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NMM 10861.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1969.
Model D-28.   Serial number 247859.
Ex colls.:  Merle Travis, Marty Stuart, Johnny Cash, Thom Bresh.
Tony and Bonnie Vinatieri Family Trust, 2005.

NMM 10861.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 1969.
Thom Bresh and Johnny Cash hold the Martin guitar

Thom Bresh and the late Johnny Cash
hold Merle Travis' Martin D-28 guitar.

Merle Travis, born in Rosewood, Kentucky, in 1917, achieved great fame in California in the 1950s and Ď60s as a performer and songwriter. Drawing on his youth in a coal mining region, Dark as a Dungeon, Sixteen Tons, and The Nine Pound Hammer became classic country hits.

This Martin D-28, once owned by Merle Travis, was customized with the country artistís name in mother-of-pearl on the fretboard, "So everybody could read and learn my name by the time the show was over." After Travisí death, the instrument was sold to Marty Stuart, country artist and former son-in-law of Travisí friend, Johnny Cash. Cash bargained with Stuart for the instrument, which he wanted for his museum, The House of Cash in Hendersonville, Tennesee (now closed), and Stuart traded him the guitar for one owned by Hank Williams. Later, Cash gave the instrument to Travisí son, Thom Bresh, after the two musicians collaborated on the last two Johnny Cash albums. Along with the guitar, Cash gave Bresh the following advice: "Play this guitar, son. There could be a day when you may want to sell it. If you play it, when that day comes youíll be able to say this guitar was owned and played by three great musicians and a poet."

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 (see image at right):  D-28 / 247859

In raised lettering on each machine head shaft cover:  GROVER

Stamped on each machine head mechanism cover:  PAT. PEND / U.S.A.

Scratched into back, upper bass bout (click on image at right to see larger view):  M.TRavis [sic]

Branding on headblock

Merle Travis' name scratched into back

Front, Back, and Side Views

Front of Martin guitar Bass side of Martin guitar Treble side of Martin guitar Back of Martin guitar

Body:  Soundboard:  two-piece spruce, very wide grain. Back:  two-piece book-matched East Indian rosewood. Ribs:  two-piece East Indian rosewood. Head:  mahogany veneered with rosewood. Neck:  mahogany; white plastic strap button affixed to treble side of neck heel with philipís head screw; hole on heel cap for strap button, now missing.

Front and Back Views of the Guitar Body

Front of Martin guitar body Back of Martin guitar body

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.


Fretboard, Soundhole, and Pick Guard


Pick Guard


Trim:  Heel cap:  white celluloid. Fingerboard:  ebony; 20 nickel-silver frets; TRAVIS inlaid in mother-of-pearl between 4th and 10th frets; mother-of-pearl stars inlaid behind 4th and 12th frets, on each side of TRAVIS inlay; single mother-of-pearl dots behind 15th and 17th frets (holes filed behind 5th and 9th frets); two abalone dots behind 12th fret (holes filled behind 7th fret); white celluloid side dots behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets. Nut:  ivory. Bridge:  ebony with curved lower edge; mother-of-pearl stars inlaid on each side; angled, white celluloid saddle; white celluloid bridge pins with abalone eyes (eye of high E-string imitation abalone plastic). Tuners:  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:  imitation tortoise-shell celluloid. Varnish:  clear with fine craquelure.

Front and Back of Peghead

Front of Martin guitar peghead Back of Martin guitar peghead

Neck Heel, Bridge, and Lower End

Neck Heel

Lower end of guitar

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: 1029 mm (40-3/4″)
Back length:  508 mm (20-3/32″)
Upper bout width:  296 mm (11-1/2″)
Waist width:  278 mm (10-27/32″)
Lower bout width:  400 mm (15-3/4″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  100 mm (3-30/32″)
Rib height, at waist:  112 mm (4-13/32″)
Rib height, at end block:  124 mm (4-15/16″)
Head length:  160 mm (6-5/16″)
Head width, top:  72 mm (2-27/32″)
Head width, bottom:  60 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:  55 mm (2-1/8″)
Soundhole diameter:  103 mm (4″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  high E:  646 mm (25-5/16″); low E:  651 mm (25-11/32″)

Literature:  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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Most recent update: March 24, 2014

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