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Help ID old Wm Lewis & Sons bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by RadicalDad, Mar 7, 2006.


  1. RadicalDad

    RadicalDad

    Mar 6, 2006
    Portland, OR
    I am looking at purchasing a bass estimated (by the seller) to be 40 to 60 years old. On the inside, on the back under the right (E-side) f-hole is a tag which reads:

    Made Expressly For
    William Lewis and Son
    Chicago, Illinois
    In Germany

    On the left side of this tag is a round picture (drawing really) of the top of a bass (scroll to about 1st position), and under that it says "NO.______" and the number 236 is hand written.

    This is a carved bass, round back. The purfling appears to be real, not painted.

    Questions:
    What is the age of the bass?
    Who made it for William Lewis and Sons?
    Is the number 236 a model number or a serial number?

    I've searched TalkBass, I've Googled, I've asked my family (who still live in Chicago and knew the last owner of Kay before they went belly-up and sold to Englehardt). Still very little knowledge about the bass in question. If I am going to own this sweet thing, it would be fun to know its history (and may also help us figure out if its really worth $6,500). Any help appreciated!
     
  2. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    There was a shop in Philadelphia years in the 60's that apparently was having German carved basses made for them, imported, set-up and sold under the shop name. It was Paul Safran.

    I've seen two of them so far. Bob H. from Basspalace.com has one that I saw at the Philly guitar show last fall and a local Philly lutheir has one for sale at his shop for around $6000.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. I have seen an old plywood with the same tag...
     
  4. MarkRubin

    MarkRubin F L T

    Mar 14, 2005
    Austin TX
    I played a similarly labeled Plywood bass for many years. It was very nice and solid.

    Caveat emptor.
    Wm Lewis made no basses, they simply imported them in big batches from lots of different manufactures and and varying levels of quality. Seen some really fine hand carved basses and some dubious craftmanship plywoods all with the same label.
     
  5. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I have an older carved Lewis & Son bass. The label is a bit different than you describe. The number 236 is stamped and the bass is labeled "Bottesini". Information about these instruments is difficult to come by. This was and still is the top of the line bass from Lewis and Son. The name is now owned by Selmer and I don't think the new instruments are of the same quality. I have a Lewis and Son catalog from 1952. At that time they were selling Kay basses and not yet importing basses under their own label, so this helps a bit in determining the age.

    I spoke briefly with Fritz Reuter of Reuter and Sons in Chicago. He worked for Lewis and Son in the late 50's and early 60's. He told me the basses were made by Wilfer, Hofner, and Benedikt Lang. I think these were the same firms that produced the Juzek line as well. My bass looks similar to the Wilfer basses I've seen in some photos.

    The bass is well made. I keep it strung with guts and it has a very good sound, projects well without being too boomy(I play unamplified often) and has an even tone throughout the registers.
    I never had a hint of buyer's remorse after purchasing this bass.

    I hope this helps.
     
  6. RadicalDad

    RadicalDad

    Mar 6, 2006
    Portland, OR
    Your post was extremely helpful, as were many others here. Thank-you very much! Would I be correct in assuming that if I go online to find photos of current (or possibly old) model Wilfer, Hofner, and Benedikt Lang basses, the current model basses would be similar enough to what was produced 40 years ago that I might further refine the potential maker of this bass, similar to what you did with yours? Or is that wishful thinking?

    Thanks to everyone who helped me ID this bass. Its nice to be very familiar with what you are holding so close to your body - especially when its not your spouse!
     
  7. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    OKay I just got an older William Lewis. It's not as old as yours but I would like some info on it. The label says "Orchestra Laminated" underneath that it says "William Lewis and Son" underneath that it says "226" to the left of all this running vertical it says "6412" oh yea and underneath the 226 it says 3/4 which is obviously the size. thanks guys! :)
     
  8. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
  9. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    Yea on the con selmer (sp) website it says I can look it up by serial number but I can't find where. It would be cool if it was made in '64! hehe
     
  10. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Melnibone
    I have a laminated William Lewis & Son 226 model. The number in mine is a five digit number, 76137. The previous owner told me it was made in Romania.
     
  11. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    Hey Turock thanks for the info!! that may lead me to more info on mine!
     
  12. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    hmmm I wonder why yours is 5 digits and mine is 4... is yours handwritten like mine?
     
  13. Sippy

    Sippy

    Aug 1, 2005
    Stuart,Florida
    I actually just checked the serial is 5 digits it's 64162. Does that make mine older than Turocks? Any chance it was still made in Romania? I called Conn-Selmer, they can't give any info on basses older than 7 years.
     
  14. I have a William Lewis 236. I have been looking for info on. Other than the website ( which I don't think helps that much), I cannot find anything on these instruments. Mine is strung with steel strings, but I remember my brother in law (previous owner) having gut strings on it in the early '70's. I would like to know where to find the info by serial number. I didn't see this on the site. I do know that it was purchased between 1959 and 1964 due to the history that my sister gave me. I would really like to know the age and maker of this instrument.