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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Weldon Drake: 1942

Weldon Drake: 1942

February 1942 in Weslaco, Texas. "Boy musician" was the caption given by photographer Arthur Rothstein to this portrait of Weldon Drake, shown in yesterday's posts playing with his father and brother at a Farm Security Administration Saturday-night dance. View full size.

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Bajo Sexto

Wow, good call UncleJimmyPie! I think you're right.

11-String Geetar

If you look a little closer, there are only eleven strings. He must have been doin' some hard jammin'!

a bajo sexto

Given the location in Texas and the 10-fret neck and overall ornateness of the instrument, I'd guess it's actually a bajo sexto, common to Tex-Mex music.


Typically the top 2 string pairs (E and B) are tuned in unison, while the lowest four courses are tuned an octave apart. Also, in the era of this photo almost all 12-string guitars would be tuned 2 or more whole steps lower than a 6-string because the doubled string tension would, over time, warp the neck and body, rendering the guitar unplayable.

What I found most interesting is that the neck joins the body at the 10th fret. Modern accoustic guitars join at the 12th or 14th fret (or higher with cutaway bodies). Just a guess, but the shorter neck helps counter the additional string tension.

Twelve-string guitar

A twelve-string guitar has the strings arranged in pairs (or "courses") which are plucked or strummed together. The guitarist doesn't play each of the twelve strings individually - one plays a twelve-string similarly to the way one plays a six-string. A twelve-string has a harmonically richer sound than a six-string because the strings in each course aren't tuned the same (for example, the bass strings are often tuned an octave apart). Even when the strings in a course have the same tuning they won't be exactly the same, which also adds to the richness of the sound (a similar thing happens with pianos).

Twelve Strings.

12 strings. Impressive.


SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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