The Florist, Luthier of NY

The untold story of the master luthier ,Theodoros Karampas- NY!
Theodoros Karabas in an ad for his workshop in NY
The above ad reads in Greek:
"I am a devotee and I play a musical instrument with a good sound, but that is my own business
 If a girl falls in  love with me, that's her own business
If we manage to establish a relationship for good , that will be our own business
Ask the Karampas cataloque , because it is your business!"   

Theodoros Karampas was one of the two best (the other one was Anastasios Stathopoulos) Greek luthiers of NY during the beginning of the 20th century .

Theodoros P. Karampas (Θεόδωρος Π. Καραμπάς) born in Vrontama Lakonias (Βρονταμά Λακωνίας) , immigrated to USA in 1894. Became an American citizen in 1904. In one of his trip to Greece in 1911, he married his wife Eugenia. He returned with her and his nephew Panagiotis (son of his brother Georgos) to USA.

He established his musical instrument workshop "Η Νεολαια", before 1910 in
82 St. Mark's Place , at the corner of 8th street and 1st Avenue in NY.

1911 Karambas bouzouki label, from the personal archive of Stavros Kourousis
From the member "Parasantalos" of the Rebetiko Forum (  we learn that Karampas' first advertisement insertion in the Greek newspaper "Atlantis" of NY, is on February 11th 1902, finding him in a different address. (While A.Stathopoulos first advertisement in the same newspaper dates 4th of January 1905 )

With the new and final address we find Karampas workshop in the later years and with a new ad where it's also mentioned his stock in men and women jewelry. 

From the same member Parasantalos of the Rebetiko forum, we also collect the information (from a Karampas advertisement in Atlantis newspaper dating 13/01/1913), that the luthier was selling in his workshop " NEOLAIA" laouta, bouzoukia, mandolins, guitars and other musical instruments made by the famous luthiers of Peloponnesos- Greece , as Takis Tsimis, George Tsanala, N. Parapoda and Emanuel Limperaki.  

Following the newspaper ad of Karampas workshop, followed by A. Stathopoulos ad

Following, a later advertisement (1915s)  in the the same newspaper by one of Karampas employees P. Tsimis as luthier with his own workshop (Sasso, Tsimis, Stathopoulos, Vracas, Neolaia-Karampas )

And a later advertisement (1920s)  in the the same newspaper by P. Tsimis  (Stathopoulos, Tsimis, Sasso, Bracas )

What is very interesting regarding Karampas bouzouki creations, is the bowl shape, the neck of his instruments, and the free length of the strings.
Karampas creations where influenced by laouto and tampoura shapes, counter to A.Stathopoulos bouzouki constructions, whose instruments have been influenced by the mandolin shape.
Also Karampas string length (scale) was 71.5 cm - 72 cm, counter to Stathopoulos and  Evagellidis with lenghts at 63cm- 65 cm

Karampas bouzouki instruments can be characterized more closed to laouto-bouzouko, or bouzouko-mana and they been played with raptor feather  as we can confirm from an 1911  NY advertisement by the luthier, who was selling eagle feathers as picks for  laouta and bouzoukia.

Some of the instruments he was producing were :
1. Laouto with 17 staves, carved decoration at the price of 15 $
2. Bouzouki with 17 staves, 8$
3. Bouzouki with 42 staves, stained bowl, and ivory plate , 20$
4. Laouto with 41 staves, stained bowl, and ivory plate, 35$

As I mentioned above, his workshop in St. Mark's Place was at the  8th street and 1st Avenue in NY.
In Google maps the 82nd street gives me the image of the opposite side with the odd numbers but with a little more research, we conform that his store was at the 131 and 1st avenue corner building

Theodoros Karampas store : ca 2015

Theodoros Karampas store : ca after 1911-1920

The Google map gives us the possibility to navigate through the corner store and take a photo-shot from the same almost angle 100 years later.

Inside Theodoros Karampas store : ca 2015
I could not resist to not use the digital filters and over-embossed 100 years of history in one photograph.

Matching the two photographs taken 100 years apart

If you are visiting NY, it is easy to find the store as at the corner  traffic-light pole is a small mosaic of  Lucky Luciano, (Salvatore “Lucky Luciano” Lucania (1897-1962) Sicilian-born American mobster who lived and acted in the East Village during these years.

From a quick research on internet we are finding that compatriot of Karampas, Iakovos Apostolacos was working with him the year 1904.


But what really grabs my attention is that Karampas bushiness were equally or greatly known to public for his flower shop. Karampas apart from musical instrument was selling fresh cut flowers and jewelry.He is been a registered member  of NY florists directory for consequence years.

Ca 1914


In the 1916_The-American-Florist---Volume-47 we read regarding Theodore Karampas famous flower activities but also his side line of jewelry

The page 16 of November 2nd  1910 New York Times news paper is giving as even further information regarding Karampas business activities

A reliable resource told me that Theodoros Karampas was selling at his store also wedding crowns, wedding favors, and Easter and wedding candles. He also was writing small novels and stories. Here is the prove from an advertisement in Atlantis NY newspaper in 1915, stating he is selling genuine Greek wedding crowns , candles with silk ribbons, wedding favors and  embroidered silk veils.


The good friend, talented musician, and enthusiast of Greek traditional music,  Yiannis (Ioannis) Pappayiorgas aka John Pappas ( did the honor to send me photos from his beautiful Karampa bouzouki. The rescued Karampas bouzoukia these days are only few, just counting in one hand.

Karampas bouzouki property of  John Pappas 
Soundboard of the Karampas bouzouki property of  John Pappas
Bowl of the Karampas bouzouki property of  John Pappas
Label from the Karampas bouzouki property of  John Pappas


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