Between 1916 and 1926 Martin produced Ditson model ukuleles with a wide waist design that were similar to the guitars Martin was making for Ditson from 1915 to 1920. The Ditson model ukuleles are popular collectors items because of their distinctive appearance but are not particularly rare, excepting the Ditson 5K ukuleles, as several thousand were made.
However, the Ditson model taro-patches are another matter. The Ditson taro-patches were only made over a period of 7 months between August 1916 and February 1917.
As can be seen from table 1 Ditson ordered a mix of regular and "Spanish" models from Martin during this period. The term "Spanish" is not explained but very likely refers to the wide-waisted Ditson design.
The Ditson taro-patches were ordered in both 4 and 8 string models and Ditson developed a two digit numbering system to differentiate the number of strings. The first digit refers to the style of the taro-patch while the second digit identified the number of strings (i. e., a #38 taro-patch was a style 3 with 8 strings). There was one Ditson #35 shipped which presumably is a style 3 taro-patch with 5 strings.
The style 3 taro-patches had a mahogany body and top and many, if not all, were supplied with a varnished and polished finish, as can be seen in the photos below.
The inlay on this taro-patch 3 conforms to the specification for the ukulele family instruments made between 1915 and 1917. The "kite" inlay on the head stock and the absence of "diamond and square" pearl inlays on either side of the 5-ply white and black strip down the center of the fingerboard are features of early ukuleles.
Table 2 documents all the Ditson model taro-patches delivered by Martin. All these instruments were shipped to Charles H. Ditson & Co. in New York and all had an "Oliver Ditson" stamp on the back of the head stock.
Photos courtesy of the Andy Roth Ukulele Collection