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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Upper Nazareth guitar maker launches conservation landscape effortThe Express-Times - lehighvalleylive.com, September 20th
"I wanted this garden right near our main entrance where people can see it," said Martin Guitar owner Chris Martin in a news release. The Martin Guitar garden also has 45 plants grown by the company's employees. The native plants attract songbirds and ...Read more
Northampton County Council shoots down spending limit on executiveThe Express-Times - lehighvalleylive.com, September 19th
In a new allegation, McClure presented a new email exchange where Plyler encouraged a Brown to get a tour of Martin Guitar with a New York City lawyer with Republican Party connections. Brown has denied any wrongdoing in the emails in the past. He did ...Read more
Music, modern dance among Thursday's entertainment picksGreenville News, September 18th
Eric Clapton's Martin Guitar 000-42 on display during a press preview at the Metropolitan Museum of Art January 13, 2014 for Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin.Christian Frederick Martin, founder of the great American guitar firm C...Read more
Easton guitar shop hidden in alley draws international clienteleThe Express-Times - lehighvalleylive.com, September 14th
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Thomas Rhett Joins Martin Guitars Ambassador ProgramWWGP 1050 AM, September 9th
Thomas Rhett plays three Martin guitars when he's on tour, so it's a natural fit for him to be named as the newest artist in the Martin Ambassador Program. The campaign recognizes artists who have an “understanding and appreciation of the guitar's...Read more
Take action on tradePhilly.com, September 9th
The story of how Martin Guitar grew from a one-man shop nearly 200 years ago into a global company is one that bears repeating. Our country's current small- to medium-sized businesses aren't all that different from their forebears like Martin. There's...Read more
Guitar Man: Family business makes stringed instrumentsThe Daily News Journal, September 3rd
Ryan Davis of the Guitar Mill works on the final assembly a Mario Martin Guitar. (Photo: John A. Gillis/DNJ). Buy Photo Fullscreen. Guitar Mill employee Tim Scott uses a buffer on a guitar being built at the business on Lytle Street Wednesday, Sept. 3...Read more
Hunter Hayes talks about his love of Martin Guitars before his Allentown Fair ...Allentown Morning Call, August 27th
Hayes, who is touring to promote his second hit album “Storyline” and its hit single “Invisible,” is among the official ambassadors of Martin Guitar, the brand based and made in Nazareth. But he's not paid to endorse the brand. It's because he uses them...Read more