The Benson Guitar Collection

And Benson News

From Jim Kaler

We have catalogue pages from the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota. Scroll down to find them.

guitars To the left is (so far as I know) the world's largest collection of Benson parlor guitars: all two of them. The instrument at near left, the original, belonged to my grandmother Alfrieda Holmgren, then to my mother Hazel ("Susie") Kaler. It's over 100 years old (purchased around 1905), and has a spruce top, mahogany body, and ebony fingerboard. Now, strung in nylon and restored, it resides in a preservation case. At far left is a somewhat younger Benson with a rosewood body made by the same company (also restored and in nylon). The luthier's name is branded into the bottom, seen there with a detail of the rosette of the original. Though it long looked to me like "A. Benson," other owners have correctly interpreted the first initial as an old- fashioned script "P." And other owners also figured out the origins. Thanks to Pat, Heidi, Dave, and Larry. What beloved instruments they are. Let's hear it for Peter.
From Larry, who documents that the maker was Peter Benson. Quoting Larry: "Peter Benson was a Swedish immigrant that started his business in Minneapolis in 1891. He was a skilled luthier, a player, and also a publisher of music that he sold at his store, the Musical Merchandise Company." Larry provides a page from the Minneapolis 1909 City Directory, which gives the listing: "PETER BENSON, Manufacturer and Importer of High Grade Musical Instruments. Publisher and Bookseller, Established 1891. Office and Salesroooms 1225 Washn av S tel T-S 2377." Thanks, Larry!
. From Pat: "I think Benson built his own instruments as the directory stated "Guitars built by Paul [actually Peter] Benson." Then..."Paul [Peter] Benson was a luthier in St. Paul, Minn. From 1890 to 1899...after that there is no name or address of him in the local directory." More..."Benson parlors seem to be defined by the ebony pyramid bridge (similar to Martin and Washburn) and interesting purfling and binding. I think the...Benson you show is a different, and later, style than the guitars that I've seen that were made by Paul [Peter]."
. From Dave: "Recently a guitar and catalog were sold on ebay. It is the P. Benson Musical Merchandising Company, Minneapolis, MN, founded circa 1891. Despite the catalog claims that these were made by Benson, they appear to be trade instruments, made by one of the factories established for that purpose."
From Heidi: "According to Hoffman Guitars in Minneapolis, one of the vintage guitar dealers there, many Benson guitars were made by Lyon and Healy, out of Chicago, and it's also possible that some were made by Larson Brothers."
From Phillipe: "...bad looking condition but still playable...neck is straight, frets are good...sounds so great, especially the basses..."
From Jim: My own experience was in showing it to a guitar expert in Chicago, and having him sure it was a Martin. Hold on to these treasures, have them repaired and restored. Thanks to all! Keep them coming!

Bensons Found

Benson 1905 Musical Merchandising Catalogue Pages

From the Musical Instrument Manufacturers Archive at the National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota

Note: these are large, unreduced files

Thanks to Micky Rasmussen and Dr. Margaret Banks for supplying these wonderful images.

Last updated May 29, 2012.