Gibson K-1 mandocello #24785, the “Helen Knighton”

The mandocello, tuned the same as a conventional bowed cello, provided the baritone voice in the fretted instrument ensembles popular in the early twentieth century.  The K-1 was Gibson’s lowest-priced mandocello, and this example was made in 1915.

#24785 was formerly owned by Helen May Knighton (May 27, 1918–February 19, 2006) of York, Pennsylvania.  Miss Knighton played both tenor banjo and mandocello and was active in two highly-acclaimed fretted instrument ensembles in the York area in the 1930s:  Warren Dean’s Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra and the Karl Alex Smyser Banjo Band.  Dean and Smyser were both noted performers, composers, and teachers and were regularly pictured as endorsing artists in Gibson catalogs of the period.

#24785 was sold to Helen Knighton by Warren Dean as indicated by the receipt shown above dated August 25th, 1933.  The instrument’s red-line hardshell case dates from that period.  The York Gazette and Daily article of May 10, 1935 (“To Give Concert at Fairmount Park”) shows Miss Knighton on the front row, holding her Gibson TB-2 banjo and seated behind her mandocello.

Please visit the Helen Knighton page to see a complete collection related to her musical career with the Dean and Smyser ensembles.