Martin Guitars

1839 Martin & Schatz Guitar, Serial Number 1296

Considering that pre-1840 Martin guitars are so rare it is remarkable that only a few guitars from the end of Martin's stay in New York can help define Martin's activities as his guitars transitioned from the Stauffer to the Spanish shape. This is one of those guitars (see also entries for serial number 1293 and 1304).

The guitar contains a type 7 Martin & Schatz label AND a Ludecus & Wolter label. The Martin & Schatz label came into use shortly after Martin moved to Cherry Hill in June 1839. Since serial number 1293 was one of the last Martin guitars made in New York, it is only logical to assume that serial number 1296 is one of the first Martin guitars made in the Cherry Hill area.

Martin sold his store inventory to Ludecus & Wolter on May 29, 1839. As part of the sale Ludecus & Wolter also received the Martin sales "agency" for New York. Based on the serial numbers it can be seen that the Ludecus and Wolter agency was not successful and they sold very few guitars, no more than ten guitars between May  and August 1839. Martin had a work force of 4 people (himself, C. F. Martin Jr., Henry Schatz and C. F. Hartmann) and could produce 10 or more guitars per month. Since Ludecus & Wolter was only selling 2 or 3 guitars a month, the business relationship could not continue. As a result John Coupa took over the agency, probably in late August 1839.

The guitar no longer has the Stauffer shape Martin had used up to this point and is, in fact, the earliest Martin guitar known with a Spanish shape. However, it is not the fully mature Spanish shape that characterized Martin guitars for the remainder of the 19th century but a transitional Spanish shape that only appeared in 1839. The easiest way to differentiate between the two Spanish shapes is to consider the bottom of the guitar. The bottom of transitional Spanish shape is more rounded than later Spanish-shaped guitars.

The single sound hole ring on the inside of the sound hole is typical for 1830s Martin guitars and not at all like the three ring decoration Martin began to use in 1840.

Period features

Back and sides: Brazilian rosewood (one piece back)

Top: European spruce

The chapter on dendrochronology in "The Century that Shaped the Guitar" (Westbrook 2005) convincingly demonstrates the top wood of early Martin guitars is European spruce. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that C. F. Martin Sr. brought a supply of European spruce with him when he emigrated from Saxony. All pre-1840 Martin guitars have  this type of top wood. Since Martin made approximately 400 guitars between 1834 and early 1840 this must have been the extent of his original supply

Herringbone purfling (a fancy sub-type and, unusually, pointing in one direction only

Herringbone fillet purfling (beneath the binding on the sides of the guitar)

Ivory binding

Ebonized head stock veneer

Ebonized neck

Ivory veneer around sides of head stock

Ivory fingerboard veneer

Ivory shield bridge with ivory and abalone "ornament"

German silver Vienna machines or, as Martin often called them,  one side screws. This type of one side screw differs from the type encountered on earlier Martins. Almost no two have the same engraved pattern.

Single fancy sound hole ring with ivory binding

Elevated fingerboard and adjustable neck screw


Total length:  ?                                               Fingerboard width at nut: 1.93" (49 mm)

Body length:  17.24" (438 mm)                     Fingerboard width at 12th fret:  2.40" (61 mm)

Upper bout:  8.27" (210 mm)                         Diameter of sound hole:  3.31” (84 mm)

Lower bout: 11.22" (285 mm)                        Scale length: 23.94" (608 mm)

Depth at upper bout: 3.39" (86 mm)              Depth at lower bout: 3.90" (99 mm)”

Photos courtesy of Chris Andrada

4 thoughts on “1839 Martin & Schatz Guitar, Serial Number 1296

  1. I enjoyed owning this guitar. What a cool piece of Martin History. We can be the caretakers only for so long, then we must set them free, to another deserving soul, who we know will also be a great caretaker.

  2. What a wonderful example of American Guitar history. Also th pictures show the painstaking details of this guitar. The BRW back is spectacular and appears to be one piece, and different than the later Martin guitars with a two piece mirrored back. Also many of these early guitars have a veneer of BRW over a spruce base. My question is the serial number. I understood that Martin introduced the serial numbering of guitars in the late 1800s. Was it that the early guitars had a serial number and then later on they dropped the practice only to reintroduce it later on in the century?

  3. My cousin has Serial #1341. I’ve been trying to do some research on this specific guitar as it appears to be during a significant time in Martin’s evolution.

    1. Rob

      Sorry for the late response. I know about this guitar because a friend of mine in Australia informed me when it came up for auction. This is a very interesting guitar and I would like to ask your cousin to send me detailed photos since I would like to do a detailed entry for my website. Could he also take some photos of the interior bracing and a photo of the interior neck block? Send an e-mail to my address ( and I will make a write-up for this guitar, although photos might me with the write-up. Martin applied serial numbers to the labels in their guitars from late 1836 until early 1840 (this guitar is the latest I have seen). When this guitar came up it caused me to re-evaluate some of my theories.

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