The Early Years

Early in their history, Carvin printed and distributed flyers on various products in response to customer's requests.  The flyers on this page are all from the early 1950's, and show Carvin as it began to take it's first tentative steps as a mail-order maverick.

On the right is an original mailing label from Carvin, circa about 1950.  This showed the original Baldwin Park address, and, of course, in those days you didn't have to use ZIP codes.

Below on the left is the Model #140 Spanish electric guitar.  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, with an antique brown finish.  The pickups were not specified - presumably, they were Carvin-made pickups, since that's how Carvin got it's start, but they did not appear to be AP-series pickups that would begin to be used in the late 1950's.

The model #140 sold for $49.90.
1950 Carvin Model 140 Spanish Electric Guitar 1953 Kay Guitars

Compare the Model #140 above to the 1953 Kay guitars on the right.  They are essentially the same, except for the addition of the pickup on the #140.  In fact, it appears that the Model #140 is based on the Kay K-34 (center top).  The headstock shape, tailpiece and finish are identical.  This wasn't unusual - at the time, Kay manufactured guitars that were rebadged under several names, including Airline, Silvertone (Sears) and Old Craftsman.  So, even though the Model #140 (and similar models of the era, including the Model #41 mandolin below) said "Carvin" on the headstock, these were actually Kay instruments.

Even early in their history, Carvin offered mandolins, which was quite a popular instrument at the time.  Like the model #140 guitar, this mandolin, the model #41, didn't explicitly use Carvin AP pickups, and judging by the photo, these were not AP-series pickups, but most likely A-series non-adjustable pickups, or a predecessor.

The model #41 was made with an arched birch top and birch back with natural finish.  The neck and fingerboard material were not specified.

The model #41 electric mandolin sold for $49.90.

1950's Carvin Model 41 Mandolin
1950's Carvin Student Deluxe Steel Guitar

A variety of models would bear the name "Student Deluxe" in Carvin's steel guitar lineup throughout the years.  In the early 50's, it was the Model #22.  This was a 22.5" scale no-frills 6-string, with a plastic-covered hardwood body, single pickup with volume and tone controls, basic tuners, and basic bridge/tailpiece.  The model #22 sold for $27.50.

This is another "Student Deluxe" model - almost certainly a 1953 model.  This is a Model #19, and an identical model with the same name appeared in the 1954 catalog, although it no longer carried the "Student Deluxe" name.  This was a basic lap steel, with a plastic covered hardwood body, and a 22" scale fingerboard that was probably some type of plastic.   Other features included a single pickup with chrome plated cover and single volume and tone controls.  The Model #19 sold for $27.50, and the optional case was $6.50 - slightly less than the 1954 pricing, which is more proof that this is probably a 1953 model. 

1950s Carvin Model #19 Lap Steel
1950's Carvin Model #50 Steel Guitar The Model #50 (shown) and Model #60 steel guitars were similar to the Student Deluxe models, but with upscale features such as ivory knobs and tuner buttons.  Like the model #22, it was constructed from premium hardwoods, then coasted with a pearlescent plastic.  Like other models of this era, the pickups were not specified, other than that they used Alnico V magnets.  The 6-string model #50 sold for $49.90, and the 8-string model #60 sold for $65.50.

This Model #59 tripleneck was a bit of an anomaly.  Carvin made several tripleneck (and even quad-neck) steel guitars in the 1950s, but this was the only one that was coated with the same gray pearlescent plastic used on the lap steel models.  This was also an 8-string model - possibly Carvin's first.  It featured ivory tuning pegs and knobs, 22" Lucite fingerboards and chrome hardware.  It sold for $169.90.

In a precursor to today's engraved truss rod covers, for an additional $12.50, you could have you name stenciled on the side.

1950s Carvin Model #59 Tripleneck Steel Guitar
1950s Carvin Mosel #15 Amplifier

This is the Model #15 amplifier.  This is probably a 1953, or possibly a 1952 version of the amp, because the photograph is the same as the 1954 Model #11, but the Model #11 was more powerful, even though the two were superficially the same.  This amp produced 5 watts of power, and had a 10" speaker.  Controls consisted of two inputs and a master volume control.  The price advertised on this flyer was #39.90.

Kontak Mike

As in later years, Carvin sold an unusual array of accessories early on.  One of these was the Kontak Mike, which was an acoustic transducer type of mic, that attached to an instrument to pick up and amplify it's vibrations & tone.   This would be offered throughout the 1950's.

In the 50' and 60's, Carvin offered products be DeArmond, such as the model 600 volume pedal and model 601 tremolo control.  DeArmond products would be seen in Carvin catalogs until the late 1960's.

1950's Carvin Accessories
1950's Introduction Letter

A mainstay of early Carvin catalogs and other literature was the "Introduction Letter".  This basically introduced Carvin to the consumer, and explained the advantages of buying direct from Carvin versus buying from a retailer.

The pages to the left and below were included as loose-leaf inserts in a Kay Guitar catalog from the Ed Sale Guitar Company in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, circa 1953.  Some of the pages included were the same as pages appearing above, which would indicate that one of Carvin's early methods for reaching new customers was to partner with other resellers, much the same as the way Carvin sold Fender and Martin guitars in their early history.

On the left is an unusual lap steel, the Model #2 doubleneck.  Like other Carvin lap steels of the era, it was covered in a gray metallic pearl plastic finish, with a plastic fingerboard.  One of the more unusual features of this model was the headstocks - almost all lap steels of the era, regardless of manufacturer, had 3 X 3 or 4 X 4 headstock (for 6 or 8 string), but the Model #2, which was an 8-string, and the Model #16, which was a six-string, had inline headstocks.  Other features include volume and tone controls, ivory tuners, and chrome hardware.

1953 Carvin Model #16 Lap Steel Guitar 

1953 Carvin Model #505 Amplifier 

The model #505 amplifier was a twin design, with a pair of 12" speakers.  It produced 25 watts, and had 4 inputs (1 mic, 3 instrument).  Like most amps of the era, the controls were pretty basic - volume, tone and on/off switch.  It was covered in the same gray pearl plastic as most of Carvin's steel guitars from the early 1950s.

The Model # 205 guitar amplifier was similar to the Model #505, in a single-speaker design.  It produced 15 watts output, and had the same electronics layout of the #505.  

1953 Carvin Model #205 Amplifier 

1953 Carvin Model #20 Amplifier 

The model #20 amplifier was a smaller version, which produced 5 watts and had an 8" speaker.  It's controls were very basic, with a single volume control and two inputs.  Like most other Carvin amps from this period, it was covered in a greay pearl plastic.

Although the source of this 1952 ad is unknown, it most likely appeared in a guitar magazine or similar publication.  Of note, the ad mentions a free catalog, so that would seem to indicate that Carvin was producing actual catalogs in the early 50's, not just the brochures shown above.