Martin Guitars

1836 Martin Guitar (Type 4 Label with No Serial Number)

This guitar has a rarely seen Type 4 label, I have been able to confirm only one other example. The type 4 label was only used from about September 1836 to the end of March 1837 (the type 5 label came into use on April 1, 1837).

The label in this guitar has no serial number while the second example has "No. 1114" hand-written on the bottom right corner.

Serial number 1114 was completed around the end of November 1837. Assuming the first serial number was 1100 (it can't really be much lower considering the production records), the first serialized guitar was finished towards the end of October 1836. The type 4 label without a serial number must have been made prior to this. Since it is known the type 3 label was in use until at least early August 1836, it stands to reason this guitar was made some time between late August and late September 1836.

I apologize for the logic experiment but Martin used 7 different labels between 1834 and 1839 and it is very useful for dating guitars to be able to identify when particular labels were in use.

This guitar has the Stauffer shape, with the upper and lower bouts  being almost the same width. This shape was used for Martin guitars until 1839.

Like many early Martin guitars it has an elevated fingerboard and a clock key mechanism for adjusting the neck angle. The neck has 22 frets.

The guitar also has what is commonly known as a Stauffer headstock, although Martin referred to these as Vienna machines or “one side screws”. There seems to be two sub-types of the Vienna machines but I have only seen the trapezoid holes cut in tuner back plate in one other example.  The most commonly encountered kind of Stauffer machines has no holes in the backing plate.

The guitar has bird's-eye maple back and sides which is commonly seen on Martin guitars of the period. The back is veneered on the inside with what appears to be maple, judging by the curl in the wood. The back is in one piece and has “C. F. Martin” stamped into the back near the neck heel.

The top is very fine grained European spruce, a supply of which Martin brought with him when he immigrated in 1833. This type of spruce is the only type of top wood seen on Martin guitars until early 1840.

The moustache bridge was referred to by Martin as “steg mit hertzchen” or “bridge with little hearts”. On Martin guitars the ends always curl downwards.

The five trefoil pearl inlays and the German silver wire box around the bridge pins are also seen on some early Martin guitars.

This guitar is currently in the collection of the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle WA although it is not currently on public display.

Some photos courtesy of Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia PA





One thought on “1836 Martin Guitar (Type 4 Label with No Serial Number)

  1. Nice Guitar! It looks very similar to the one that Guitar Center, Los Angeles, was selling in the early 2000’s. I almost bought it, but had just laid out a shitload of dough on my new acquisition, a 1968 Martin D-45, previously belonging to Eric Clapton, so I passed on it.

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