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Stella was a brand of guitars. The Stella brand was owned by the Oscar Schmidt Company and was founded around 1899. Stella produced low-mid level stringed instruments. Stella guitars were played by several notable artists including Lead Belly and Charlie Patton. Doc Watson began playing on a Stella guitar. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana played an acoustic Stella guitar 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. It has since been reintroduced by M.B.T. International, now the Harmony Company's corporate parent.
Stella was one of several musical instrument brands made in Jersey City, New Jersey by the Oscar Schmidt Company. Other Schmidt brands include Sovereign and La Scala. The Oscar Schmidt 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 Stella guitars, mandolins and banjos. In 1920, the Oscar Schmidt Company was said to be the largest manufacturer of stringed instrument in the world. Stellas were noted for both their good tone and their relatively low price. The fanciest Stella and Sovereign guitars were a fraction of the price of even the cheapest Gibson or C. F. Martin instrument.
Although they continued making Autoharps, after struggling through the Great Depression, the Oscar Schmidt Company finally had to sell off their fretted instrument division in the late 1930s. 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.
- Kurt Cobain
- Lead Belly
- Blind Willie McTell
- Charlie Patton
- Doc Watson
- R.L. Burnside
- Michael Hurley
- Skip James
- Ben Gibbard
- Elvis Presley
- Vintage Guitar Price Guide