. Maybe because that's been the focus of thought here, but they WERE the cheaper line of basses and they came out during the depression, so maybe there was a precedent set for the market as far as the White co. was concerned. The Kays, of course, had different models to choose from, but I don't think they differed as much as the Standards and Kings did, mostly cosmetic. Anyway here's the email:

    > Chris-
    > Glad you still have Grandma. That is a treasure in itself and anything
    > such as we have been talking about is only more to the better.
    > You've confirmed what I've thought since seeing your site about the
    > Cleveland co. being as small pre-existing instrument maker. The curious
    > thing is that the Standards were used as a less expensive alternative to
    > King, but they don't seem to me to be a cheaper made instrument.
    > > The addition of string basses to the American Standard line up was
    > >> as easy as changing a label.
    > The King has a smaller violin shape with a more frilly look to it. Didn't
    > take longer to build those? Were the two models made in the same shop?
    > > I have focused on when model changes
    > > are made and what year the instrument enters and ends production.
    > So, is it fair to say the Standards(& Kings) were produced between 1935
    > 1965(except the war years)? If so, these roughly paralleled the time frame
    > the Kays were built. Seems like Kay wanted to jump into the school bass &
    > cello market to rival the White Co. Also, looking through your site, it's
    > clear testament that a woman could run a big company during such an rare
    > troublesome period of history.
    > I was looking throught the "White Way" section of the site and caught a
    > of contents of the 1965 catalogue, listing "Symphony basses" on one page
    > "String basses" on the next. It's probably fair to say that the Standards
    > were called the "symphony", since the King was referred to as the "String
    > Bass", and that the Standard was also bigger. Also proof of availability
    > 1965. I think it was the 1931 catalogue where it stated violins, cellos,
    > basses were imported by the co., implying they were not in production
    > in-house at that time.
    > >It seams like most of you bass guys stick together, is there anything
    > > you would like to see on the "string page?"
    > I guess just the points we've been hitting on though these emails; I'll
    > that question to the forum. Pictures are always helpful. BTW, I'm posting
    > these emails to the forum to continue a thread on this subject.
    > Again, thanks for you interest and help.
    > Ike

    Hello Ike,

    >The King has a smaller violin shape with a more frilly look to it. Didn't
    it take longer to build those? Were the two models made in the same shop?

    I would think that the King did take longer to make but I have no proof.
    All King and American Standard models were made in the same shop.

    >...looking through your site, it's a clear testament that a woman could run
    a big company during such an rare and troublesome period of history.

    I did not know my Great Grandmother but those who did all say that she was
    very sharp and very driven to maintain a quality product. Edna had a clear
    vision for the company and she drove everyone who worked for her in that
    direction, including my Grandmother. When you think about it, when another
    person takes over a family run business quality is the first thing to go but
    in this case it did not. I give both (Edna and Cathryn) allot of credit for
    doing well in (at that time) a male dominated business world.

    I have attached the first page in the catalog which has the
  16. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Here's another catalog pic Ike received from Chris:

  17. <munch, munch, munch>Mmm, the taste of words...

    Wow, I guess I was (happily) wrong. The internet amazes me yet again.

  18. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Had to LOL to that one, sorry. Jeff, I was reading back in the thread in your original post where you said you had #93. I believe that's so far the oldest of the bunch. With what we've gotten at this point, I would venture to guess about 1936, until proven wrong. But it won't be far off.

  19. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Actually, Ike, one of our very own TBDB moderators, Don Higdon, owns AS #87. That's the oldest I know of.

    Also, Ike, Jeff, and anyone else interested in the topic, there are a handful of good threads re: AS basses already here on TalkBass... Check 'em out:

    AS Info

    AS General Disc.

    AS Restoration

    A.S.S.'s on Fire

    #87 for Sale (then Not for Sale)
  20. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Thanks Brent, for that correction. I'm compiling a list of all the serial numbers that weigh in on the subject, both AS & King. I'm beginning to think that possibly there were serial no's shared by both models, maybe cellos(OK celli for you picky guys) too, which began production in '37. If you look at the info I've gotten so far on two original purchase dates, the math just doesn't work.

    I have so far #467 that was bought in 1941 and #2910 reported bought in 1953. Using round numbers and averages,that makes an average of 78 basses made per year until 1941, then a stoppage during WWII. Pickup 1946 until 1953, with an average of 300 basses a year, then with an imaginary ending serial no. 3100 in 1965, that would give an average of 12 basses a year until that date. If you use the same average as the beginning of the run until WWII and subtract it from the total production from 1953 you get about 2000 extra. I know there was a boom in the post war years, but I can't picture that much of a boost in sales.

    Either the 1953 figure was wrong or there was some serial no. sharing going on with the other string instruments, as I believe Kay did with their line. I don't know if they continued to import violins after 1935, especially with the political climate as it was in Germany at that time. That will be a good question for Chris when I write him again. BTW, if any of you have any more questions about the White co., please let me know, and I will relay them along with mine.