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Ira H. Odell started up a music publishing company and music store, in partnership with Charles W. Thompson, sometime between 1872 and 1874 (different accounts vary), in Boston, Massachusetts. Ira’s son, future mandolin pioneer Herbert Forrest Odell, was an infant around the time of the business’ establishment. Thompson and Odell were originally in partnership with another man by the name of Woods, and their business was located at 121 Court Street. By the time they moved their business to 578 Washington Street, Woods had departed. They published tutorials and sheet music for piano, fretted instruments, brass band and orchestra.
Thompson and Odell began manufacturing instruments in 1888, beginning with mandolins and guitars, later adding banjos. The Artist was the brand name of the fretted instruments. Their mandolins were the Neapolitan styled bowl back, later given the demeaning name of “tater bug” after the Gibson flat backs were introduced. The company was also the “ghost manufacturer” of J.F. Luscomb banjos. Charles Stromberg, a Swedish immigrant, was employed at Thompson and Odell and, a year after Thompson and Odell’s dissolution, started up his own line of banjos.
Thompson and Odell was incorporated in 1891, but a year later Odell left the business. The company gradually ceased publication, and around or prior to 1900 Carl Fischer bought up their catalog of publications. Thompson died in 1903, and about two years later the company filed for bankruptcy. Vega bought up the fretted instruments arm of the company in 1905 and carried on the Artist brand of instruments. That very year, H.F. Odell started his own music publishing company and his own trade journal, Crescendo, also bought up by Vega after his death.
Ayars, Christine Merrick. “Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640 to 1936.” H.W. Wilson, 1937.