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,
. 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
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..."
AND STRING 'EM IN NYLON!
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!