Because the electric
guitar was a relatively new innovation in the mid-fifties, Carvin's
focus was on steel guitars, but they did offer a few
"Spanish" electric guitars (as they were called then) in
1955. The catalog didn't specify who made the components, but
they were not manufactured from scratch by Carvin (except the
pickups). It's possible the bodies and necks were made by
Höfner, as in the sixties and early seventies, but the catalog didn't
The catalog cover
showed a #8806A steel guitar, and Lowell Kiesel's wife, Agnes, playing
a Fender Telecaster.
1955 also marked
Carvin's last year at Baldwin Park, California. In 1956, the
headstock decals and the catalog would list Covina, California as
Carvin's home base.
Click each picture for
a larger version.
This is the Model 140
Spanish electric. It was a single-pickup arch-top model, with a
spruce top, and rosewood fingerboard and bridge. It had white
binding on the front and back, and a white pickguard, and a single AP6
with volume and tone controls. The finish was antique
brown. It was also available as the Model 1744, which was
a non-electric version. The Model 140 sold for $49.90, and the
Model 1744 sold for $36.90. The case for either was an
The Model 6 was
the big brother to the Model 140. Like the Model 140, it was an
arch-top design, with spruce top and curly maple back. It also
had a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and had body binding as well as
neck binding and a bone nut. Electronics consisted of a pair of
AP6 pickups, with pickup selector switch and volume and tone
controls. The price on the Model 6 was $99.90, or $65.90 for the
Model 90 non-electric version. Case for either was
This was an unusual
model - the Model 44 (right) Spanish electric flattop.
This was essentially an acoustic guitar with a pickup and controls
added. The top was spruce, with mahogany neck, back and
sides and body binding. The fingerboard was rosewood, as was the
bridge, which had bone saddles. Price on the Model 44 was
$59.90, or $36.90 for the Model 65 acoustic version. Also
offered was the Model 12 tenor guitar and it's acoustic
version, the Model 17. No details were given on either
tenor model, but presumably, they were shorter-scale instruments tuned
to a higher pitch. Both tenor models sold for the same price as
their standard counterparts, and a case for any of these was $9.90.
Equally unusual was
Carvin's only solid-body electric for 1955, the Model 1515 (left).
This guitar was made from "hardwood" (possibly maple) with a
25.25" scale rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and a pair of
pickups with volume and tone controls and a slide-selector
switch. The finish was considered
"copper-bronze". This model sold for $59.90, plus
$7.90 for the case.
Carvin also sold
mandolins throughout the fifties and sixties. On the right is
the Model 6512 electric mandolin, which had a single pickup,
with volume and tone controls. This instrument sold for $59.90,
and the Model 1735 non-electric mandolin sold for $35.00.
Case for either was $7.00.
A Carvin banjo?
Yes, in 1955 if you wanted a banjo, Carvin could help you out.
On the left is the Model 504T tenor banjo, which had a curly
maple body with resonator and rosewood fingerboard with inlaid
position markers. It sold for $49.90, and was also available in
a non-tenor model, the Model 504, for the same price.
Interestingly, you could
also order guitars from Martin and Fender directly from Carvin.
In all, 9 different Martin acoustics were offered, as well as the
Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass.
The Model 606 (near
right) and Model 608 (far right) were Carvin's entry-level lap
steel guitars for 1955. These were made from maple, with a Lucite
fingerboard, ivory tuners, single AP pickup with volume and tone
controls. The Model 606 sold for $49.90, and the Model 608 sold
On the left is the
Student Deluxe Model 1 steel guitar. This was a no-frills
6-string, with a plastic-covered hardwood body, single pickup with
volume and tone controls, and basic tuners, and
bridge/tailpiece. It sold for $26.90.
On the right is the Model
D88801 triple-neck, which was discontinued and being closed out in
the catalog. It sold for $129.90.
On the far left is the Model
607 lap steel, on the near left is the Model 807 lap steel,
and on the right is the Model 608 lap steel with changer.
These had a maple neck with walnut body, ivory tuners, AP-series
pickups, single volume and bass and treble controls. The Model
607 six-string sold for $79.90, the Model 807 8-string sold for
$99.90, and the Model 608 sold for $119.90.
Above are Carvin's main line of
steel guitars from 1955. From left to right: the Model 6606A
double six; the Model 8806A double eight; the Model 88806A
triple eight; and the Model 888806A quadruple eight. All these
were constructed from Eastern hard rock maple with Lucite fingerboard, and all
had single volume and tone controls. The 6606A sold for $79.90, the
8806A sold for $99.90, the 88806A sold for $149.90, and the 888806A sold for
If a guitar, steel
guitar or bass wasn't your thing, you could also order a Carvin accordion.
These were evidently sold under the Carvin name, but the catalog
stated that they were actually made by a famous Italian manufacturer,
although it didn't say who that was. In later years, Carvin sold
accordions made by Sonola, so it's possible that is who made these
models as well.
As had been the case
since the beginning of Carvin's mail order business (and ever since),
the first page of the catalog was reserved for an introductory letter,
which served to primarily address Carvin's direct versus retail