MAGNATONE "Troubadour Model 213 original of year 1959, all original"
The History of the Magnatone Amplifier
By Douglas Ahern , 2011, and 2013.
My research of this company started with a simple curiosity of who were the people behind these very cool, unique amplifiers. Its turned out to be an interesting example of the course that some businesses chart for themselves, or otherwise find themselves attempting to navigate. Magnatone's history also proved to be a sad example of what can happen when acquisitions follow success, and when a small company division is neglected or otherwise lead down the wrong path.
At the core of the Magnatone story, though, are the stories of the creative engineers and savvy businessmen that were responsible for these cool amps. Some were at the heart of the operation, while for others, the story only brushes nearby.
As of Feb. 2013, a tremendous amount updates have been applied to this story, which was originally published in 2011. A lot of blanks have been filled in and a lot of errors have been corrected.
Hawaiian Guitar Beginnings
The story of Magnatone begins with a young guitar student, Belva Dickerson, in 1930's Los Angeles, and her father Delbert J. Dickerson. Rather than buy an expensive Rickenbacker or National, Dickerson chose to build both the guitar and amplifier for his daughter.
Dickerson was raised in Utah in a family of instrument makers. His father was an inventor and stringed instrument maker. As a young man, Delbert worked as a machinist in a Salt Lake City radio factory before relocating to southern California around 1930. Delbert and his younger brother, Carl, were mechanics about the time Delbert built his first electric steel guitar and amplifier. 1
Belva's guitar instructor, Sol Ho'opi'i, was so impressed that he asked if an amplifier could be constructed for his own use. In the hands of the instructor, word of the quality of the guitar spread and Dickerson found himself manufacturing guitars and amplifiers for many of the southern California Hawaiian guitar illuminare. In addition to professional musicians, Dickerson built student guitars and amplifiers for initiates of Hawaiian guitar. By 1939, the Dickerson Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company2 had a line of several steel guitars and matching amplifiers. Dickerson applied for a few patents, including a magnetic pickup (2,209,016, applied March 26, 1938) and a combination amplifier and guitar case (2,226,900, applied March 20, 1939). The styling motif use on these early guitars and amps was a plastic faux Mother of Pearl (AKA "MOTS" or "Mother of Toilet Seat" ). Dickerson also built similar guitars and amplifiers for other brands such as Oahu. Some early catalog suggest that the Dickerson had contracted a sole distributorship agreement with Ball Music Publishing Co. to distribute the Dickerson branded amplifiers and guitars. 
In those days, guitars were often sold by music studios. These were places where guitar lessons were given. Today, when we associate guitars with studios, we think of modern recording studios, but in the forties, a guitar studio was similar to a dance studio, it was a place to enroll and study guitar. One such studio/retailer was Gaston Fator Guitar Studios in Los Angeles. Around 1944, Fator bought the business from Dickerson. Fator owned it for a few years, and then sold it to Art Duhamell around 1946. During the years Fator ran the business, there was little engineering or innovation, he basically continued the product lines Dickerson had established and continued to build amps and guitars for other manufacturers as well.