The Walddoline

Far less is known about the Walddolines of C. H. Boehm than about his Waldzithers (in Martina Rosenberger‘s Waldzither-Puzzle, they are also only marginally mentioned). These instruments were produced in much lower quantities (which of course also means that far less of them have survived), and this may also be the reason for the almost “mythical” aura which seems to surround them. Early specimens are almost totally missing so that it is impossible to say anything substantial about the early development of this type of instrument. But what is known is that Boehm registered on April 6th 1904 the trademark "Walddoline" at the patent office (Nr. 73575); the entry in the trademark register followed on November 3rd 1904 (from 1906 on, Boehm advertises his Walddoline also in the Hamburg yellow pages). The early instruments differ from the later ones by having a round sound hole (instead of an oval one); this is also how the Walddoline is presented in the 1912 catalogue.

1912 Catalogue

Judged by the photos in this catalogue, the earliest Walddolines had winged tailpieces and tuners with a single hump in the middle as they were also used on the Waldzithers of this time (that is ca. 1905; the catalogue pictures are clearly not from 1912). But all Walddolines actually known today have the standard Waldzither tailpie ces of the 1920s and 1930s where Boehm left one hook unused and noted the string length of 505 mm per hand. The tuners are an independent model with 8 screws which seems to have been developed parallel to the standard tuners (that is, at least before 1918).

In later times, Boehm also differentiated his Walddoline Nr. 1 into a Model Nr. 1A and a Model Nr. 1C. The design of these two models is hardly different but Boehm here also uses cherry wood for the back and sides (instead of maple). In reaction to the financial situation of his customers during and after the Great Depression of 1929, Boehm offers on a price list from 1934 also an inexpensive entry- level model (as he did with his waldzithers). It has a splint inlay on the edge and a scratch plate. Presently, no specimen of such an inexpensive instrument is known, but there is a Walddoline which has a splint inlay at the edge and no scratch plate; this may be an early version of such an entry-level instrument. In 1918, Boehm advertises his Walddoline for the last time in the Hamburg yellow pages but the production is nevertheless continued; this is not only documented by the 1934 price list but also by some instruments with a label dating from 1937 or later.

It is presently impossible to say when Boehm started to supply his Walddolines with an oval sound hole but instruments of this type are documented at least from ca. 1920 on. The catalogues are again of no help here, for the photos displayed in them are far older than the catalogues themselves. In the 1926 catalogue for example, only the newly included Models Nr. 1A and Nr. 1C have oval sound holes, the photo of Model Nr. 2 is still the same as in the 1912 catalogue. In the 1929 catalogue at last, Model Nr. 2 is also shown with an oval sound hole.

1926 Catalogue                                                                                                              1929 Catalogue

There are not many design variants for the Walddoline, but this can hardly be expected with only about known 20 specimens. Nr. 1A has two different sizes of scratch plate, and Nr. 1C is known with two different edgings: There is an instrument Nr. 1C from around 1920 who has the same cord pattern edging as Nr. 1/Nr. 1A, but a younger instrument displays the classic herringbone pattern which is also used on all Walddolines around the sound hole.

The oldest label that is yet known is identical to the waldzither labels of the same time: It is the “Alster 6825” label without black bars from around 1920:

At least from the middle of the 1920s on, Boehm started to use special labels for his Walddoline; such a label is also displayed in the 1926 and 1929 Catalogues. It is similar to the Waldzither label of the same time but with the difference that it has written “Walddoline” and not “Boehm-Waldzither” on it:

Some Walddolines have Waldzither labels with some words blackened out. Interestingly, it is not the words “Boehm Waldzither” which are blackened out but the address and telephone number of the Boehm Company: The reason for the blackening out is thus not the fact that these are alienated Waldzither labels, but it could be the case that the instruments were made after 1931 (when Boehm’s telephone number changed), or even after 1937 (when the postal district of the Boehm Company changed from “Hamburg 5” to “Hamburg 1” by means of the Greater Hamburg Act). But then, again, Waldzithers with such a blackening of the address have not been observed until now.

There is one more label for the Walddoline which is similar to the waldzither labels from after 1937 (with the white box that can be individually filled). There is no Walddoline known at present which has the address of the Boehm factory printed in this box but there are two instruments which display the address of the music store of Kurt Naumann in Meißen/Saxony. It seem reasonable to suppose that the Boehm Company tried (at least in their later years) to sell their instruments also trough the local music stores of other cities.

The GEWA Company obviously never produced Walddolines; this may be due to the fact that they had already several mandolins in their program when Georg Walther took over the Boehm Company in 1942. The 1960 GEWA Catalog also has no Walddoline in it.