Silvertone Electric-Acoustic Guitar, used by Jesse Fuller

Silvertone Electric-Acoustic Guitar, used by Jesse Fuller

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This electric-acoustic guitar was made for Sears around 1962 by companies like Danelectro and Harmony. Silvertone guitars were popular because of their solid construction and inexpensive pricing.

This guitar was owned and played by Jesse Fuller (1896-1976), a one-man-band folk and blues singer from the San Francisco Bay area who accompanied his guitar-playing with singing, harmonica, percussion, and a foot-operated bass instrument called a fotdella. Fuller played guitar as a child but didn’t become a professional musician until the early 1950s. As a songwriter, Fuller is best known for his songs, “San Francisco Bay Blues” and “Beat It on Down the Line.”

Jesse Fuller purchased this Silvertone guitar in 1962, from a Detroit Sears, after his original Maurer guitar was stolen and he needed another guitar to be able to make his playing engagement that evening.

Object Name
date made
ca 1962
Fuller, Jesse
Place Made
United States
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 107 cm x 40 cm x 10 cm; 42 1/8 in x 15 3/4 in x 3 15/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Alice Robinson
African American
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Popular Entertainment
Music & Musical Instruments
Artifact Walls exhibit
Sounding American Music
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I was blessed to have seen Jesse Fuller’s guitar in 2011 when my mom and I visited the museum. I walked into the area and in a display case off to my right was a bunch of guitars. As I approached I saw the information placards and was stopped still when I saw what was in there. There was Elizabeth Cotton’s six string...and right next to her guitar was that lovely twelve string electric silvertone that belonged to Jesse Fuller. I got choked up and teary for a couple minutes, just standing next to these totems, thinking about them. Thank you... I’m thankful theses objects are being preserved for the future.
"This Silvertone guitar is a non-stock creation. It is possible that it was cobbled together by adding a 12-string headstock to a Harmony-built Silvertone 1427 body (with the metal Silvertone logo transferred from the stock six-string headstock), but Sears never made *any* electric 12-strings available as a stock item (and acoustic 12-strings did not appear at Sears until 1967). The last catalog appearance of this model was Spring/Summer 1961. As for the build date of this instrument, there should be a date stamp as well as a serial/model number visible inside the body."
Thank you for your information about this guitar. We certainly welcome any information that can can enhance and tell a broader story about the objects. The record has been amended to reflect this.
"This guitar was built in about 1962; Harmony did not produce electric 12-strings in the 1950s.I was with Jesse Fuller the day (in 1962) his original Maurer guitar was stolen, in Detroit, where he was for a playing engagement. In order to make the show that night, he simply drove out to Sears and bought this guitar. Feel free to get in touch if you want more info."
In the early 1960’s, I bought a cheap guitar and a songbook called, “Young Folk song Book.” It featured songs by young, up-and-coming musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and a then 32-year-old Jack Elliott. One of the songs Jack listed was Jesse Fuller’s San Francisco Bay Blues. I learned to play it and still do, always thankful to Mr. Fuller for his gift of perhaps the most cheerful blues song ever.And now, to know that his Silvertone 12-string guitar is in the Smithsonian, why that’s just one more gift I want to someday see in person. Thank you, Smithsonian staff, for caring for this precious memory of a man who overcame so much in his life.

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