Here is a guitar from the very beginning of the Dreadnought era!
Serial number 175 was part of the very first batch of Ditson Dreadnoughts shipped to Charles H. Ditson & Co. of New York on December 30, 1916, the first batch comprising three D-111 and three D-222 guitars.
(To be exactly correct, a prototype 222 guitar, serial number 71, was delivered in August 1916.)
Martin applied a special series of serial number to Ditson’s wide-waisted guitars. The special serial numbers ranged from 1 to 571 and covered the period from 1916 to the beginning of 1921. Only seven D-111 and four D-222 guitars were made during this period. Serial number 571 , the last in the series, was a D-111. No further D-222 guitars were ever made.
Subsequent to 1921 the Ditson Dreadnoughts received regular Martin serial numbers.
It will be seen that this guitar has a single sound hole ring as the basic decoration for the Ditson D-111 guitar was based on style 1 ukuleles. (The decoration for D-222 guitars were based on style 2 ukuleles. These should have white celluloid binding.)
The last photo shows a map of the top thickness at various points. It will be seen that the thickness measurements are much higher than later Dreadnought guitars. It appears that the starting thickness of the top was 1/6″ resawn spruce veneer (roughly 0.165″) whereas later Dreadnoughts began with 1/8″ (0.125″) spruce veneer. The heavy fan bracing and thick top were the result of Martin designing the Dreadnoughts to resist the high tension expected for steel Hawaiian strings.
It may be noted that the pyramid bridge appears wider than usual. It may be a replacement, although it looks original, or it may be another adjustment Martin made to handle the increased string tension.
Although the Dreadnought guitars were meant for Hawaiian playing they did not have a flat finger board or high nut and high saddle. The guitars were regulated for gut string playing and provided with a nut extended for Hawaiian playing. These early Dreadnoughts could be easily converted to a gut string guitar by simply removing the nut extended.
Ditson D-111 features:
Back and sides: Mahogany
Top: Red spruce (Adirondack)
Purfling: Black and white lines
Binding: Black celluloid
Other period features:
Seven-strut fan bracing
Ebony pyramid bridge
Ebony neck reinforcement
1-7/8″ neck width at nut
Nickel silver bar frets
No pick guard
Graduated dot fingerboard inlay
No style stamp
Certainly has many appointments that are similar to the 1931 D-1 Authentic except for the fan bracing. I do not understand the use of fan bracing on this steel string guitar. But then looking at the bracing closely is it apparent that they are not the thinner ones used on the guitars made for gut strings at the time. I also wonder if there is a radius on the fretboard or is it flat? Is part of the bridge plate missing? Looking carefully, I looks like one end has been cut short. Am I seeing things? Why didn’t they use the “X” bracing on this guitar made for steel strings. Are the dimensions similar to the later made dreadnaught? This guitar is in amazing condition. Looks like it was made yesterday!