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Stella guitars were played by notable artists, including Lead Belly, Charlie Patton and Doc Watson, the latter of learned to play on one. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana played an acoustic Stella on the recording of the song Polly, from the Nevermind album.
Stella was acquired by the Harmony Company in 1939. The brand was dissolved in 1974, and was later reintroduced by M.B.T. International, which is the corporate parent of the Harmony Company.
Stella was one of several musical instrument brands made in Jersey City, New Jersey by the Oscar Schmidt Company. Other Schmidt brands included "Sovereign" and "La Scala". The company produced low and mid-level stringed instruments such as guitars, mandolins, banjos and autoharps.
The company thrived during the first quarter of the 20th century, producing many thousands of instruments. In 1920, the company was said to be the world's largest manufacturer of stringed instruments. Stella instruments were noted for their good tone and relatively low price. Top of the line Stella and Sovereign guitars cost a fraction of the lowest end Gibson or C. F. Martin instruments.
After struggling through the Great Depression, the company sold their fretted instrument division in the late 1930s, but continued to make autoharps. Schmidt's Stella, Sovereign and La Scala brands were acquired by the Harmony Company of Chicago, Illinois in 1939. Harmony went on to produce student grade Stella instruments, as well as mid-level Sovereign guitars and banjos.
- Vintage Guitar Price Guide