When Levon Helm of The Band sang "I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead" in "The Weight," he wasn’t alluding to a weary pilgrim’s desire for salvation. Rather, he was singing about a mythological trip to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of C. F. Martin & Co., makers of Martin flat top acoustic guitars.
Founded in 1833 by a German immigrant named Christian Friedrich Martin, whose father was also an instrument maker, Martin was originally based in New York City before moving in 1839 to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
Guitars from these earliest years had hourglass-shaped bodies, suggesting Martin’s German roots. By the 1840s, though, Martin was producing distinctly American-looking instruments, with smooth, flat tops and a big, bright sound. Shortly thereafter, in 1852, the company’s long-standing convention of naming its guitars after their size and style designations was established.
Martin’s 19th century guitars were smaller than they are today and were made for gut strings — guitars strong enough to handle steel strings would not appear until 1928. The original sizes (biggest to smallest) were 1, 2, 2 1/2, and 3. Sizes 000, 00, 0, 4, and 5 were added between 1854 and 1902, and in 1929 this numbering system was scrapped for the one we know today.
The OM, or Orchestra Model, was introduced that year; it is the same size as a 000. The D or Dreadnought (named for the large battleships of the day) appeared in 1916. It was bigger than a 000 and was originally produced exclusively for the Ditson company. But by 1931, Martin was selling its own D-size guitars. It became one of the company’s most popular guitars.
Other sizes in the line include the M (an 0000), the 7 (approximately 7/8ths of the size of a D), and the J (for Jumbo; it’s the same size as a M but as deep as a D), but all of these guitars were introduced on or after 1977, which makes them of little interest to serious collectors.
Style designations have remained consistent since the 1850s, although new designations added in the mid-1980s have made the designation system more arbitrary than it used to be. ...
Some of the most collectible Martin flat tops include the pre-war Dreadnoughts from the 1930s, which many of the world’s best musicians consider the Stradivariuses of guitars. That said, just about any of the 12- or 14-fret steel-string models from the mid-1920s until the mid-1940s will bring a good price.
Also worth keeping an eye out for are guitars made from the post-war years through the end of the 1960s, when Brazilian rosewood was replaced by Indian rosewood. Indian rosewood is handsome enough, but it lacks the visual richness of Brazilian. More importantly to musicians, guitars made from Indian rosewood don’t seem to sound as good as those crafted from Brazilian stock.
If your ear or eye is not as discerning as a professional musician’s, Martin has made it simple for you to tell which is which: Vintage Martin guitars from 1898 on are easy to date because each instrument is stamped with an individual serial number.
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Spare Times for Aug. 29-Sept. 4New York Times, August 28th
7) More than 20 guitars made by the 19th-century German-born craftsman Christian Frederick Martin are included in this display of 35 vintage instruments drawn from the museum's permanent collection (as well as the Martin Guitar Museum in Nazareth, Pa., ...Read more
Cody Country Business NewsCody Enterprise, August 27th
Brokers with PRUDENTIAL BROKERAGE WEST, INC. REAL ESTATE recently received recognition from Prudential Real Estate Affiliates. The awards are for the second quarter of 2014 for Prudential Affiliates in Wyoming...Read more
Hunter Hayes talks about his love for Martin Guitars before his Allentown Fair ...Allentown Morning Call, August 27th
Hunter Hayes rocking a Martin Guitar on his "24-Hour Road Race to End Child Hunger" at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on May 10. Hunter Hayes rocking a Martin Guitar on his "24-Hour Road Race to End Child Hunger" at the Trocadero Theatre in ...Read more
Everything is groovy againLimaOhio.com, August 24th
Everything is groovy again. Last updated: August 24. 2014 7:01PM - 1 Views. By Adrienne McGee Sterrett - email@example.com. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima NewsDoug Adams plays a folk tune on his Martin guitar while at home in Lima. ×. Photo...Read more
Martin Guitar archivist compiles photo book of company historyThe Express-Times - lehighvalleylive.com, August 16th
The Martin Guitar archivist's book of nearly 200 photos, "Images of America: C.F. Martin & Co." lands Monday on bookshelves nationally. The black-and-white book, published by Arcadia Publishing, takes readers on a chronological journey of six...Read more
Paul McCartney's Autographed Guitar Helps Save ElephantsRollingStone.com, August 13th
"To have Sir Paul's support and working with Martin Guitar is a real honor," David Banks, managing director of the The Nature Conservancy's Africa Program, said in a statement. "This caliber of collaboration will make a difference to help end the worst ...Read more
Strong love for Martin guitars brings musicians of all ages to NazarethThe Express-Times, August 2nd
Miller's view rings true with most, if not all, of the thousands of Martin guitar fans who visited downtown Nazareth for the seventh annual Martin on Main festival, sponsored by the Nazareth Bath Area Chamber of Commerce. C.F. Martin & Co. is...Read more
Nazareth festival spotlights great guitar makingAllentown Morning Call, July 30th
There also will be a Martin guitar raffle, a display of the company's history and Martin guitar products for purchase. The rain or shine event began as a way to recognize the 175th anniversary of C.F. Martin & Co.. Info: 610-759-9188 or martinonmain.org...Read more