Born in Sweden in 1864, Herman Carlson Levin travelled to the United States in 1887 and by the mid 1890s had formed the Metropolis Musical Instrument Company to manufacture and distribute banjos, guitars and mandolins.
In 1900, he returned to Sweden where he established the Herman Carlson Levin Musikinstrumentfabrik in Göteborg.
Starting out with just two workmen, Levin’s business grew rapidly so that by the outbreak of World War II, the workforce consisted of 45 men and a factory floor space of more than 1,000 square meters.
Levin’s first archtop guitar, Model 175, was introduced around 1930. Though it incorporated a carved spruce top, maple back and sides and a similar body size to the L-5, its mahogany neck, oversized f-holes and dark brow finish lent it an appearance that was quite different. Added to the line a few years later, Model 170 was much closer to the L-5 with a maple neck, smaller f-holes and a sunburst finish.
Levin pulled out all the stops for the luxurious Deluxe. Introduced c. 1937, this model boasted a larger body, multiple binding around the top, back, headstock and fingerboard and pickguard and gold-plated hardware.
Levin Model 175 Serial Number 86306, 1933
Introduced around 1930, the Levin Model 175 had a 405mm (15.94 inches) non-cutaway body with spruce top and maple back and sides. It also features a Mahogany neck and bound ebony fingerboard inlaid with pearl dots.
Introduced around 1933, the model 170 had a body width of 405mm (15.94 inches. It had a non-cutaway body with spruce top and figured maple back and sides, a maple neck and bound ebony fingerboard inlaid with pearl crosses, nickel-plated tuners with ivory buttons and a sunburst finish.
It was available with a four string neck as Model 310 and an eight string mandocello neck as Model 490.
Levin 170 Serial Number serial number 85629, 1933
Levin 170 Serial Number 96447, 1935
Introduced around 1937, the Levin Deluxe had a non cutaway body that was 440mm (17.32 inches) wide. It had a Romanian spruce top, figured maple back, sides and neck, multiple bound top, back, headstock, fingerboard and pickguard and single bound f-holes. Other features included an ebony fingerboard inlaid with pearl blocks, plus gold-plated hardware including Grover Sta-Tite tuners and a Sunburst finish.
Levin Deluxe Serial Number 113565, 1938
While vistiting Göteborg during a tour of Sweden in April, 1939, Fred Guy, guitarist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra (above) purchased a Levin Deluxe at Waidele. This is the guitar that Django Reinhardt is playing in the famous William Gottlieb photos (below), which were taken backstage at the Aquarium music venue in New York City when Django was on tour with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1946.
Levin Catalogue of 1931
The picture above shows Mr. Oscar Skau holding a 1930 Levin Model 175. In addiiton to playing with the Akres Trio of Oslo, Norway, Mr Skau appeared with Frolich’s Banjo Quintet
Images and information courtesy of vintage-guitars.se