Martin Guitar

Date:
1852
Creator:
C.F. Martin, Sr.
Publisher/Studio:
Nazareth, PA

This is a mid-1800s guitar. Guitars of the 18th century commonly used gut and metal-wound gut strings. A simple solution to 19th-century demands for greater volume was to utilize newly available materials. But the structure of the guitar had to be reinforced to withstand the resulting increase in tension. Christian Frederick Martin was one of the innovators in the transition to steel strings. Around 1850 Martin invented "X-bracing," the use of crossed wooden strips in the guitar's top for structural reinforcement. He also developed other design features, such as a body shape that was smaller above the sound hole than below, and a square peghead. They marked the beginning of a new American flattop guitar design that is little changed today.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
0.001
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Fender Stratocaster

Date:
1954
Publisher/Studio:
Fullerton, CA: Fender Electric Instrument Company

The Stratocaster is arguably the most successful and influential electric guitar ever produced. It is easily identified by its double cutaways, contoured body, and three pickups. It also features Fender's vibrato or tremolo system that allows players to raise or lower the pitch of the strings. In the hands of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and many others, the "Strat" has become an American icon. Bearing serial number 0100, this particular instrument was probably the first Strat to be shipped for retail sale. It features the standard two-tone sunburst finish used on early Fender models.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
0.024
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gretsch White Penguin

Date:
1956
Publisher/Studio:
Brooklyn, NY: Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company

This rare solid-body electric model is one of fewer than 100 manufactured. Introduced in 1955, the White Penguin never appeared in the Gretsch catalog, despite the top-of-the-line appointments, like the "Cadillac" tailpiece, for which Gretsch was known. It was part of the Duo-Jet series and is the solid-body companion of the more popular electric archtop model, the White Falcon. Gretsch was best known for its hollow-body electrics, which were favored by the company's primarily jazz and country music clientele.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.026
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Fender Jazzmaster

Date:
1958
Publisher/Studio:
Fullerton, CA: Fender Electric Instrument Company

This is a prototype of Fender's Jazzmaster model that was introduced as the new top-of-the-line guitar in 1958. It was the first guitar to have an asymmetrical waist and to feature a switch allowing quick changes between rhythm and lead tones. Fender was attempting to market the instrument to jazz musicians, thus the name. Instead, it became the guitar of choice for surf bands like the Beach Boys.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012
Identifier:
10.027
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Fender Mary Kaye Stratocaster

Date:
1959
Publisher/Studio:
Fullerton, CA: Fender Electric Instrument Company

The combination of gold hardware and custom translucent beige finish on this rare example first appeared on a guitar belonging to Las Vegas-based trio leader Mary Kaye. Shown in a 1956 Fender promotional ad featuring her group, this design earned the nickname "The Mary Kaye Strat." Associating well-known musical artists with their electric guitars was a highly effective marketing tool for guitar companies. Admiring enthusiasts were influenced to purchase the same instrument model as their favorite performer.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.028
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gibson Les Paul Standard, Or Sunburst

Date:
1959
Publisher/Studio:
Kalamazoo, MI: Gibson Inc.

After its introduction in 1952, Gibson's Les Paul model went through a variety of modifications that culminated in the classic Standard, or Sunburst, in 1958. Its maple cap on a solid mahogany body and the newly perfected twin-coil humbucking pickups produce a sound that is highly suitable for rock music. Famous players like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Duane Allman helped this guitar become one of the most popular ever. Les Paul Standards dating from 1958-1960 are among the most sought-after guitars on the vintage market.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.029
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins

Date:
1959
Publisher/Studio:
Brooklyn, NY: Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company

Introduced in 1955, the 6120 was co-designed by, and made for, Chet Atkins to feature his signature style of fingerpicking. The model was also popularized by Eddie Cochran and Duane Eddy. Like other Gretsch guitar models, the 6120 changed constantly; by 1959 the Bigsby vibrato was added as a standard feature. This hollow-body electric guitar was Atkins's personal instrument and appeared on the 1961 Chet Atkins' Workshop album cover.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.03
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gibson Es-355 With Bigsby Vibrato

Date:
1959
Publisher/Studio:
Kalamazoo, MI: Gibson Inc.

In 1958 Gibson introduced the ES-355, a semi-acoustic electric guitar with pickups mounted on the solid section of the body. This model, played by Chuck Berry, jazz guitarist Grant Green, and a number of 1960s rock and roll groups, is most closely identified with B.B. King. A special feature of this guitar is the Vari-tone circuit which, in the highest position, gives the instrument its distinct nasal sound. The ES-355's standard vibrato system, made by Bigsby, allows for the rapid raising and lowering of the pitch of the strings, known as the tremolo effect.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.031
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gibson Ultratone

Date:
1948
Publisher/Studio:
Kalamazoo, MI: Gibson Inc.

The Ultratone model lap-steel guitar, introduced in 1947, was designed with bright colors and geometric lines to create a "modern" package. The use of hinged coverplates that conceal the tuning pegs, pickup, bridge, and tailpiece added to the unusual look. The Ultratone was featured in Gibson's first post-World War II catalog.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012 Washington, DC 20013-7012 Washington DC , District of Columbia
Identifier:
10.032
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Gibson Flying V

Date:
1958
Publisher/Studio:
Kalamazoo, MI: Gibson Inc.

Designed by Gibson president Ted McCarty, the Flying V was the firm's first boldly shaped electric guitar, introduced in 1958. It was developed as part of a modernistic line of guitars which included the Explorer and the never-manufactured Moderne. But the design proved too extreme—sales lagged and production ended within two years. Then in the late 1960s, musicians like Albert King and Jimi Hendrix helped revive the popularity of the Flying V, and this induced guitar makers to develop other adventurous designs.

Location:
National Museum of American History Room 334, MRC 604 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Washington, DC 20013-7012
Identifier:
10.033
Institution:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History