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NMM 10770.  Guitar, The Bon Aqua, by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1971.
Model D-28.   Serial number 291114.
Ex coll.: Johnny Cash.
First Dakota National Bank Fund, Yankton, South Dakota, 2004.

NMM 10770.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1971.

This 1971 Martin D-28 guitar, known as The Bon Aqua, was kept at Johnny Cash’s 100-acre farm near Bon Aqua, Tennessee, 35 miles southwest of Nashville. Returning from extensive tours in the U.S. and abroad, Johnny would go there alone, as he wrote in his autobiography, “to cook my own food, read my own books, tend my own garden, water my own land, and think, write, compose, rest, and reflect in peace.” As such, the guitar, which Johnny used while writing songs during the last 30 years of his life, was more intimately connected with him than the hundreds of other guitars that came and went through his hands on the road.



Inscriptions:  Branded on back graft: [lettering curved downward at each end] C.F.MARTIN & Co [sic] / — ∙ — / NAZARETH, PA. / MADE IN U.S.A.
Gold and black decal on head: [cursive lettering curved downward at each end] CFMartin&Co. [sic] / EST. 1833
Branded on headblock: D-28 / 291114
In raised lettering on each machine head shaft cover: GROVER
Stamped on each machine head mechanism cover: PAT. PEND / U.S.A.
Evidence of applied cursive lettering, now removed, lower treble bass bout: Johnnie [sic]

Decal on peghead

Johnnie's name scratched into top.

Evidence of applied cursive lettering, Johnnie [sic]

Front, Back, and Side Views

Front of Johnny Cash's guitar Bass side of Cash guitar Back of Cash guitar

Body:  Soundboard: two-piece spruce, wide grain narrowing toward the flanks. Back: two-piece book-matched East Indian rosewood. Ribs: two-piece East Indian rosewood. Head: mahogany veneered with rosewood. Neck: mahogany; hole from strap button, now missing.

Back, Neck Heel, and End Graft

Back of Cash guitar


Neck/heel junction

Neck heel

End graft

End graft

Inlay:  Binding: white celluloid; top trim comprised of black-white-black-white-black celluloid purfling strips; back trim comprised of two purfling strips of black and white celluloid. Rosette: wide band of white and black striped celluloid (9 strips), surrounded on each side with narrower bands of the same material (5 strips each), with natural wood in between. Back stripe: back stripe comprised of alternating sections of light-dark-light and dark-light-dark purfling strips, every fourth strip a light-dark-light strip three times longer than the others, surrounded on each side with one strip of light hardwood purfling. End graft: white celluloid strip (slightly wider toward top than bottom) surrounded by thin white and black celluloid purfling (2 strips) on each side.

Front of Body and Rosette

Front of Cash guitar Soundhole on Cash guitar

Trim:  Heel cap: white celluloid. Fingerboard: ebony; 20 nickel-silver frets; single mother-of-pearl dots behind 5th, 9th, 15th, and 17th frets; two abalone dots behind 7th and 12th frets; white celluloid side dots behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets. Nut: ivory. Bridge: ebony with curved lower edge; angled, white celluloid saddle; white celluloid bridge pins with black celluloid eyes. Pegs: six chrome-plated steel worm-gear machine tuners by Grover with convex head surfaces and enclosed worm gear mechanisms. Endpin: white celluloid with black celluloid eye. Pick guard: later black plastic. Varnish: clear with fine craquelure.

Fingerboard and Peghead

Cash guitar fingerboard Front of Cash guitar peghead

Interior:  Linings: kerfed mahogany. Neck block: mahogany; chamfered corners. End block: mahogany; chamfered corners; mahogany graft at center, perpendicular to top and back. Top bracing: spruce X-brace, the joint of main cross brace reinforced with white canvas; rosewood bridge plate. Back braces: four spruce back braces, the two braces in the lower bouts with rounded edges, and wider and lower in height than the two braces in the upper bouts. Back graft: spruce.


Measurements:  Total guitar length:  1035 mm (40-3/4″)
Back length:  510 mm (20-3/32″)
Upper bout width:  292 mm (11-1/2″)
Waist width:  275 mm (10-27/32″)
Lower bout width:  400 mm (15-3/4″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  99 mm (3-30/32″)
Rib height, at waist:  112 mm (4-13/32″)
Rib height, at end block:  125 mm (4-15/16″)
Head length:  161 mm (6-5/16″)
Head width, top:  73 mm (2-27/32″)
Head width, bottom:  59 mm (2-5/16″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  358 mm (14-1/8″)
Neck width, nut:  42 mm (1-5/8″)
Neck width, heel:  54 mm (2-1/8″)
Soundhole diameter:  102 mm (4″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  high E:  643 mm (25-5/16″); low E:  644 mm (25-11/32″)


Accessories: Original plywood case covered in black imitation-leather-texture canvas with burgundy plush lining, brass-plated steel hardware, and black plastic handle, round Atlanta Braves sticker on lid of case. Sabine AX-800 tuner. Six strings on guitar: steel E and B; copper-overspun steel G, D, A, and E.


Literature:  Associated Press syndicated story, appearing in print and websites worldwide.

Ben Walker, "Johnny and June Carter Cash Estate Auction," Day to Day, National Public Radio (September 14, 2004).

Museum Press Release, "National Music Museum Acquires Johnny and June Carter Cash Guitars" (October 30, 2004).

Robert Morast, "Famous Guitars; Music Museum Buys Guitar Used By Johnny Cash," Sioux Falls Argus Leader (October 30, 2004).

Susan Hanson, "Celebrating Johnny Cash," SDPB Feature, South Dakota Public Radio (December 3, 2004).

Used by John McNeill to play "Wildwood Flower" for "A Celebration of Johnny Cash" presented by the United Way of Vermillion and Gayville Hall in Gayville, South Dakota on Saturday, November 20, 2004 at 7PM.

"Johnny & June Carter Cash Guitars Acquired," National Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 32, No. 1 (February 2005), p. 7.

André P. Larson, "NMM Exhibition features Our Martin Guitars to Celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the C. F. Martin Company," National Music Museum Newsletter, 35, No. 2 (May 2008), pp. 4-5 and 7.

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