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Brazilian Mossman

Hi Steve,
I hope all is well in luthier-land, Lawrence, KS. I had a question that I think you might know the answer to... There's an eBay auction for a 1974 Mossman Great Plains. The seller strongly hints it's Brazilian RW back and sides. I thought maybe someone who was in the factory around that time might have an idea.
What do you think?

Editors note: Here is a link to a PDF with the information from the original eBay listing, which is no longer active.

It's great to hear from you. The guitar in question is absolutely East Indian Rosewood. All of the Brazilian Rosewood that we had, at Mossman, came to us from Martin already jointed with D-28 style zipper strips. The marquetry backstrip that they show was the one that we used when we jointed East Indian Rosewood. We never owned any Martin D-28 zipper strips. We never put Martin zipper style marquetry down an East Indian Back. The zipper strip is an infallible test. East Indian tends to lighten and brown with age. So, some instruments that were quite purple when new, 40 years ago, have now oxidized to look quite Braziliany.

The idea that it is Amazon Rosewood is just silly. We hadn't even heard of Amazonian Rosewood back then. Of course, we could have been fooled. After WWII the German Forestry industry was in a bad way. One of their solutions was to import Engleman Spruce from America and sell it as German Silver Spruce. Many top line Mossmans featured German Silver Spruce. We did not even hear the word Engleman until the scandal broke in the 80's. If a genetic scan of the wood in question proved it to be Amazon Rosewood, I would just add that fact to the huge and growing pile of things that I didn't know in the 70's.

The original concept was that our models would be defined by their back and sides wood, with all trim options available on all models. The "Tennessee Flat Top" had mahogany back and sides, the "Flint Hills" had East Indian Rosewood and the "Great Plains" had Brazilian Rosewood. You could get any decoration package with any of these models. So you could have a mahogany back and sides with herring bone binding and a bound neck. You could get an East Indian Back and sides with a pearled top and custom inlay on the fingerboard. Two factors intervened: we realized that our stock of Brazilian was finite and not replaceable, and we were having a hard time keeping track of all the options. Basically, every guitar going through the shop was a custom guitar. We standardized the trim packages for each model. At that point, we defined the Great Plains as being East Indian Rosewood with herring bone binding and a bound neck and peghead. The Flint Hills had a different marquetry binding and no binding on the fingerboard or peghead. We continued to do a lot of customizing, but the standardizing of models streamlined the flow.

Steve Mason