Art Deco? Naaaah...
The Random House Dictionary defines Art Deco as "...a style of art in the 1920s and '30s characterized chiefly by vivid colors and geometric motifs." While this Kay Kraft acoustic guitar does indeed date from the '30s, it definitely is not Art Deco. Its asymmetrical shape may have stuck Depression-era guitar enthusiasts much the same way as the Valco-made Res-O-Glas did in the early '60s, or the Steinberger from circa 1980.
Kay Kraft evolved from the Stromberg-Voisinet company of Chicago, which was founded in 1920. When the company became the Kay Musical Instrument Company in '31, it retained the Kay Kraft name for a while; apparently, instruments branded simply as "Kay" weren't marketed until '34. Both Kay Kraft and Kay got their monikers from the middle name of Henry Kay Kuhremeyer, president of Stromberg-Voisinet.
It appears these oddball guitars had varying models, such as the National Style 1, 2, 3, and 4 series. American Guitars by Tom Wheeler has a photo of a plain-looking Kay Kraft Model A in its chapter on Kay instruments, this example has a pearloid headstock overlay and sunburst finish, so it rated a higher designation.
This body style wasn't limited to Spanish guitars; a Kay Kraft mandolin was made with the same lines, with sides made from figured birdseye maple.
When they hear the Kay name, most guitar enthusiasts envision a plank-like budget instrument. But, this guitar proves the company was also an innovator.
— Willie G. Moseley
For nearly 20 years, the Vintage Guitar magazine Hall of Fame has been honoring the players, innovators, and instruments that have made a difference in the history of the guitar. Who and what goes into the Hall has always been determined by the readers of VG.
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Deadline for nominations is August 13, 2012. Check the November issue of VG or this page September 4 to see which finalists make the ballot, then place your votes!