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This instrument was made by Orville Gibson soon after he sold the rights to his mandolin patent to the partnership that established the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. on October 11, 1902. One of the fanciest of his surviving instruments, it is remarkably similar to the earliest Style F-2 Artist mandolins made by the Gibson Company. Like all the instruments made by Orville after the sale of his patent, this mandolin bears a large, handwritten label rather than one of the various printed examples found in instruments made before the incorporation of the firm. The Style F, with its eccentric and flamboyant scroll in the upper portion of the body and the decorative points below it, is an iconic symbol of the tremendous popularity of Gibson mandolins during the early twentieth century. Orville had developed the model by at least 1900 (when the first dated examples appear), but it is unknown when or how the idea first occurred to him. The back, sides, and neck of this mandolin are carved from a block of laminated walnut slabs, just like the first several hundred production instruments made by the nascent Gibson Company. Although NMM 14395 appears bulkier and bolder in design than later Style F mandolins that were made with separate backs and ribs, it is feather-light in weight, a feature common to all of Orville Gibsonís instruments.
Head: walnut inlaid with white abalone star and crescent; second piece of wood grafted between upper and lower pegs; black lacquer on face.
Pegs: six nickel-silver tension pegs with ivoroid heads.
Fingerboard: ebony; 24 nickel-silver frets—19 under all strings, 20 under A, and 24 under E; single mother-of-pearl dots behind 5th, 7th, 10th, 15th, and 20th frets; double mother-of-pearl dots behind 12th and 17th frets
Neck: walnut; hollowed with round hole in base; walnut extension over back of head from separate piece.
Heel cap: none; back comes to point at neck heel.
Stringing: eight steel strings.
Soundboard: arched, one-piece, quarter-cut spruce, medium grain; inlaid mother-of-pearl eye at center of scroll.
Back: one-piece, slab-cut walnut, carved with rounded edges.
Ribs: walnut, carved from one piece, continuing slightly into contour of neck.
Binding: alternating blocks of white abalone and black-finished wood on top only.
Lacquer: black on top and on headstock; clear on back, ribs, and neck; thick; later, probably lacquered by Gibson in the 1960s.
Linings, neck block, end block, grafts, and endpin: none.
Top bracing: transverse brace below soundhole.
Other: burned friction marks on inside of ribs in some places.
Rosette: oval soundhole with rosette set in 1/4" from edge; rosette comprised of white and blue abalone strips surrounded on each side by strips of angled, alternating light and dark hardwood, which in turn are surrounded on each side by smaller strips of angled, alternating light and dark hardwood.
Pick guard: black material with festooned border of white abalone, inlaid with white abalone and white metal cherubs, branches, a bird, and a butterfly.
Label: Written in black ink on paper, Made by / O.H.Gibson [sic] / Kalamazoo / 1903.
Bridge: ebony; circles cut through bridge between each course of strings; bridge ends with two decorative scrolls, one on each side.
Tailpiece: nickel-plated steel; later.