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NMM 11715.  Mandolin by Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Company, Kalamazoo, ca. 1906.
Style A.  Serial number 5381.
Fordyce and Frances R. Fox Collection, 2006.

NMM 11715.  Mandolin by Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Company, Kalamazoo, 1906

From 1902 to 1922, Gibson offered its pear-shaped, Style A series mandolins with five levels of inlay and wood quality. In the early years of the company, the Style A represented the simplest version, with a single wood ring (rosette) inlaid into the top around the soundhole and an imitation-tortoise-shell celluloid and pearl pickguard. The A-1 had a double-ring rosette, ivory celluloid binding (inlaid trim) around the edges of the top, and the best quality machine tuners. In addition to the features of the A-1, the A-2 was inlaid with pearl ornaments on the head and the pickguard. For the A-3, Gibson used a higher grade of wood and added celluloid binding around the edges of the back and fretboard. The highest grade, A-4, featured an ebonized (opaque black) finish on the top, celluloid binding around the inside edge of the soundhole, and pearl in between the two wood rings of the rosette. In 1903, the cost of the Style A-4 was double that of the Style A.

This early example of the Style A features an original blonde top finish with contrasting red-brown back, ribs, and head.

Front, Back, and Side Views

Click on any image below to see an enlargement

NMM 11715.  Mandolin by Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Company, Kalamazoo, 1906 Treble side of Gibson mandolin Bass side of Gibson mandolin Back of Gibson mandolin

Body:  Soundboard:  arched, one-piece, quarter-cut spruce or pine,  wide grain; birch blocks at joint with neck, originally finished with red-brown varnish, now removed. Ribs:  two-piece, slab-cut, plain maple. Head:  mahogany with black-dyed maple back stripe; ebony veneer. Neck:  mahogany with black-dyed maple back stripe; integral with head.

Front and Back of Body

Front of body of Gibson mandolin Back of body of Gibson mandolin

Inlay:  Binding:  none. Rosette:  oval soundhole with rosette set in 1/4" from edge; rosette comprised of strip of angled, alternating light and dark hardwood, in turn surrounded on each side by smaller light and dark hardwood strips. Back stripe:  none. End graft:  none.

Interior:  Linings:  kerfed dark brown hardwood. Neck block:  mahogany. End block:  maple or birch. Top bracing:  one dark brown hardwood brace with tapered ends below soundhole. Back braces:  none. Back graft:  none.

Fretboard, Peghead, and Back of Neck

Fretboard Front of peghead Back of peghead Back of neck

Trim:  Heel cap:  none; back comes to point at neck heel. Fretboard:  black-dyed maple; 19 nickel-silver frets; single mother-of-pearl dots behind 5th, 7th, 10th and 15th frets; double mother-of-pearl dots behind frets; later maple shim. Nut:  bone. Bridge:  ebony; compensated; mounted on later rosewood blocks glued to top. Tuners:  two pairs of nickel-plated, steel, worm-gear tuners with ivoroid heads. Endpin:  ebony with abalone eye. Pick guard:  imitation tortoise-shell celluloid with abstract outline, surrounded by strip of abalone and another strip of imitation tortoise-shell celluloid. Varnish:  dark red with slight craquelure on back, ribs, and head, clear on top with slight craquelure.

Pickguard, Neck Heel, Bridge, and Tailpiece

Neck heel


Soundhole and Label


Inscriptions:  Printed on oval paper label with bold, single-line border, the serial number written in pencil: Gibson Mandolin=Guitar Mfg. Co. [sic] / No. 5381 [Orville Gibson photo on lyre mandolin trademark with text TRADE MARK] Patented / February first, / 1898 / Kalamazoo, Michigan, U. S. A.

Stamped on tailpieceThe / Gibson

Measurements:  Total mandolin length:  653 mm (25-11/16″)
Back length:  348 mm (13-11/16″)
Upper bout width:  55 mm (2-5/32″)
Waist width:  72 mm (2-27/32″)
Lower bout width:  270 mm (10-5/8″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  36 mm (1-13/32″)
Rib height, at waist:  34 mm (1-11/32″)
Rib height, at endpin:  35 mm (1-3/8″)
Head length:  165 mm (6-1/2″)
Head width, top:  70 mm (2-3/4″)
Head width, bottom:  49 mm (1-15/16″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  149 mm (5-7/8″)
Neck width, nut:  29 mm (1-5/32″)
Neck width, heel:  35 mm (1-3/8″)
Soundhole height:  45 mm (1-3/4″)
Soundhole width:  67 mm (2-5/8″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  E:  351 mm (13-13/16″); G:  354 mm (13-15/16″)

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