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Nancy Hamilton: 1926

Nancy Hamilton: 1926

"Nancy Hamilton, 9/9/26." View full size. National Photo Co. glass negative.


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That may well be a tenor guitar but the chord she is playing is not a normal tenor tuning chord. It looks more like a uke chord. It might be in "Chicago" tuning which was used by guitar players who wanted to double on banjo. Tuned like the 4 highest string of a guitar.

The Instrument

The definitive answer: Regal tenor guitar, 1920s.

You can find them in old Regal catalogs. Often people make the mistake that these are baritone ukes, which hadn't been "invented" yet. But they're braced to take steels and were predominantly tuned like a tenor banjo, C G D A below a mandolin's G D A E.

The neck on these joins at the 12th fret, which makes them feel and look like a uke or smallish guitar from the times, though most makers from the time were joining the neck at the 14th, giving the typical tenor look that one would expect.

Cuatro? Bari?

It's the size and shape of a baritone uke, although the baritone was supposedly not invented until the 1940's by Hercules (Herk) Favilla. It cannot be a tenor guitar or a parlor guitar. The neck is too short and too wide, and the body is too small. It may be a "cuatro," though perhaps an atypical example. It is so much like a baritone uke that I think the question of the name is somewhat beside the point. A further point in favor of the baritone uke as opposed to the tenor guitar is that the strings are some kind of gut. They are not steel. I'm assuming they did not have nylon in the '20s, but they look like nylon.

Ms. Hamilton is a cutie!

Right-o. I'll go for that.

Right-o. I'll go for that. Nice deep body on it, and the photo angle makes the neck look shorter than it probably is. Thanks!

[Don't forget the cute pug nose. - Dave]

It's a Tenor guitar

It's a Regal tenor guitar. Similar to the one in this photo, bottom left. Her guitar is of a darker wood and has the decal logo on the headstock. Same body, same headstock shape, same fingerboard dot pattern.

Nancy's Regal

I don't know anything about cuatros or ukuleles. But the name brand on whatever it is says Regal.

Here is a photo of 1920s Regal soprano uke with the same label:

There's a post on this folk music forum with a picture of what looks to me like the same instrument:

They go back and forth between tenor guitar or baritone uke and eventually decide on tenor guitar.

Cuatro? Bari Uke?

The Venezuelan cuatro generally does not have the fingerboard coming over the upper bout of the top. The fingerboard stops at the neck joint and is flush with the top. They usually have an elaborate tap plate covering the upper bout of the top. The Puerto Rican cuatro is very different and is not shaped like a guitar. The predecessors of the ukulele, the Portuguese braughina or machete are smaller than this, as is the modern Brazilian cavaquinho.

Nancy's instrument more nearly resembles a baritone uke than any other instrument I can think of, so maybe the time line on the introduction of the bari uke needs to be moved back a few years.

Nancy Ames - The TW3 Girl

Nancy Alfaro's daughter, Nancy Ames, was the "TW3 Girl" on the early-1960s TV show "That Was the Week That Was." Here's her bio.

Though born in our nation's capital, Nancy Hamilton Alfaro Ames comes by her Latin feel honestly. This daughter of a prominent Washington, D.C., physician is also the granddaughter of Ricardo J. Alfaro, the President of Panama circa 1930. Nancy's bond with South and Central American music is evident in many of her recordings, especially the albums "Latin Pulse" (sung in Spanish) and "Spiced with Brasil" (with guitarist Laurindo Almeida). However, Ames' best-known single is quite a departure from her usual fare: "He Wore the Green Beret" (Epic 10003), a 1966 answer song to Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's No. 1 hit "Ballad of the Green Berets." In 1964, about a year after her first records came out, Nancy became quite popular with TV viewers, especially males. Ames is the lovely blonde whose songs opened "That Was the Week That Was," thus earning her the nickname "The TW3 Girl." Nancy is the only cast member to appear in all episodes during both seasons of TW3. For over 30 years, Nancy and her family have lived in Houston. Along with her husband (Danny Ward) they operate Ward & Ames Special Events.

Strength of Character

Prior to reading anything about this woman, I could tell she was a lady of strong character. This is someone you would have loved to know.

It's a cuatro

The baritone ukulele didn't exist in 1926. It was developed in the 1940s. Some credit Arthur Godfrey with its invention, but I think he was simply a popularizer.

Miss Hamilton is playing a cuatro, an instrument associated with Venezuela. So her interest in holding something Latin American in her arms predates her marriage to Sr Alfaro by several years.


went the strings of my heart...

A Girl With Pluck

I'm going with baritone uke based on the length and width of the neck. Also, she clearly knew how to play it; those hand and finger positions are not fake, and the ease with which she holds and fingers the uke indicate a good amount of playing time. If you play these kinds of instruments, you can tell who can and can't play based on a visual like this.

Her Instrument

Apparently, she also played the baritone ukulele. Or is that a tenor guitar?

Nancy Kerr Hamilton Alfaro, 1908-1994

The Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1994

Nancy Kerr Hamilton Alfaro, 86, a founding member and past president of the National Capital Orchid Society, the Trowel Garden Club of Washington and the Potomac Rose Society, died of lymphoma Oct. 23 at her home in Washington.

Mrs. Alfaro was a lifelong resident of Washington and a graduate of Holton-Arms School and Ogontz Junior College in Philadelphia.

She had served on the board of managers of the Hospital for Sick Children and on the board of the Thrift Shop of the Junior League in Washington. She had been a member of the Sulgrave Club and the Chevy Chase Club.

She donated her orchid collection to the Smithsonian Institution.

Her husband, Dr. Victor Ricardo Alfaro, died in 1974. Survivors include two children, Ricardo II, of San Francisco, and Nancy Alfaro Ward of Houston; and a granddaughter.

Nancy and Victor

According to the Social Security Death Index, Nancy H. Alfaro, resident of Washington, D.C., was born March 20, 1908, and died October 23, 1994. Victor Alfaro, also of Washington, was born March 14, 1907, and died in April 1974. The Alfaro family papers are in the custody of Georgetown University.

Nancy Alfaro (nee Hamilton)

Nancy Hamilton was a darling of the Washington Post's society pages in the late 1920s. Forgive me, but I have little tolerance to wade through reading all the pages of society news to find detailed info about her.

The essentials thus far: Nancy was daughter of "Mr and Mrs. John Hamilton". On June 24, 1929, she married Victor Alfaro, son of Ricardo Joaquin Alfaro, the Panamanian envoy (Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary) and soon to be President of Panama.

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