Stromberg Guitar, used by Irving Ashby

Stromberg Guitar, used by Irving Ashby

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This guitar was made by Charles A. Stromberg and Son of Boston, Massachusetts around 1939-1941. Responding to requests from jazz guitarist for an instrument that could cut through and be heard over the horn section of jazz bands, Elmer Stromberg developed his giant, 19-inch wide Master 400 model. It is one of the loudest acoustic guitars ever made. Elmer Stromberg made about 600 guitars with his father, Charles, a Swedish immigrant.

Charles and Elmer Stromberg’s shop was a popular hang-out for local guitarists who would break in new instruments before they were sold to customers. One such local was Irving Ashby, a Boston native who went on to play with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and the Nat King Cole Trio. This six course (6x1) guitar, Master 400 model, and serial #507, was custom made for American jazz guitarist, Irving Ashby (1920-1987).

Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Ashby, Irving
Charles A. Stromberg and Son
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
overall: 43 1/4 in x 19 in x 4 1/2 in; 109.855 cm x 48.26 cm x 11.43 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Pauline Randolph Ashby
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"I was one of Irving's students back in 1969-1970 and he told me about the Stromberg that was stolen from him. I buy and sell guitars from time to time so I see guitars that come up for sale like Strombergs and D'Angelico very rarely and I usually remember them when they do. I live up in the SF Bay area now and I remember when a Stromberg guitar that supposedly belonged Mr. Ashby was put on sale back around 2005. I did not know how to contact anyone in Mr. Ashby's family or anyone who could lay claim to it, but it is out there maybe in someones collection and may come up for sale again. If this happens is there anyone who would have a claim on this guitar? It might be worth it since it is so valuable to make it known to the public or at least the vintage guitar community. "
"I met Irving Ashby in Riverside CA before he died. He was teaching guitar in Perris CA. He told me he couldn't play professionally anymore due to the arthritis in his hands. At first I didn't believe he had played with all these famous people, till i did research and new I met someone special."
"I was a student of Irving Ashby's in the 1960s. Irving let me play this Stromberg on several occasions during lessons when working on swing rhythm playing. It is truly an amazing instrument. Irving actually owned two Strombergs; this one and a blond cutaway version which he can be seen playing in some early video of the Nat King Cole trio. Unfortunately, according to Irving the cutaway guitar was stolen out of a dressing room when he was working in Las Vegas and never recovered. I'm currently writing an article on Irving and wonder if you have any other biographical information on him. Thank you, Greg LeRoy "

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