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NMM 4085.  Mandolin by Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company, Kalamazoo, 1917.
Style A-4.  Serial number 35158.
Gift of Doug Douglas, Miles City, Montana, 1986.

The Style A-4 sold for $88.60 in 1917, still significantly cheaper than the most modest Style F, the F-2, at $132.98. Compared to the NMM's 1905 Style A-4, this 1917 example possesses simpler decoration, a raised pick guard, and an extended fingerboard for advanced playing. By the teens, Gibson valued function over form, castigating the earlier fashion for inlaid instruments in the 1912 catalog: Don't Buy an Instrument with Inlaid Erysipelas to Get Recognition, Get an Instrument to Recognize. The 'Gibson' highest-priced instruments are not characterized by empty ornaments, but unqualified tonal supremacy uniformly achieved through extraordinarily selected material, and absolute nicety and exactness in scientific construction as well as different models, graceful in every line, original, and of contours the most artistic. However, changes in models are not made to secure something odd or fantastic, but rather greater efficiency in ease of holding the instrument or in facilitating left-hand technique in higher compass.

Lit.:  Joseph R. Johnson, Mandolin Clubs and Orchestras in the United States (1880-1920): Their Origin, History and Instruments, M.M. Thesis (Vermillion: University of South Dakota, 1987), p. 176.

This mandolin is currently on loan to the Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad, California

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