Washburn Style A (Model 5203)

The eye-catching gold paint on the Washburn’s Style A of the mid-to-late 1920s was the last hurrah for a name that had once been the most prominent in the American guitar market.

The Washburn brand was originally owned by the Lyon & Healy company of Chicago, founded in 1864 by George Washburn Lyon and Patrick Healy. By the time they introduced guitars in the 1880s, they were the largest music company in the US, selling instruments as well as sheet music.

Early Washburn catalogs showed highly ornamented guitars, mandolins, and zithers, but in the first decades of the 20th century, Lyon & Healy’s focus began to shift toward budget brands, and the Washburn guitars became progressively plainer.

In 1928, Lyon & Healy sold it’s entire instrument-making business (except for harps) to the Tonk Bros distribution company, which proceeded to market ever-cheaper Washburns until they abandoned the brand at the beginning of WWII. Washburn was revived in 1974 on imported guitars, and continues today under the ownership of Rudy Schlacher.