1935 Nioma "Hawaiian" acoustic, arch top
1935 Nioma "Hawiian" acoustic, arch top
A cools 30s piece that was designed for slide. The Hawaiian model is an arch top and back guitar with a nice faux finish. The neck on this piece is a mess but it plays fine for slide and sounds great. Comes in later chipboard case.
NIOMA musical instruments from the 1930s and ’40s – with their vaguely Hawaiian-looking name – have mystified vintage-guitar enthusiasts over the decades when they’ve occasionally surfaced in retail shops and guitar shows.
The seven known models – three acoustic guitars, two dobro-like resophonics, and two electric lap steels – were oriented to those who made Hawaiian music. But the backstory of NIOMA represents far more than those surviving artifacts – it’s the untold saga of a 1930s franchise music school founded in Seattle – the National Institute of Music and Arts, or NIOMA.
On July 7, 1932, attorney D. Wilbur Zundel represented founders Harry Baxter and Mary M. Strnad in filing incorporation documents with the State of Washington. NIOMA’s headquarters, at 4519 University Way in Seattle’s Kalberg Building (now home to the Seattle Daily Times) were “spacious, modernly equipped studios” and the three comprised NIOMA’s initial Board of Trustees, though Baxter and Strnad remain a bit mysterious. Each lived within blocks of the school in 1933, but then disappeared from the business/telephone directories. It seems Baxter is the same Harry V. Baxter who was a one-time flautist with the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, longtime member of Los Angeles Flute Club, and in 1916, head of that city’s Baxter-Northup Music Company. He believed that “love for music and the desire to offer the advantages of a musical education would lead not only to the betterment of the individual, but to the social, civic, and moral uplift of the community.” Strnad resurfaced later in Los Angeles – where, intriguingly, a second branch was opened in 1934, at 951 S. Western Avenue.
The HawaiianThe Hawaiian is entry-level student-model guitar is a simple 12-frets-to-the-neck flat-top acoustic with a light-toned birch body and white-painted trim around the top edge and sound hole. It also has a NIOMA logo decal on the peghead, black-button tuning gears, a raised black nut (for Hawaiian steel playing), floating wooden bridge, and a rudimentary stamped metal tailpiece. This model (manufacturer’s date of “1/36” stamped into the back of the peghead) was, in all likelihood, produced for NIOMA schools by the Regal Musical Instrument Company, of Chicago, which also produced instruments for the Montgomery Ward’s department-store chain.