Those Fabulous Favillas
A pictorial tribute to Favilla string instruments
(and the family who built them)
A nice variety of Favilla ukuleles
(photo provided by Dan "Soybean" Sawyer)
The Favilla Family circa 1935
Herk (Hercules) Favilla
Thomas Favilla
The early "Marca Aquila" label from a Favilla mandolin
a beautiful Favilla guitar...
Thomas Favilla identifies the models and approximate vintages as follows: From left to right: 1.) an early uke, 1890 to 1919 (1890 to about 1910 if label reads "marca aquila"; 1915 to 1919 if label reads "Favilla Bros."  2.) A late teens or early 1920's model U2. 3.) 1920's teardrop uke. 4.) Model U-2, probably 1930's to 1940's. 5.) Model U3, late 1960's. 6.) Model U3, late 1950's to early 1960's.
Builders of fine stringed instruments for four generations...
BACK ROW:  Far right, John (Giovanni) Favilla with his wife Lena; Center, Francesco Favilla; Far left, Andrew Cagnetta, John's son-in-law (and shop foreman for a short time).
Around 1980 with his favorite banjo (built by his father John about 1935)
A Brief History of The Company by Thomas Favilla:

The Favilla Brothers started building string instruments in the United States in 1890. Four years later my Grandfather John (Giovanni) and his brother Joseph, a violin builder, formed a company in 1894. (A generation earlier the family was building string instruments in Italy under my Great-grandfather Francesco).

In the United States, in 1890, they started in a combination music store and instrument shop located at 161 Bowery, and at one point 200 & 201 Grand Street in New York City. In the early 1920's they employed 55 people, building thousands of ukuleles as well as mandolins, banjos, guitars and some violins (built by Joseph). If it had strings on it the Favilla brothers built it.

About 1930 they moved the shop briefly to 552 Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, then to 4 W. 16th Streeet in New York City where the shop remained until 1959 when it was taken over by my father Hercules (known as Herk) after a tumultuous ten year internal struggle with his brother Frank (a brilliant builder but not a businessman).

In 1959, Herk received full control from the family and changed the name to Favilla Guitars, Inc. He quickly moved the shop to larger quarters at 57 Front Street, Brooklyn, where he remained until 1962.  I joined the firm full time in 1962 (I had been working after school and in the summers for my Grandfather since 1957). In late 1963 Herk made a major move to 60 Smith Street in E. Farmingdale, Long Island, quadrupling the size of the shop.

Production hit a peak of about 3,500 guitars a year. Then by 1967 the rapid rise in popularity of the electric guitar financially strapped the company and it had to retrench. Not having the financial backing to produce an electric guitar line in volume, the company began to down- size. By 1973 commercial production ceased.

In 1975, I opened a guitar store in Huntington, NY. My father and I built a few custom guitars a year until 1980 when Herk retired. I continued building a few guitars a year until 1985 when other business matters took up more of my time. In January 1986 I sold the retail operation and ceased all building.
Some additional thoughts from Tom...

Over the years I have received many inquiries about the Favilla Company and its instruments from individuals, collectors and stores. In recent years I have almost been overwhelmed by questions regarding Favilla ukuleles. Some have gone up ten-fold in price. One ukulele which originally sold for $35 to $50 in recent years  just went for $335. This was an exceptionally fine instrument, most bring about one third that price. Many people confuse the points of collectability and playability. I have always felt more comfortable with the playability of Favilla instruments than regarding them as collectables. That is my opinion but I don't make the market, the public does.

One point of confusion I would like to clear up is that some early model (approx. 1890-1910) ukuleles which bore the name Marca Aquila were built in America; Guitars with the name Aquila were imported from Japan by Favilla Guitars, Inc. in the late 1960's to 1973.  All instruments bearing the "Favilla" crest on the headplate were built by the family here in the United States.

Most people do not realize that, except for the 1920's, ukulele production was never more than 10% of our overall production of Favilla instruments, and a lot less after 1960. No soprano ukuleles were produced after 1968. Baritone ukuleles were produced until 1985. Guitars until 1986.

In later years (after 1945) our instruments followed a rather basic model number pattern. Classic guitars started with the letter "C" and steel string guitars with "F". Then came the model number, generally 5, 6, or 8. Custom models were numbered 9 and 10 (never more than 12 built in any given year). A special model was the 12 string guitar, model F12H, about 60 per year were built from 1962 to 1973. The "H" designation after the model number was for the dreadnaught body size, actually a little fuller than that represented by the Martin D series. Its six string companion was the popular model F-8H which was rated equal to the Martin D-18.

Over the years there was a close relationship between the Favilla family and John D'Angelico and James (Jimmy) D'Aquisto. John and Jimmy (who was John's apprentice in the 1950's) were truly the Stradivari of guitar builders. They are gone and I have seen no one who comes near them in artistic talent in eliciting such shear tonal quality. As Jimmy D'Aquisto once said, "A lot of good cabinetmakers out there but no artists". A lot of people making nice looking instruments but not the superior, great sounding ones.

The Favillas (especially my Grandfather John) considered themselves "string instrument builders". John's greatest delight was that he once built 55 string instruments at once for an orchestra without building more than four alike.
The "Teardrop Ukulele" in Basic Brown
Photo: Ukulele Diner
Blue Teardrops
A Nice Old Favilla "Bowl-Back" Mandolin
A Favilla "Flat-Back" Mandolin
Photo: Ukulele Diner
A six string Wimbrola in Brown
... and Natural
A Large Bodied "Favilla Bros." Tenor Guitar
Photo: Ukulele Diner
The Popular Favilla Baritone Ukulele
A nice mahogany Model C3 Dulcet Guitarette
The familiar Favilla crest
Photo: Ed Kauf
My own Favilla uke... a model U-3
The less common colored crest
A higher quality all mahogany "Teardrop" ukulele
A nice Favilla F5 submitted by Michael Coar
(scroll down for an example of the all mahogany Teardrop)
A couple of old Favilla picks...
Photo: Ed Kauf
One of the Aquila guitars imported by Favilla from the late 1960's to 1973. This guitar is 1 of about 100 that bears the Aquila/Favilla label inside. Favilla received one order of these from a guitar builder in Japan (Rokkoman) just before Takamine bought them out.
An imported Aquila F-105R
Photos: Jeff Moses
(The owner, Jeff Moses, reports that this is a great playing axe with a rich, full, crisp tone)
A rare Favilla concert ukulele
Hi Carl,
The Model "A" is an interesting guitar. About 50 to 60 were built between 1925 and 1953.  Originally my Grandfather John built one for my Father Herk who was a working musician at the time. Then every couple of years would built a group of five or six. He was building six in 1953 when he suffered his first heart attack and they were finished by by his friend John D'Angelico who finished carving the tops. They were the last ones built. That was the only building collaboration between them, although D'Angelico sold Favilla flat top guitars in his shop right up to the time of his death in 1964.
Some new info from Tom Favilla, 6/18/05...
A nice example of a Favilla C-8 Classical
submitted by Michael Wallace
Four photos of a rare "Deluxe" model Wimbrola, with cream binding from Tom B.
Four nice shots of a Favilla Brothers Mandolin Banjo submitted by Michael
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NEWSOur friend Tom Favilla has generously offered to field questions  or comments regarding Favilla Instruments. He may be contacted at: