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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Craig Thatcher takes viewers behind the guitar on PBS specialAllentown Morning Call, March 7th
She says the station took on partners to produce the shows "The Chef's Kitchen" and "Roey's Paintbox;" and "now we're very excited to release this pilot episode of 'Behind the Guitar' with Martin Guitar." Thatcher, who plays original music with his own...Read more
Video: The 2014 Martin Custom Shop ModelsGuitar World Magazine, February 24th
Martin's Senior Artist Relations Manager, Chris Thomas, unveils two new beautifully crafted Custom Shop models, the Eric Clapton OM-ECHF Navy Blues Model and the CS-00S-14 that debuted at the 2014 Winter NAMM Show. The Eric Clapton OM-ECHF ...Read more
Met Exhibit Shows Why Nothing Sounds More American Than A Martin Guitar ...Forbes, February 12th
It's a quintessentially American story. In 1833, a German guitar-maker named Christian Frederick Martin moved from his native Saxony to downtown Manhattan because the German violin and carpentry guilds couldn't decide whether guitars were oversize ...Read more
TN's Gibson Guitar creates “Government Series” with disputed woodTennessee Watchdog, February 10th
His competitor, Christian Martin, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based Martin Guitar, donates heavily to Democrats, including Barack Obama. Martin, like Juszkiewicz, imports the same type of exotic wood to manufacture guitars — yet federal agents never...Read more
Martin Guitar's Navojoa Factory Celebrates 25th AnniversaryCybergrass Bluegrass Music News, February 10th
Tara Stephenson, Steven Geiges, Bill Hall (Director of International Manufacturing), Deb Nazareth, PA -- C. F. Martin & Co. marked the 25th anniversary of its factory in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico with a celebration attended by the Board of Directors and...Read more
Martin Guitar's Navojoa Factory Continues To Evolve And Grow As It Celebrates ...Virtual Press Office (press release), February 10th
NAZARETH, Pa., Feb. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- C. F. Martin & Co. (www.martinguitar.com) marked the 25th anniversary of its factory in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico with a celebration attended by the Board of Directors and the newly released Road Series ...Read more
App of the Day: Martin TunermiPRO, February 10th
C.F. Martin's guitar app has been built to provide users with both a fully chromatic tuner and a host of useful tips for beginner and pros alike. The free app is designed to serve as an interactive tool for players of all styles and abilities. Its...Read more