The Schönbach, Luby, Bohemia & Czech builders

Not from Germany, duh

The Schönbach, Luby, Bohemia & Czech builders

Postby Snap » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:01 am

First some links. (I'll keep updating them as topics are added to the forum to make a Czech/Schönbach builders related topics index)


Alfred Borst (Albo)
1937 Albo catalog - Gently provided by Marek Rejhon.
Albo guitars galleries
Martin Coletti
J. E. Dallas & Sons
Josef Hoyer (316) #1 & #2
The turbulent years history
Die Instrumentenmacher des Schönbacher Ländchens
Schönbach house owner list
The Sudetenland makers
Franz Hirsch
Some worthy historical reading

'38 Martin Coletti Archtop
Circa '38 Radiotone tenor
'38 Blonde Radiotone
Mid to late '30s Mastertone
One more Radiotone
Mid '30s Trupel
Coletti Gibsonesque oddball
The Knu's sister of an Avalon
J. F. Hoyer
No name archop
Circa '36 Martin Coletti G61-C #1
Circa '31 - '32 Ed Lang
Krima (John Grey & Sons)
Somewhat close to an Albo No. 18
'38 Monarch No. 701
Early to mid '30s Kamiki Hawaiian archtop
Early '30s Windsor
Mid '30s Premier #1
Mid '30s Premier #2
Late '30s Unknown #1
Late '30s unknown #2 & #3
Late '30s Rölz
Mid to late '30s Unknown (kinda Majestic Aristocrat No. 134)
Unknown flat-top (Close to a Majestic)
Circa '36 Martin Coletti G61-C #2
Cool mid-late '30s unknown classical
Mid '30s Martin Coletti G-80 Lyric


Alfred Bräuer by Marek Rejhon.
Early Cremonas
The early post war Höfner/Bräuer "connection"

Viviani archtop Part 1 and part 2
Ivor Mairants
Postwar Martin Coletti
One more Cremona archtop

External links

Prochazka Bräuer gallery
Tomas Dvorak's photo gallery - Thanks, Tom!
Jolana Museum
Jolana History
Jolana today
Schönbach/Luby history
More Strunal
Narodni Museum
Cheesy Guitars
Junk Guitars
Last edited by Snap on Sat Dec 27, 2014 10:20 am, edited 74 times in total.
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby lacquercracks » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:46 am

Nice link library , thanks ! those radiotone heels looks like ..... ;)
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Snap » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:54 am

Hehehe.... still unclear but I'm working in it.
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Snap » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:24 am

Schönbach in Egerland (currently Luby in Cheb) had a big tradition of instruments making for centuries and soon become one of the main focus of viol making ever. They expanded to other popular instruments and the production and number of makers grew accordingly. The Schönbach influence spread to some neighbor villages like Markneukirchen and Klingenthal. These three villages had a big concentration of luthiers in a rather small area. It was the biggest instruments production area in the world along with Chicago, specially in the first half of the last century. Curiously, most of the main factories and importers in Chicago were founded or headed by german immigrants, and so many workers in them were german too.

In 1904 the Schönbach Produktiv-Genossenschaft was founded (SPG for short). It was an instruments makers cooperative who joined forces in an attempt of increasing the exports and opening new markets. Their instruments made its way all over Europe and jumped to the British isles and the USA.

After the WWI the ever changing European political map changed once again. A new country was born, Czechoslovakia. The builders area comprising the three famous villages was divided in two different countries ever since.

After the Great War the export channels were slowly recovered, but things changed. The '29 crack along with the decay of demand of costly hand built viols and the guitar boom going from the '20s on, shifted the production towards the guitars and they also started to make budget instruments lines almost massively produced. Those two things damaged the top class reputation that the Schönbach makers always had, but they always kept making good and high quality hand built instruments. The '30s seem to have been the glory days for the Schönbach makers besides the economical recession all over the world. They had a huge amount of exports to the USA mainly via the Chicago importers like Lyon & Healey and virtually crowded the British market.

The SPG seemed to be running at full blast having the Karl Höfner company as its main engine. Times were good and truckloads of incomings were constantly arriving while the rest of the world was trying to recover from a deep crisis. Good things never last for long. The WWII started soon and everything was abruptly stopped.

As we all know, after the war all the german spoken people was expelled from Egerland and a huge part of the Schönbach builders were forced to go to Germany in just a few days carrying about nothing along with them. They had to leave all behind. Business, homes...

Soon after the war was over, the name of the town was changed for Luby and a half of the population was expelled. Only the makers of Czech origins and a few having german origins but feeling like Czech (like the Bräuer family) remained in Luby. Many of these remaining builders formed a new cooperative in 1946; Cremona.
Last edited by Snap on Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby honsamarek » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:32 pm

Thanks for full story! You've been everywhere, man...
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Snap » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:51 pm

Glad you like it. I'm gathering the info for the post war days. I hope to post a similar resume tomorrow. Later I'll try to post a few things and details plus my usual conjectures about the main Schönbach archtop makers and some curious things happening after the war. Stay tuned! ;)
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby lacquercracks » Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:28 am

Snap wrote:Stay tuned!

"Snap channel" is tuned in and on !
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Snap » Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:48 pm

The war was over and the activity was slowly recovering. In 1945 the Amati cooperative was founded trying to join together the instrument makers from Kraslice, Luby and Plesná. Anyway, about 40 makers from Luby decided to join forces in their own field and founded Cremona in 1946 to manage the production in the village focused in strings instruments.

Two years later the communist party decided to start a nationalization and the process was completed in 1950. The Cremona cooperative wasn't private anymore only four years after its birth. That year Cremona and all the musical instruments making companies (like the Amati cooperative) were taken over and turned into national enterprises. The format or models of those enterprises comprised a main plant and warehouse divided in many small workshops (booths) concentrated inside and some small satellite workshops close around in the villages. There was an effort trying to gather all the makers close and concentrated in these big kernels. Makers all around the country were progressively joining any of the enterprises and moving to those towns and cities.

Cremona grew in the following years and managed to reopen the export routes. By the late '50s they were exporting two thirds of the production. Along with budget lines they always made high quality hand made viols and guitars earning some of the old reputation again. But they were flying a bit in their own way and the major changes happening in 1958 had a deep repercussion in Cremona. That year the heads in charge of the musical industry decided that Cremona had to get closer to the established model of a single big plant with the workers close together. Apparently there was some booths in the not too big Cremona building and so many shops spreading all over the Luby area too. The heads wanted more production and more industrialized. So Cremona was incorporated by Amati as an attempt of widening the market. Things improved. There were more sales, new buildings and services were projected and Cremona grew even more. But the next decade, the '60s, turned out to be very different than expected.

First there was a big fire in 1962 partly destroying the main building, so many builders (mainly viol makers) had to be relocated spreading all over Luby in rooms, shops, etc... to keep the production running. The Cremona builders were far from concentrated in a single point, in fact, less concentrated than ever before. The veteran old masters and workers were old and progresively retiring from the activity, the Luby population was halved in a sudden, there were no few Schönbachers killed during the war, the youngsters were not specially interested in their family jobs and there were very few apprentices joining Cremona, so the Cremona staff was continuously decreasing all along the decade, the production decreased and the quality too.
Last edited by Snap on Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Snap » Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:48 pm

Parallel to Cremona, A plant in Blatná, the Drevokov cooperative, was experimenting with electric stringed instruments leaded by Josef Ruzicka. They introduced the first Resonet guitars in 1954. The solid body Grazioso was a true sales success. In 1958 Ruzicka and his team moved to a new big plant in Hradec Kralove. The brand new Jolana and Neoton designs and brands were launched the next year. Again a full success.

In 1963, the whole guitars line was revised and fully redesigned and a new plant was opened in Krnov. These new Jolana guitars with their modern up to date design and good construction were an instant success in all the eastern block and easily made their way into the occidental market too.

In the meanwhile, the good but old fashioned Cremona designs were threatened by the modern '58 Ruzicka designs and fully swept away by the following '63 designs success. All this along with the many internal problems and progressive decay in Cremona, made the former guitar making flagship enterprise to be downgraded to a secondary role by the leading stuff made in Hradec Kralove. In Cremona the guitar production faded in favor of viols and guitars were never too relevant in their production ever again. The higher end archtops just disappeared (apparently dropped in 1967) and mainly only classicals and cheap archtops were built.

I always wondered why Bräuer moved to Germany in the spring of 1968. He was leading the guitar construction in Cremona and was the main reputed master maker in Luby. He felt Czech, he was Czech spoken and never felt like a German. So why going to West germany to join the Schönbachers? I think this explains it all. Cremona was running downhill without brakes, The guitar production reduced and endangered, and he was fully defeated by his Hradec Kralove partners/competitors... Time to fly away. He went to Bubenreuth and opened a shop making classical guitars for different brands.

In 1965 the Czechoslovack Musical Instruments enterprise (CSHN) was created, intended to control and administrating the whole Czech instruments production. The former companies were subsidiary enterprises of the new mother company having brand new headquarters and a plant in Hradec Kralove. Not strange were they settled their headquarters, eh?

PS: I'll be thankful if anyone has any better and more accurate info or data to update, complete and correct this resume.
Last edited by Snap on Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:03 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Czech builders

Postby Ol' Fret » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:10 pm

Last edited by Ol' Fret on Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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