National “Small Letar” Electric Hawaiian Steel Guitar, ca. 1940s

26-string, National Electric Guitar, Cast aluminum body covered with cellulose plastic, pearl and steel tuning keys, black celluloid fretboard, and four National pickups with four original Amphenol output plugs

National Electric was unable to mass-produce and market the Grand Letar, but Kandle continued to play the large and heavy instrument for high-profile concerts until the early 1940s. In 1939, Kandle persuaded National to construct the Small Letar so that she could travel more easily with the instrument.

Letritia Kandle and the Small Letar.
Kandle with the Small Letar.

While the Small Letar did not feature an internal amplification system and lights, it did allow her to carry the smaller instrument by herself from her home in the Austin neighborhood on the Near West Side of Chicago to her performances in downtown Chicago.