AND THEN I SAW IT. Hanging on the wall of the music store was a vintage ukulele, just like the ones students in full-length raccoon coats would strum at college football games in the roaring 20s. But that’s not what held me spellbound. This particular uke was boldly decorated in the style of the Egyptian Revival, ushered in by the November 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter. I have always loved ancient Egypt, so to me it felt like a Sign. But I don’t really believe in Signs. It must have been something a little more Middle Eastern, like Kismet.
I purchased this “camp ukulele” at a music store in Glenside, PA. It was most likely made by the Regal Musical Instrument Company of Chicago, Illinois. “Winner,” the name on the headstock decal, was apparently a brand name used by a particular instrument distributor, perhaps the Manhattan Band Instrument Co.
I found an old uke (but not a camp uke) with identical decorations online. According to the online dealer:
“Decorated ukuleles were quite the rage in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s…This particular decorative pattern is a product of the 1920’s fascination for ancient Egyptian art and culture, which followed the much publicized opening of Pharoah Tutankhamon’s tomb in 1922. Decals on the uke represent processional fronds, and the eagle-winged scarab beetle holding Ra’s sun disc…While the art of the Egyptians and the music of the Hawaiians may seem grossly unrelated, this ukulele is a whimsical reminder that all things are one in the world of ukedom!”
In the collection of Mummy Duster.