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NMM 6074.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, ca. 1850.
Model 2½-40.   Board of Trustees, 1997.

NMM 6074.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, ca. 1850 NMM 6074.  Guitar by C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, Pennsylvania, ca. 1850

This early Martin guitar has the pioneering X-bracing, developed in the 1840s, that later became standard on American guitars, since it worked so well for the steel stringing popular in the 20th century. In the 1850s, however, gut strings were still the norm, as were body sizes that are considered small by today’s standard. Made primarily for use in the home, 19th-century guitars were not expected to produce the huge volume of sound later needed for performing with mandolin orchestras, dance bands, and jazz groups. Also, the smaller sizes were better suited to women, who made up a significant number of guitarists in the mid-19th century.

Martin brand inside guitar

NMM 6074, a model 2½-40, is a highly decorated, expensive model that tastefully contrasts ivory and abalone inlay with the spruce and rosewood from which the body is made. Remarkably, the trim closely resembles that still used on the D-45 model. However, it also bears the unusual feature of having the rosewood back lined with spruce on the inside of the instrument. Although branded C. F. Martin / New York, this guitar was made in Nazareth, where Martin had moved from New York in 1839. Martin guitars were still sold in New York through a company run by fellow Saxon immigrants from Neukirchen (Saxony), C. A. Zoebisch & Sons.

Inscriptions:  Branded on back graft: [lettering curved downward at each end] C·F·MARTIN / NEW·YORK
Branded on back of head: [lettering curved downward at each end] C·F·MARTIN / NEW·YORK
Branded on neck block: [lettering curved downward at each end] C·F·MARTIN / NEW·YORK

Martin guitar ivory bridge

Ivory bridge

Body:  Soundboard: two-piece spruce, wide grain narrowing toward the flanks. Back: two-piece, book-matched Brazilian rosewood. Ribs: two-piece Brazilian rosewood. Head: slotted, cedar peghead veneered with rosewood. Neck: cedar; flared heel.

Soundhole of Martin guitar, ca. 1850


Inlay:  Binding: top binding, ivory with black hardwood strips on each side of abalone trim, medium-brown hardwood and light hardwood on ribs; back binding, ivory with light hardwood and medium-brown hardwood strips on back and ribs. Rosette: abalone surrounded on each side by black hardwood-ivory-black hardwood-light hardwood-black hardwood purfling strips; two rings on each side comprised of 5-ply black and light hardwood strips with natural wood in between. Back stripe: none. End graft: ivory end graft strip (slightly wider toward top than bottom) surrounded on all four sides by light and medium-brown hardwood purfling (2 strips) on each side, and medium-brown purfling strips at top and bottom.

Sideview of Martin guitar peghead

Trim:  Heel cap: ivory; slightly domed shape. Fingerboard: ebony bound in ivory; 18 nickel-silver frets; no fret markers. Nut: ivory. Bridge: ivory, with chamfered, raised squares at each end; separate ivory saddle; bone bridge pins with abalone eyes. Pegs: two sets of blued steel and nickel-silver worm-gear machine heads with nickel-silver rollers, mother-of-pearl heads, the plates engraved with zigzag borders; two bull’s-eyes at each end and bull’s eyes around each screw affixing plates to headstock. Endpin: ebony with abalone eye inside mother-of-pearl ring. Varnish: clear.

Martin guitar peghead

Interior:  Linings: kerfed mahogany; five faded red cotton cloth strips glued to inside of ribs on each side, running perpendicular to plane of top and back. Neck block: mahogany; chamfered corners. End block: mahogany; chamfered corners; rosewood graft at center, perpendicular to top and back. Top bracing: spruce X-brace, the joint of main cross brace reinforced with faded red cloth; two transverse braces; rosewood bridge plate. Back braces: spruce back graft; three spruce back braces, the brace in the lower bout with rounded edges, and wider and lower in height than the two braces in the upper bouts. Back graft: spruce.

Lower end of Martin guitar Measurements:  Total guitar length: 926 mm (36-7/16″)
Back length:  454 mm (17-7/8″)
Upper bout width:  211 mm (8-9/32″)
Waist width:  175 mm (6-29/32″)
Lower bout width:  296 mm (11-21/32″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  82 mm (3-1/4″)
Rib height, at waist:  89 mm (3-1/2″)
Rib height, at end block:  99 mm (3-29/32″)
Head length:  164 mm (6-15/32″)
Head width, top:  70 mm (2-3/4″)
Head width, bottom:  57 mm (1-29/32″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  311 mm (12-1/4″)
Neck width, nut:  45 mm (1-25/32″)
Neck width, heel:  57 mm (2-1/4″)
Soundhole diameter:  90 mm (3-17/32″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  622 mm (24-1/2″)

Literature:  Gruhn Guitars Catalog, May 1997, cover and p. 3.

André P. Larson, "Two Superb Martin Guitars—One Old, One Not So Old!" America’s Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 25, No. 4 (August 1998), p. 8.

Philip F. Gura, C. F. Martin & His Guitars, 1796-1873 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), plates 3-17 to 3-22.

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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