A Virtual Museum of

Early Martin Guitars

and free e-book

Illustrating and Exploring the Early Development of the
Martin Guitar

Created by Folk and Roots Music Photographer Robert Corwin

Featuring Instruments from the Phyllis, Jerry, and Robert Corwin Collections


"perfecting the art of 'guitar porn' ... 

This site is an amazing labor-of-love, quite possibly the most in-depth, photo-intensive look ever at old, pre-war (and in many cases antique) Martin guitars … All online and for free."

--Jason Verlinde
The Fretboard Journal

"Without any hesitation I can say that in my opinion, the website that Robert has created is the most valuable source of information on Early Martin Guitars in existence today, in or out of print."

Bill Cappell, Early Martin Researcher, November, 2013

Robert's photographs can also be seen in the books "Martin Guitars, a History"
and "Martin Guitars, a Technical Reference" by Johnston, Boak & Longworth

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A Note About this Web Site...

I've chosen to present this information on the web for free, rather than publish a printed book, to make this comprehensive resource available regardless of your means,

...at any time,

...in any part of the world,

...even on your smartphone. 

Publishing on the web allows me to make the latest information available immediately, without waiting for publication, and avoids excluding information obtained after a book is published, or including information found to be obsolete.  If I should decide to publish a physical book as well, I have no intention to replace these free web sites to profit from a book.

Fortunately, I've been able to self-fund this project and share the results without charging.  Making careful choices has allowed me to assemble a humbling collection of instruments illustrating the evolution of the contemporary flat top steel string guitar in America, from C.F. Martin's first creations of the 1830's, along with their predecessors and contemporaries, through the innovations of the teens and the treasures of the "Golden Era" of the 1930's and '40s, all created during Franks Henry Martin's reign.  Having a wide sample of instruments in-hand, including a good number of "pre-partnership" Martins and influential transitional ones, has allowed me to devote several years to careful study and research, to produce thousands of photos, including many that allow us to take a virtual walk through their interiors, to take careful measurements, and to demonstrate solid conclusions based on direct observation. 

C.F. Martin produced exquisite guitars, and I've been fortunate to assemble some of the most beautiful, but I realized early on that any serious scholarly research must also take seriously the less expensive "bread and butter" examples, rather than fall into the trap of relying on the "eye candy" of less typical "presentation guitars" merely because they impress.  While more of the less expensive guitars were produced, they were less likely to survive.

I've attempted to apply my learning as a President's Fellow in Photography and Design at Rhode Island School of Design, my 50+ years of experience photographing musicians, and my years as a professional designer with a background in publishing, to set a higher bar for graphic, vivid detail photos that I'm flattered to find have been emulated already.  Producing the photos myself has allowed me to avoid the outside industry funding used to help other projects cover the high cost of paying a commercial photographer, keeping this project free of undue influence. 

While nearly all of the foremost experts on vintage Martins are friends, and I owe thanks to all of them, I've been careful not to put myself in a position where I owe favors that might interfere with my objectivity, or keep me from presenting information fully, so I can let the chips fall where they may, not having to worry about who may be offended by my findings, or who will "look good".

www.earlymartin.com contains 67 chapters.  www.vintagemartin.com is 115 chapters and growing, including more detail, photos, and free, full-size downloadable diagrams than any book could include. 

I don't believe that producing a web site rather than a book is a compromise in any way.

More than simply a free e-book, I fully expect that this inclusive personal process of creating in public will become commonplace in the future.  

This web site will always be a work in progress.  Not all sections are complete - some have not been started yet.  Not all links work.  I've just reorganized the entire web site, and the pieces continue to come together, but there are still holes and place holders.  Feel free to enjoy what's here, and check back for further additions, refinements, and corrections as you wish.  I look forward to adding specific thanks to the many friends and experts who have helped make this possible, along with links to other helpful resources, as well as an index.

  No project is perfect.  Perhaps my biggest asset is having you as partners, in daily communication, alerting me to new information, and providing an unprecedented team of proofreaders, rather than have me grit my teeth over a newly published book filled with typos that will annoy forever.  :)  Thanks!

I thought you might want to take advantage of what we have so far.

Please let me know what you think.

Robert Corwin

  July 7, 2016

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One of the most gratifying aspects of this project has come in the form of notes received from luthiers I admire telling me that the site has provided information useful for the restoration or repair of vintage instruments or the building of innovative new ones.

"The internet is another good source of reference.  One website with good close up photos of vintage instruments... that I particularly like is vintagemartin.com. 
It is possible to extrapolate measurements from some of these photos if you already know the dimensions of other details in the photo.  That type of thing can be very useful..."

Guild of American Luthiers, 2011 Convention Keynote Lecture by Joe Konkoly, Head of repair at Elderly Instruments.

Please let me know how the site may be more useful in the future.

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Start here if you're looking for help

Identifying C. F. Martin Guitars

A Martin Timeline

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~ Download the above headstock image as a 1680 pixel Screensaver, free for your personal use as my gift to you! ~

~ Click on the headstock image below and download a hi-res file you can use to create a high quality 11" x 14" photographic print, suitable for framing, free for your personal use as my gift to you! ~

~ Download any of nineteen full size 1:1 diagrams, with precise measurements of fifteen important early Martin, Panormo, Recio of Cadiz, and Schmidt & Maul guitars,
a 1917 Martin/Ditson Standard "baby Dreadnaught", a 1929 12 fret 000-28, an early 1930 OM-28, and a 1944 000-18, all free for your personal use. ~

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'  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '
to learn about


~ Defining the Acoustic Guitar in the 20th Century ~

visit my companion web site


'  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '  '

~ The Nineteenth Century ~

~ PART 1 ~


Before the Styles Were Defined

Chapter 1.

Martin Stauffer Style Guitar

This sibling of the earliest and most notable guitar in the Martin museum is unlabeled, which not only raises questions about this guitar,
but reminds us of questions remaining concerning Martin's guitar as well. 

These two instruments feature small, shallow figure-eight shaped bodies with large upper bouts, Stauffer style headstocks with Vienna gears,
necks with inlaid stripes of ebony and ivory, raised angled fretboard extensions, and intricate ivory and ebony ice cream cone heels with clock key adjustments.

Both guitars have spruce tops and maple backs and sides, with abalone soundhole designs set in mastic.  Each guitar is ladder braced with
a "buttress" under the fretboard extension.

These two guitars, if not typical, are the pinnacle of guitars offered by Martin when he first came to this country.


Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"The similarities between these two guitars are startling...  Note the almost identical bridge, soundhole rosette, and angled cut at the end of the fretboard,
as well as the adjustable neck with fretboard floating above the soundboard.   Both guitars also have maple backs and sides, though Martin would soon
shift almost exclusively to rosewood."

Chapter 2.

 Early C.F. Martin Built Hudson Street Viennese Style Guitar

  While the earliest Viennese influenced Martins had rather small figure-eight shaped bodies with large upper bouts, the "Hudson Street label" Martins,
built later in the 1880's,
could be surprisingly large and deep guitars reminiscent of the later Gibson Nick Lucas.  All of the earliest Viennese
influenced Martins have ladder bracing.

This guitar is typical of what Martin was building in the late 1830's before leaving New York for Pennsylvania.  While most people associate the Viennese influenced Martins with
Stauffer style headstocks with Vienna gears, many of these originally had slotted headstocks with machines, some of which have been improperly replaced due to misconception.

Most of the Hudson Street Martins have a top border of "thumbprint" inlays as well as the herringbone trim that has distinguished Martins for many years.


Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"Martin ledgers from the 1830's suggest that most of C.F. Sr.'s guitars were small and plain.  The eye catching inlays on this fancy model probably
ensured it's survival, while most of the simple guitars from this period were discarded long ago."

Chapter 3.

 Martin & Schatz Guitar

  One of the most significant early Martins, this guitar resided in the early Martin Museum for many years.  Built in the old world tradition with
Viennese gears, and one of the few Martins with an ivory fingerboard and an ivory shield shaped bridge, this was also one of the first Martins built in the Spanish style with a variation of fan bracing and the narrow Spanish shape.


Chapter 4.

 Martin & Coupa Brazilian "Tigerwood" Guitar

  Many Martins from the 1840's were affixed with a "Martin & Coupa" label and distributed from New York by guitar teacher John Coupa after the Martin family moved to Pennsylvania.

This is a typical early Martin parlor guitar, showing a mix of Viennese and Spanish influenced features:  Still with the Stauffer Style headstock and Vienna gears, ebonized neck and "ice cream cone" heel, Spanish fan bracing, an early precursor of the Spanish foot which extends the width of the upper bout, and an early version of Martin's typical Spanish influenced body shape, with a smaller upper bout than the Viennese influenced guitars, and a flatter base of the lower bout than found on later Martins.

This instrument has been noted in several books as an early illustration of Martin's use of Hawaiian Koa, long before it was first thought to have been used during the Hawaiian craze of the teens.

Recent testing has shown this wood to in fact be Goncalo Alves from Eastern Brazil, commonly referred to as "Tigerwood".


Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"You don't often find Hawaiian koa on mid-nineteenth-century guitars; in fact, you don't find much koa on anything at that early date.  Around 1915,
when the Hawaiian music craze swept the nation, Martin began to make lots of instruments from this beautiful wood, but one can only speculate
why C.F. Sr. chose to try it on this Martin & Coupa from the 1840's."

Illustrated in Carter  "Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments":

"Stuck over the Martin & Coupa label is one indicating that the guitar was "Sold by John F. Nunns".  Martin & Coupa claimed the largest assortment of
guitars that can be found in the United States."

Chapter 5.

Jose Recio, Cadiz Guitar

The developing shape of the Martin guitar, with the smaller upper bout, was influenced by the guitars of Cadiz, Spain.  The "Spanish" style Martin guitars of the 1840's copied many of the features of guitars of Cadiz, including fan bracing, the cedar neck with thin curved heel, square headstock with "volute"
, tuning pegs, "Spanish foot", two piece sides, rosette with thinner outer rings, and tied bridge with ivory or bone inset.

Chapter 6.

 Martin & Coupa Spanish Style Guitar

This example shows the Martin guitar at a critical point in it's evolution.  The "Spanish" Martin is a distinct style with specific features clearly
showing Martin's awareness of the pre-Torres guitar in Spain.  This guitar retains the features of Martin's earliest Viennese influenced guitars,
such as the Stauffer Style headstock, while adding features of the Spanish guitar.

This fine example of perhaps the earliest of Martin's versions of a Spanish guitar has many of the typical Spanish features:  cedar neck with
elegantly curved Spanish heel, Spanish style interior false foot, tie style bridge with ivory inset, fan braces, two piece rosewood sides with simple
lengthwise center strip dividing the two pieces, and both bindings and simple back strip with straight lines extending into the heel made of holly.

This guitar is also an early example of features which would be hallmarks of Martin design for years to come, such as the ebony pyramid style
bridge, and Martin's version of the Spanish body shape with a smaller upper bout than the Viennese influenced guitars.


Illustrated in Evans, "Guitars: Music, History, Construction and the Players, from Renaissance to Rock"

While interviews related to a
recent museum exhibit of early Martin guitars infers that the "Spanish Connection" is a recent discovery, the
importance of this instrument in illustrating the significance of the influence to C.F. Martin of the "Pre-Torres' guitars of Cadiz, Spain was
recognized here by Evans, in these words published 46 years ago, in 1977, and reprised in the 1997 writing of Washburn and Johnston: 

"This instrument has a combination of features that is, to our knowledge, unique on a Martin guitar.  The head design is similar to that used by
Martin in the 1830's, with the tuning machines concealed under a metal plate and buttons on one side, after the manner of Stauffer.  The body,
however, does not have the Stauffer-inspired, wasp-waisted shape of the 1830's, but is closer to the mature Martin style of twenty years later. 
The shape suggests strongly that Martin had had the opportunity to examine a Spanish-made guitar of about 1840, and was
experimenting with Spanish-style construction."

"This supposition is reinforced by the presence of Spanish features such as we have seen on no other Martin guitar, including simple fan
bracing with three radiating struts, and a Spanish head and slipper foot into which the sides are slotted.  The division of the rosewood sides by a
narrow decorative hardwood strip is another feature borrowed from the nineteenth-century Spanish guitars.  The presence of this strip weakens
the sides; to give them strength, Martin fitted several vertical braces into which the cross struts of the top and back are notched, framing up the body."

"The design of the bridge is very modern for it's date.  In shape it conforms to the "pyramid" bridge pattern used by Martin throughout the latter
half of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth.  But this is one of the very few nineteenth-century Martin guitars to be made with a
tied rather than a pin bridge.  The strings pass over a broad, backward sloping ivory saddle-piece before being secured at the rear of the bridge."

"This guitar proves that C.F. Martin was one of the few makers outside Spain in the early nineteenth century to be aware of the possibility of fan strutting
on the guitar, and that he experimented with it before developing his own famous X-bracing system.  It shows the American gut-stringed guitar, the
ancestor of the steel-sting guitar, at a critical point of it's evolution, about to break away from the diverse European influences to which it owed it's beginnings."

Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"The most interesting parts of this Martin & Coupa are what you can't see.  The neck has a Spanish-shaped heel, with the sides slotted into a
neck block with an interior "foot".  The top is also fan braced, a feature this guitar shares with several other Martin & Coupa instruments.  Other small
details from this experimental period at Cherry Hill strongly suggest that C.F. Sr. was turning away from Northern European guitar design and
incorporating ideas found on Spanish instruments predating guitarmaker Antonio Torres's guitars.

Chapter 7.

Schmidt & Maul Spanish Style Guitar

The Martin & Coupa above has been touted as containing a singularly unique combination of features not found on any other known Martin guitar, including
elements showing Martin's Viennese, and Spanish influences, as well as the beginnings of his own style.   When I purchased this 1844 Schmidt and Maul
guitar at auction from Christie's, I was shocked to discover that it contained every single one of the unique elements recognized by Evans in the
Martin & Coupa above, including Viennese gears, fan bracing, split sides with marquetry, simple holly borders and back strip following through the heel,
a false "Spanish foot", and cedar neck with elegant curved heel.  This guitar has even the most obscure and interesting feature:  A combination of Viennese Style
headstock with gears and Spanish Style cedar neck with a raised volute that has been flattened to fit under the gear plate.


One of the most important mysteries in Martin history leaves us not knowing whether Martin and Schmidt & Maul competed or collaborated on the development of X
bracing.  This guitar shows that Schmidt & Maul were also influenced by Spanish Style guitars at a very early date.  If the two firms were not competing, then one must have
been producing a precise copy of the other's work.  It is inconceivable that in the small community of German immigrants, one builder would have so blatantly "ripped off"
the work of another, especially considering that one was formerly the employer of another.  While records from the period are limited, we know that Schmidt & Maul
worked at the same address as Martin's partner and distributor at the time, John Coupa, while C. F. Martin and John Maul retained a friendly relationship into the 1850's. 

It was formerly assumed that C.F. Martin personally built all of the early highest quality guitars with his name on them.  Yet we know that Schmidt was an employee
as early as 1834 or 1835.  One must wonder when Mr Martin, the proprietor of a successful music store, and importer of instruments and accessories, would have had
time to build such elegant guitars.  The longer we study this guitar, the more me must wonder if Mr. Maul played a large part in building early Martin guitars, and
continued to consult with Martin after Martin left New York and moved to Pennsylvania, playing much of the role in the development of X braces and the modern guitar, 
that Mr. Deichmann played in the development of the 14 fret guitar and the Martin Dreadnaught.

Chapter 8.

Early Transitional Viennese/Spanish
Style Martin & Coupa Guitar

Some folks studying early Martin guitars make much of putting the guitars in order to establish a sequence of events.  I can't imagine a more futile endeavor!  Once Martin introduced a new feature, it was added to his list of available options for customers to choose from, so not only do features show up far after one would have thought them to be obsolete, but guitars keep popping up with features that we thought to have come far later.

This guitar has some features associated with the Martin & Coupas, including the ebony pyramid tie style bridge with inset ivory saddle, the "shelf" style of "Spanish foot", and five strut fan braces.   The wide, open rosette is more reminiscent of Panormo or the guitars of Cadiz, Spain.  This guitar has a Viennese influenced ebonized neck with "Stauffer Style" head with Vienna Gears and ice cream cone heel.  We see the herringbone border on the sides that are usually found on Martin's earliest guitars from the Hudson Street days.  And we are surprised by a wide marquetry top border of the style generally found on a Style 34, after Martin's styles were established in the 1850's.

Not surprisingly this guitar shares features with some of Martin's simplest guitars, while the herringbone side trim is seen on Martin's most decorative guitars, and the delicate back border is only seen on a handful of early Martins.

By comparison, the Spanish Martin & Coupa above looks similar from the front with it's Spanish shape, "Stauffer" head, and ebony tie bridge with inset, but has an "earlier" three strut fan, which generally defines the era, and a
later Spanish heel, while this guitar has the earlier ebonized neck with ice cream cone heel and herringbone side trim, and a later style of marquetry.


Chapter 9.

Martin Spanish Style Guitar

This guitar is a uniquely fine example of Martin's version of the Spanish guitar, with many of the typical features:  cedar neck with elegantly curved Spanish
heel, large, square headstock flared to a wide end, with pegs, nickel silver nut, Spanish style interior false foot, tie bridge, fan braces, two piece
rosewood sides with decorative side filets and a decorative lengthwise center strip with marquetry dividing the two sections, and back with rosewood veneer.

With the fancy appearance of perhaps the most jewel-like Martin "presentation" guitar existent, with a top border of pearl diamonds set in mastic, and a
version of one of the
three basic pearl diamond-adorned soundhole designs with two rows of
glittering tiny pearl diamonds surrounding a solid band of colorful
abalone, this example was clearly built to be played, with a large, long scale, modern feeling neck, which gives this guitar the feel in-hand of a much larger guitar.


Illustrated in Gura, "C. F. Martin and His Guitars, 1796-1873":

"This instrument has rosewood sides and back (laminated); marquetry on back and side edges and through the center of it's sides; pearl trim around the
center of it's sides; pearl trim around the top, and an abalone rosette.  Note in particular the beautiful abalone soundhole and top trim, found on Martin's
highest-style guitars, and the ivory tie bridge."

Matt Umanov, Umanov Guitars, New York:

"Most interestingly, it also has a longer scale; at 24.5" it is nearly that of a grand concert size Martin.  This suggests possible construction for concert use,
as it gives the guitar an amazingly sonorous tone, far out of proportion to it's size."

Chapter 10.

Martin Renaissance Style Guitar

This guitar shares many features with the 1840's Spanish Style guitar above, including the ivory bound headstock with pegs
and thin ebony lines
delineating all edges of the headstock, volute and neck
, cedar neck, elegant heel, nickel silver nut, fan bracing, identical ivory tie block bridge, 2 piece sides
divided by a longitudinal strip of marquetry, details of internal construction, and a long modern feeling neck.  This unique "Renaissance" shape,
however, can be seen on only a handful of early Martin guitars.

But the unique details go further than that.  This is the only known example of a Martin with sides tapered to fit the contour of the neck heel in a
most elegant fashion.  The neck is a full 2" wide, with a 24.75" scale, and this is one of only two Martins known to have a unique peak at the
tip of the ivory bound headstock.  Besides being one of the most unusual Martin examples known to exist, the condition is breathtaking, all original
and looking like an almost new guitar.


Richard Johnston, co-author "Martin Guitars, a Technical Reference":

"This is the earliest Martin guitar I have seen in many years, and without doubt the most unusual. Words like “unique” and “extremely rare” get tossed
around frequently when describing vintage guitars, but in this case we’re not exaggerating. Only seven of these unusual “Renaissance” shape Martins
have surfaced to date, and only this one has the sides tapered to fit the contour of the neck heel."

Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"This elegant peghead has been seen on only a handful of early Martins...  The ivory sides... later evolved into a thin border on only the uppermost
edge of the peghead."

"The compound curve of the guitar where the sides meet the neck is sure to inspire admiration from any serious woodworker...no other Martin
guitar has surfaced in which the sides form a continuous, smooth transition into the neck.  The low-profile shoulders would make playing in
upper positions on this guitar almost as easy as on a cutaway guitar.

Please note:  I'm proud to say that the "Renaissance Martin" shown above, as well as it's "likeness" or image, are the sole property of the Corwin Collection. 

Sadly, numerous images of this important guitar were knowingly reproduced in the book "Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre–Civil War Innovations of
C. F. Martin and His Contemporaries" by Szego and Shaw without proper attribution, and without obtaining the necessary permission requested and required
to legally reproduce it's image for commercial use.

The image and "likeness" of this guitar are the sole property of the Corwin Collection, and may not be legally reproduced without permission.

Chapter 11.

Martin & Coupa Hybrid X Braced Guitar

This Martin was built with what I believe was the first experimental variation of X-bracing, a variation appearing at about the same time on a handful of both
Martin and Schmidt & Maul guitars.  One such Schmidt & Maul is dated 1845.  It has been unknown for some time whether the two builders worked together
in concert or not.  It is now understood that Schmidt worked for Martin in the earliest years, and the two were still close in later years, while Schmidt was living
upstairs in the same small New York building as Martin's partner John Coupa.

This example, which is quite close in size to a standard Size 2 Martin, also foreshadows a standard Martin Style 21, with simple, tasteful appointments including a
herringbone rosette and back strip and a top border consisting of simple light and dark lines.


Illustrated in Carter  "Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments":

"By 1839 Martin had moved his workshop from New York to Pennsylvania, and this relatively plain example of a Martin & Coupa guitar was
probably made at the new location.  Note also the squared off headstock with rear-facing tuning pegs rather than the old Stauffer-influenced design."

Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker" with Schmidt & Maul Guitar:

"The mystery of which is the first X-braced guitar will probably never be solved, but these two early candidates were clearly made by builders who were
aware of each other and may have even been acquaintances.  The fact that two very similar guitars - both sold in New York in the latter 1840's and
both made by German immigrants - have nearly identical X-patterns under the top suggests that there was a considerable pool of talent at work.  Whether
X bracing was a concept shared among compatriots or pirated by competitors is the only question left unanswered. (This) guitar bears a Martin & Coupa
label, and Martin historian Mike Longworth's research into insurance policies held by C.F. Martin Sr. on Coupa's 385 Broadway address suggests that
Martin had guitars there as late as 1851 and certainly for several years before that.  Regardless of which came first, Martin was the firm that went on to
make X bracing a standard feature of the American guitar."

Chapter 12.

Schmidt & Maul 1847 Alternate X Braced Guitar

Several Schmidt & Maul guitars from the mid-1840's have been seen with the identical "hybrid X brace" seen on the Martin & Coupa shown above. 
This Schmidt & Maul, dated 1847, has another experimental form of X bracing, consisting of fan braces, with three struts, and a tone bar that extends past the
treble end of the bridge and across the treble strut to form a small X under the treble side of the top.

The Schmidt & Maul contains many
elements similar to the Martin, including herringbone trim, a Spanish false foot, ebonized neck with ice cream cone
heel, ebony
tie style pyramid bridge with ivory inset, and a similar company stamp on the upper back near the heel, not surprising since Louis
Schmidt worked for Martin ten years earlier.


"Alternate X" braced, containing elements of fan bracing combined with an early small treble side X.  I suspect that this variation  was an early
one, as it contains a complete three strutted fan, while the other variation, seen on Martins, Martin & Coupas, and Schmidt & Mauls, contain only the
outer struts of the fan in combination with a large X.

Chapter 13.

 Early Hybrid X Braced Spanish Martin Guitar

This Martin, with the same experimental variation of X-bracing appearing on the Martin & Coupa in Chapter 11, also has several distinctive 1840's
features, including a Spanish foot, Spanish heel, nickel silver nut, and large abalone fretboard markers on the side of the neck, as well as the
colored diamond backstrip, outer rosette rings with a tiny rope pattern, and checkerboard binding sometimes seen on early Martins.


This early Spanish Style Martin appears in a larger Size 1, with a variant of the classic three ring soundhole rosette with double ivory center
rings that later distinguished the Style 28.

Chapter 14.

 Early Hybrid X Braced Schmidt & Maul Guitar

This Schmidt & Maul has the identical experimental "Hybrid X" bracing seen in the Martin & Coupa guitar in Chapter 11, and the Martin guitar in Chapter 13, making it
clear that C.F. Martin and Schmidt & Maul were collaborating or working in concert in some way, given that Louis Schmidt was a former Martin employee,
still a trusted friend, and was living upstairs from Martin's partner John Coupa, and quite possible that Schmidt was developing the new bracing patterns used by Martin.

With many of the features found on Martins of the period, including Spanish cedar neck with slotted headstock, pin style pyramid bridge, Spanish false foot, neck block and
center strip stamps, three ring rosette with green "tooth" inner ring and and small "rope" outer rings, "half arrowhead" marquetry top and side borders, and "arrowhead" marquetry back strip.


Chapter 15.

 Martin Mid-1840's Alternate X Brace Spanish Style Guitar

This Size 1 Martin has another experimental variant of X bracing, closely related to the Schmidt & Maul in Chapter 12, with a large X, and a tone bar below
the bridge crossing the treble brace of the X
to form another, smaller X.  Similar in concept to the Schmidt & Maul, with a tone bar crossing on the treble
strut of the fan to form a smaller X, this appears to be the first of the variants to contain a large, complete X.


The soundhole of this guitar has another variation of the diamond rosette, with a tasteful single center ring of alternating long and short abalone diamonds. 
This example also has
features typical of a mid-1840's Martin, including a Spanish foot, Spanish heel, nickel silver nut, large abalone fretboard markers
on the side of the neck, ebony pyramid bridge with a "scooped" or "lipped" back, and a large diamond end strip and outer rosette rings with a tiny rope pattern
of early Martins and arrowhead backstrip of later 19th century Martins.

Chapter 16.

 Martin Mid-1840's X Braced Spanish Guitar

This Spanish Style guitar has been called perhaps the earliest known Martin to feature a mature X brace, 
essentially the same as it has appeared for many years since. 
Still with the earliest typical Spanish features such as
cedar neck with Spanish heel, two piece rosewood sides with a simple lengthwise center strip
dividing the two pieces, distinctive holly binding, and simple back strip with straight lines extending into the heel.
  The heel on this guitar is thicker and not as elegantly curved as
on earlier examples, and the Spanish foot has been eliminated.


Bill Capell, from the essay "Early C.F. Martin Guitars":

"This is the earliest known example of this style bracing that would go on to become the standard for all modern acoustic guitars."

Images of this important guitar were also included in the book "Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre–Civil War Innovations of C. F. Martin and His Contemporaries"
by Szego and Shaw, without the required permission, and were erroneously attributed to the Martin Collection, which has never owned this guitar.

The image and "likeness" of this guitar are the sole property of the Corwin Collection, and may not be legally reproduced without permission.

Chapter 17.

 Martin 1840's Spanish Style Guitar with Ebonized Spanish Neck

This highly unusual guitar is the only example of a Spanish Style Martin known to have a Spanish heel neck with an ebonized finish and no volute, with the exception of an early Martin
harp guitar who's ebonized neck could easily have been designed to match the ebony support.  This may be an extremely early example, and perhaps the first incarnation, of a Spanish
neck Martin.  Being identical in many aspects to the Martin in Chapter 11 with "Hybrid X" Bracing, this is likely to also be one of the earliest examples of a Martin with "mature X" bracing.

This is also an early example of a Martin with a solid ring of pearl in the rosette.  Many of the finer early Martins had elegant decorative rings of "white pearl" diamonds and/or squares.  By the early 1850's, the jewel like rings of pearl are replaced by a thin central ring of solid abalone.  This example has an elegant, somewhat wider 7/64" solid ring of pure "White Japan Pearl", most likely a transition from the white pearl diamonds and squares, to the 5/64" wide solid abalone ring found on the standard Style 27 and Style 30 and higher Martins.


George Gruhn:

"An incredibly rare and historically significant instrument.  I do not recall having seen any with a Spanish heel, lack of a volute on the back the peghead, and black neck finish like this one."

Chapter 18.

Martin 1840's Mahogany Size 3 Guitar

C.F. Martin Sr. did not generally use mahogany for backs and sides of his guitars, choosing instead Brazilian Rosewood, maple, and even "Tigerwood".  The first cataloged model
with mahogany was the Style 17 when it was reintroduced in 1906 by Frank Henry Martin.

In the 1840's
, however, before standardizing models, Martin did build a number of Size 3 guitars selling for $16 with mahogany backs and sides.

The typical $16 size 3 Martin had no binding on the back.

This highly unusual example has a rare combination of ebonized neck with a solid headstock and pegs, beautiful figured mahogany
, rosewood fingerboard, and fancy binding on the back,
as well as a Martin stamp on the upper back, an original scooped back pyramid bridge, and strap pin on the back.


Chapter 19.

 Martin 1850's Ivory Fingerboard Stauffer/Spanish Style X Braced Guitar

Martin sometimes held over features for many years, offering guitars with a mix of features from many periods on request.  One such set of features is
the Stauffer Style headstock with Vienna gears on an ebonized neck with ice cream cone heel.  This fancy, small size 3 presentation guitar with ivory
fingerboard and Vienna gears
was most likely built in the 1850's.

This example has the third of the three basic pearl diamond soundhole designs, with twin bands of tiny alternating long and short pearl diamonds, as
well as fancy wood marquetry on the top border and
on the sides adjacent to the top and back binding, and rare, gold plated frets.  With beautiful Brazilian
rosewood veneer over spruce on the back, the earliest features such as the
ebonized neck and ice cream cone heel are combined with mature X braces.


Illustrated in Bacon, "History of the American Guitar":

"Gradually, Christian Martin began to bring to the guitars he made more of his own ideas on construction and design.  The most obvious visual
change when comparing this example to the earlier Stauffer-style is the narrower upper body, giving an overall shape that is more like a modern guitar."

Chapter 20.

 Martin 1850's Pearl Rosette and Pendant Guitar

This final example combines decorative details typically found on earlier Martins with construction elements that would be standard for years to come.  With
a beautiful decorative pearl rosette that is possibly one of the earliest examples to contain a version of the continuous thin band of pearl seen on the rosettes and
borders of pearl Martins until WWII replacing the rows of tiny pearl diamonds found on the finer Martins of the mid-1800's, and an abalone pendant similar to
the ones adorning the bridges of early Hudson St. Martins.  The guitar is spruce lined.  The Jerome tuners, with uncommon, large bone rollers, have intricately
carved pearl buttons of the type appearing on only the smallest handful of Martin guitars, while more typically seen on ornate 19th Century presentation banjos.


The body is a size 2 1/2, and the basic appointments follow the form of a Style 30, making this perhaps a $32 guitar.  This guitar is possibly one of
the last before Martin models would become standardized.

~ PART 2 ~


As they've Been Defined Since the 1850's

By the early1850's, C. F. Martin Sr. had established basic standard models, noted by a two number system, the first number designating the size of the guitar,
and a second number, following a hyphen, originally representing the wholesale price, and later designating the quality level of the guitar. 
Originally, larger numbers represented smaller guitars, but when the relatively large size 1 was no longer the largest available, a larger single 0, 00,
and eventually a 000 were added.

Few changes were made to the company's guitars from the time C.F. Martin Jr. took the helm in 1867, in a partnership with his cousin, C.F. Hartmann, that lasted until 1885, 
until after Mr. Martin Jr.'s death in 1888.

With the exception of a relatively small number of custom orders, most Martin guitars conformed to the standards introduced under Mr. Martin Sr., until his grandson,
Frank Henry Martin, ushered in a period of change
at the end of the Nineteenth Century.  Frank Henry had inherited the company in 1888 at age 22, upon his father's death,
but had plenty of time to make important changes that rivaled those of his grandfather, in a realm that lasted until his retirement in 1945.

Chapter 21.

Martin 1896 2-40, 1894 0-42, 1895 Tinted 00-42, 1896 2-42, 1900 2-42

The highest level of trim was reserved for the Style 42, with solid bands of abalone pearl in the center ring of the rosette as well as bordering the top of the
guitar and the the fretboard extension.  The Style 42 was adorned with genuine ivory bindings on the body and fretboard, and an ivory pyramid bridge. 
Following the Spanish classical tradition, the ebony fretboard had no decoration until the mid-1890's.

Chapter 22.

More on Styles 40 & 42


Illustrated in "The Chinery Collection":

"Martin continued to make elegant flat-top guitars in the late 19th century; the pearl-inlaid Style 42 was introduced in 1870."

Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston, "Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier Guitarmaker":

"The elegance of Martin's Style 42 may have been confined to the ladies size 2 on the price list, but that didn't keep people from ordering them in
larger sizes.  This example is from the 1890's, similar special orders of 1-42 and 0-42 models show up in Martin sales records in the early 1880's. 
With gleaming ivory bridge and ivory friction pegs but a blank fretboard, these abalone bordered guitars make quite a fashion statement."

Chapter 23.

 Martin 1902 00-42S / Style 45 Prototype, 1919 0-45, 1925 2-45

In 1902, three custom ordered Style 42 guitars were built with pearl inlay added to the border of the sides and back, as well as having an inlaid "fern"
design added to the peghead.  The first of these had a fancy inlaid pickguard of the style common on the higher end Martin mandolins of the time, and an
intricate vine pattern inlaid on the fretboard. 

This example was the first to have the more prototypical fingerboard inlays of the type seen in 1904 when this design appeared as a standard part of
the Martin line as a Style 45.

Chapter 24.

More on Style 45



Illustrated in George Gruhn and Walter Carter, "Vintage Guitar Magazine":

"This 1902 guitar features the first version of the Style 45 peghead inlay, which is sometimes referred to as the “fern” pattern. Martin pictured a
Style 45 guitar with this inlay in the 1904 catalog and the same photo appeared as late as the 1909 catalog, but Martin had actually begun using
a simpler pattern, known today as the “torch,” by 1905, and that version lasted until about 1927."

"The initial designation – Style 42 special – understated just how special Style 45 Martins would become. In the pre-World War II years, it was
only surpassed briefly by the OM-45 Deluxe (produced only in 1930), which featured additional inlays in the pickguard and bridge. In today’s
vintage market, Style 45s follow the same pattern as they did in their original listings."

"Although Martin has offered models in recent years with higher model numbers than Style 45, along with many limited-edition, commemorative or artist
models with fancier appointments, Style 45 remains today as it was when this “pre-45” guitar helped to get the Style 45 ball rolling – simply Martin’s top style."

Chapter 25.

Martin 1850's Style 2-27, 1870's Style 2-27, 1893 Style 2-27, 1907 and 1917 Style 0-30, 1867 Style 0-34, 1889 Style 2-34

The Style 27 has roots as a size 2 guitar selling for $27.  A 1-27 was added later.  The Styles 30 and 34 both began as size 2 guitars, both expanding later to include several other sizes.

The Style names are derived from the price of the instrument, so it may seem odd that a Style 27 appears fancier than a Style 28, and it is!  At the time the style names were set, the plainer Martin 0-28 was more expensive than the pearl adorned Martin 2-27 because of it's larger size.

The Style 27, 30, and 34 Martins can be identified by the combination of pearl in the rosette with fancy wood marquetry around the top border of the guitar.

The styles 27 and 30 differ little.  In fact, a Style 27 from some years is almost exactly the same as the style 30 of other years.  The only consistent distinguishing feature is the use of
brass tuner plates on the Style 27 and silver tuners on the Style 30. The Style 27 was typically made in size 2, while the Style 30 was typically made in size 0.

Styles 27 and 30 have an ebony wood pyramid bridge, while a style 34 differs mainly in having a solid ivory pyramid bridge.

The top and back, as well as the fingerboard, were bound with genuine Elephant ivory.  As noted in Longworth, all three Styles were described as "ivory to the nut", having ivory binding which extended the length of the neck.

Chapter 26.

More on Styles 27, 30 & 34

Illustrated on p. 55 of Evans, "Guitars: Music, History, Construction and the Players, from Renaissance to Rock"

The "27" in the guitar's designation refers to it's decoration, Martin having introduced a system of numerical suffixes to indicate styles in the late 1850's.  Like all nineteenth century Martins, this guitar has a spruce top with light X bracing, Brazilian Rosewood sides and back, cedar neck, and ebony pin bridge with a small pyramid-shaped hump at each end. The special identifying features of a Style 27 included, at this date, ivory body bindings lined with a multicolored wood inlay on the top edge, abalone soundhole inlay, and ivory fingerboard bindings. The bridge pins are also made of ivory, and are inlaid with mother of pearl dots.  As on most nineteenth century Martin guitars, tuning is by German built machines mounted "upside down" - that is, so that the string spindle is above rather than below the shaft which carries the button."

Chapter 27.

 Early Martin Style 28 and 1870's Style 26 and 28

The Style 28 has been a mainstay of the Martin line for most of Martin's existence.  The Style 28 is distinguished by a herringbone pattern
on the top border and a three ring rosette in a 5-9-5 configuration with twin center bands of ivory.  It is thought, however, that the Style 28 may
have originated from a version with a thin central band of abalone in the rosette.

Chapter 28.

More on Styles 26 & 28


The Style 26 is nearly identical to the Style 28, but for a "half-herringbone" or "rope" pattern replacing the herringbone on the top border. 

Chapter 29.

Martin pre-'67 Style 2 1/2 - 24

The Style 24 is one of the most interesting models in Martin's history. 

While most features of Martin guitars became relatively standardized with the advent of established models in the 1850's, when marquetry was
specified, the choice of individual marquetry design could vary from one guitar to the next.  As the model with more marquetry than any
other: on the rosette, top border, endstrip, and backstrip, the Style 24 had the opportunity for more variety than any other Martin model,
and the Style 24 usually delivered on it's potential.

The Style 24 is distinguished by marquetry on the top border
in combination with the side filets, the thin, wood lines on the sides, adjacent to the binding. 

The style 23 has the same side filets, but with a border of simple lines in place of the marquetry top border.

While this example has very early features like the scooped back pyramid bridge, the style 24 was the one model to continue having marquetry
end strips into the 1880's, several decades after they were discontinued on other models.

X braced examples of the Style 24 can be found with both cedar necks with Spanish heels and ebonized necks with ice cream cone heels.

Chapter 30.

More on Styles 23 & 24


Illustrated in Gura, "C. F. Martin and His Guitars, 1796-1873":

During the 1850's and 1860's, Martin guitars attained their quintessential sizes and styles.  This is a fine example of one of his midrange
instruments...  The tuners are stamped "Jerome" and presumably were imported from Europe.  Note the elegantly sculpted buttons."

Chapter 31.

 Early Martin Styles 20 & 21

The Styles 20 and 21 were among Martin's earliest models, with the Style 20 being a size 2 guitar selling for $20, and the Style 21 being a size 1 guitar selling for $21.  The mid 1840's Martin & Coupa shown in Chapter 9, in fact, exhibits virtually all the features of a Style 21, including the identical herringbone rosette and backstrip.  An apparent "Style 22" was likely the odd listing for a guitar selling for $22.  The Style 21 was later offered as a size 2, with a size 0 appearing by the 1890's.

Chapter 32.

More on Styles 20 & 21


There is little to distinguish between the Style 20 and Style 21 besides size.  

The Style 20 is generally distinguished by a multi-colored herringbone pattern on the rosette.

Chapter 33.

1893 Martin Style 2 1/2 - 17

The early Styles 17 and 18 were nearly identical, with the popular Style 17 offered in size 2 1/2 and the Style 18 offered in the slightly larger size 2.  Early Styles 17 and 18, like almost all early Martins, were built with spruce tops and Brazilian rosewood backs and sides.  The early Style 17 typically had solid linings while, for the added dollar, the Style 18 had kerfing with individual blocks.  Style 18 Martins built later in the Century had X bracing, while the Style 17 was the one model to retain fan bracing into the 29th Century.

Chapter 34.

More on Styles 15, 17 & 18

The early Style 17 had rosewood binding on the top only.  The 2-17 was re-designed in 1929 as the style "25", which dropped all bindings to make it more affordable during the depression.

Chapter 35.

 1895 Style 5, 1916 Bitting Special, and 1940 2-20 Martin Mandolins

Martin made three basic style of mandolins, the early round backs, the flat backs, and the later carved top and back mandolin.

Chapter 36.

More on Mandolins

~ PART 3~



Chapter 37.

Border Patrol

Chapter 38.

 The Head of the Class

Chapter 39.

 Tuner Sandwich

Chapter 40.

A Stamp of Approval

Chapter 41.

Pearl Jam

Chapter 42.

 Arrowheads and Other Hidden Treasures

Chapter 43.

 The End Is Near

Chapter 44.

The Spanish Foot

Chapter 45.

 Speaking Volutes

Chapter 46.

 Feel Like a Heel

Chapter 47.

 A Bridge to Somewhere


Chapter 48.

All Tied Up


Chapter 49.

Back in the Saddle

Chapter 50.

Hear a Pin Drop

Chapter 51.


Chapter 52.

 Something to Fret About

Chapter 53.

 Strung Out

Chapter 54.

 Photo Finish

Chapter 55.

Knock on Wood

Chapter 56.

 Does Size Matter?


Chapter 57.

X Marks the Spot

Chapter 58.

 Your Biggest Fan

Chapter 59.

Safe at Home Plate

Chapter 60.

A Final Nail in the Coffin

~ PART 4 ~


Chapter 61.

 Orville Gibson

Chapter 62.

 James Ashborn for William Hall & Son

Chapter 63.

Joseph Bohmann


Chapter 64.

Johann Stauffer

Chapter 65.

Louis Panormo

Chapter 66.

Schmidt & Maul

Chapter 67.

 Tilton Improvement


I love these, but I really need to make room for new ones.

Acoustic Instruments for Sale

Electric Instruments for Sale

I am not in the business of buying and selling guitars, but am interested in purchasing specific unique instruments to round out my collection to present you with a
web sitewith as complete a picture as possible to help you learn.  I am interested in substantially original examples made from the 1800's to 1960's by Stauffer, Panormo,
Schmidt & Maul, C. F. Martin, Martin & Coupa, Martin & Schatz, Martin & Bruno, Martin & Zoebisch,
John Coupa, Oliver Ditson, Southern California Music,
John Wanamaker, Wm. J. Smith, Wurlitzer, S.S. Stewart, Orville Gibson, the Gibson Company, and the Larson brothers.  I am not hunting for bargains, but seeking quality
instruments at a price that is fair to the buyer and seller alike.

To see Robert's new web site illustrating the development of the Martin Guitar from 1833 to the 1960's, visit:


To see Robert's new web site illustrating the development of the Early Gibson Guitar, visit:


To see Robert's new web site illustrating the development of the post-Orville Gibson Guitar, visit:


To See Robert Corwin's Classic Photography of Folk and Roots Musicians, visit:


For Information on Photography for
Exhibition, Publication, CD's, Promotion, Web Pages, Tour Books,
to Purchase Photographic Prints, or

To Contact Robert With Questions About An Early Martin Guitar:
e-mail: Robert Corwin

I'm more than happy to answer questions to the best of my limited ability about features of the
instruments I've photographed and studied
from luthiers restoring vintage Martins or building new instruments.

The Early Martin and Vintage Martin web pages were first created in September, 2009.  

Updated 7/7/2016

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