ORVILLE’S PRIDE: 1902 Orville Gibson Guitar

March 29th, 2017

This is a feature from the March/April 2017 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this complete story and more photos, plus features on the making of Martin’s one-of-a-kind two-millionth guitar, Ricky Gervais and the return of his guitar-playing alter ego David Brent, plus GA’s annual motoring section, including features on the Doobie Brothers’ Pat Simmons and his antique Harley-Davidsons, John Oates and his life-long fascination with cars and racing, and the untold story behind Led Zeppelin’s McLaren M8E/D racecar, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking here.

NOT FOR SALE: 1902 Orville Gibson Guitar

By Alan di Perna

Built by Orville Gibson, this historic instrument from the collection at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, reflects a key moment in the story of one of the world’s most renowned guitar brands. It dates from May 1902, just five months before the launch of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company Ltd., on October 10, 1902, which was the result of a deal between Orville and five businessmen from Kalamazoo, Michigan. This may be one of the very last guitars Orville made as an independent craftsman before his newly formed company made the transition to mass-production techniques.

“The intriguing thing about this guitar is that it has no bracing inside, which is not the case with the earliest Orville guitars,” says Arian Sheets, the museum’s curator of stringed instruments. “But that is something that was specified in Orville’s patent of 1898—that it would not have bracing. And ours is the only one I’m aware of that indeed does not have braces.”

While Orville’s 1898 patent is for a mandolin, the same basic design principles apply to this 1902 guitar, which resided in the collection of Thomas G. Comeaux until it was acquired by the National Music Museum in 2005. “In the patent, he essentially talks about not having any extra wood or other pieces that inhibit vibration,” Sheets explains. “The patent also describes carving the body out of one piece of wood, which is not true of this guitar; the sides are actually made of laminated pieces of walnut. But it appears that he had some kind of machinery to rout out the inside shape, because it’s really very regular. I don’t see any evidence of hand-tool marks.”

The upper layer of the walnut laminate that makes up the sides is continuous with the neck, and the back is a single piece of walnut, 18 inches wide at the lower-body bout. The top is made from two pieces of spruce, with an oval soundhole, a shape that Sheets points out is reminiscent of Neapolitan mandolin soundholes. Abalone binding adorns the body’s perimeter, and the soundhole rosette is of abalone with light- and dark-toned hardwoods. The moon-and-star inlay and the paddle-shaped peghead are typical of Orville Gibson’s work prior to the formation of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company. Also of historic interest is the rectangular printed label inside the body, bearing Orville’s likeness enclosed within the arms of a lyre.

This is a feature from the March/April 2017 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this complete story and more photos, plus features on the making of Martin’s one-of-a-kind two-millionth guitar, Ricky Gervais and the return of his guitar-playing alter ego David Brent, plus GA’s annual motoring section, including features on the Doobie Brothers’ Pat Simmons and his antique Harley-Davidsons, John Oates and his life-long fascination with cars and racing, and the untold story behind Led Zeppelin’s McLaren M8E/D racecar, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking here.

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Comments

  1. Posted by timothy hanson on March 30th, 2017, 11:55 [Reply]

    any clue as to why he used a logo thats kinda like the flag of “Turkey” or something ?? just interested … but Man what an Amazing (and historically important) guitar to be the “Steward” of in the scope of history.. like having “the Hope diamond” to watch over, maintain, and share the great story with us all. thank you. ♪ ♪

  2. Posted by Brian Ostosh on March 31st, 2017, 00:27 [Reply]

    This is incredible Art….No longer just a guitar

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