In the early-'50s, the electric guitar was just getting started. Fender debuted the Broadcaster in 1950, and then in 1952 Gibson rolled out the Les Paul. That same year, Harmony introduced the H44 Stratotone—a department-store electric guitar designed with budget in mind. While the Les Paul was a high-end, fancy model, the Stratotone was more in line with Leo Fender's streamlined approach. But Harmony went way further and was even cheaper—this is a guitar for the people!
The H44 Stratotone features a unique neck-through design that eliminates the need for a labor-intensive hand-fit neck joint (or any kind of neck joint for that matter). Essentially, the neck runs straight from the headstock to endpin. Then, two wings are glued to either side, forming the body. The single pickup with switchable on/off tone knob kept costs down as well, but much like other single-pickup guitars from the era, the simple setup provides more variability than you might expect.
In the early-'50s, the H44 was billed as an "easy-to-handle" Spanish electric that was lightweight and thin-bodied. At just three-feet long and 10 5/8" wide (with a scale length of 25-1/4"), the Stratotone fit perfectly in between the Hawaiian lap-steel guitars and full-sized archtops. Not only was it a manageable size, but the H44 came with an affordable tag that was accessible to aspiring players at the outset of rock 'n' roll.
This H44 dates to 1957, and it sports a black finish with some very interesting decal artwork. We have to assume it's not original, but it is oh so cool! There's a clear space-age inspiration, and one of the decals looks perhaps like some kind of UFO? Or is it more psychedelic? Hard to say. On the peghead, there's a music notation decal that fits the same motif. The bridge is painted white, too, which is a nice contrast to the black finish. From the wear, the decals and finish look to be old. We can't find any pictures or evidence of others looking like this, so we have to assume it's some kind of after-market customization.
Apart from the decals and artwork, this H44 shows some nicks and wear and tear around the body edges, and the finish is worn through on the back of the neck. In particular, the back shows some scuffs and scratches, and the decals are worn in places. Nevertheless, this guitar still sports all of its original parts and components, and it has no history of damages, repairs, or issues. When it came to us, it needed some setup love, and we were able to optimize playability by adjusting the nut and bridge. The original tuners hold tune decently, and the big baseball-bat neck is a lot of fun to play. This old Stratotone has a ton of vibe and character, and it includes its original chipboard case.