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NMM 14395.  Mandolin by Orville Gibson, Kalamazoo, 1903.  Style F-2 Artist.
André P. and Kay Marcum Larson Fund, 2009.

Note:  Click on any image on this page to see a larger image.

NMM 14395.  Mandolin by Orville Gibson, Kalamazoo, 1903

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.

Front, Back, and Side Views

Front view of mandolin Bass side view of mandolin Treble side view of mandolin Back view of mandolin

Front, Back, and Side Views of Peghead

Front view of peghead Bass side view of peghead Treble side view of peghead Back view of peghead

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.

Nut:  bone.

Front, Back, and Side Views of Neck
Neck Heel

Front view of neck Bass side view of neck Treble side view of neck Back view of neck Neck heel

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.

Front, Back, Side, and Bottom Views of Body

Front view of body Bass side view of body Treble side view of body Back view of body

Lower end of body

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.

Soundhole, Pick Guard, and Label


Label, View 1 Label, View 2

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 and Later Tailpiece

Bridge, View 1

Bridge, View 2

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.


Total mandolin length:  687 mm (40-7/8″)
Back length from neck heel:  373 mm (21-3/8″); from upper bass rib:  382 mm
Upper bout width at widest point of scroll:  106 mm (12-3/8″); at two points:  182 mm
Waist width:  156 mm (10-1/4″)
Lower bout width:  259 mm (18″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  59 mm (2-5/16″)
Rib height, at waist:  59 mm (2-9/32″)
Rib height, at endpin:  59 mm (2-9/32″)
Head length:  180 mm (6-15/16″)
Head width, top:  105 mm (3-9/16″)
Head width, bottom:  62 mm (2-9/16″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  150 mm (12-1/2″)
Neck width, nut:  31 mm (1-5/8″)
Neck width, heel:  36 mm (2-1/2″)
Soundhole height:  41 mm (3-5/32″)
Soundhole width:  76 mm (5-21/32″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  366 mm (25-21/32″)

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