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Images from the Lillibridge Gallery

NMM 10865.  Guitar by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, 1938.
Century Model L-C (Century of Progress) (14-3/4″).  Factory Order Number 723D.
John R. Barmeyer Collection, 2005.

NMM 10865.  Guitar by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, 1938.

In 1933, Chicago held an extravagant fair rivaling even the 1893 World's Fair, entitled the Century of Progress Exhibition. This event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Chicago, and it "attempt[ed] to demonstrate to an international audience the nature and significance of scientific discoveries, the methods of achieving them, and the changes which their application has wrought in industry and in living conditions." Like the 1893 Fair, the Century of Progress featured numerous temporary buildings, this time in a colorful Art Deco style rather than neoclassical. Dramatically lit buildings housed exhibits about transportation, science, and large corporations like Chrysler. Other attractions included historical reconstructions of Fort Dearborn (1803) and European buildings, as well as open air events such as alligator wrestling. The fair was a fabulous success and it was continued the following summer.

Gibson capitalized on the sensationalism of the event with a new guitar model named in its honor. The Century Model L-C was mostly remarkable for its copious use of white pearloid, a type of celluloid designed to imitate mother-of-pearl. Often called "mother-of-toilet-seat" by today's collectors, during the 1930s this material was considered modern and attention-grabbing.

Inscriptions:  Inlaid in mother-of-pearl on headstock: Gibson
Rubber-stamped in purple ink on neck block, the number 10 written in red pencil: 723D / 10

Front, Side, and Back Views

NMM 10865.  Guitar by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, 1938. Treble side of guitar Bass side of guitar Back of guitar

Front and Back Views of the Body

Front of guitar Back of guitar

Body:  Soundboard:  two-piece spruce: wide grain narrowing toward the flanks. Back:  two, two-piece, semi-slab-cut maple: irregular medium curl, pith flecks. Ribs:  two-piece, slab-cut maple: blister figure; reinforced on interior with linen strips at waist.  Head:  mahogany veneered with white pearloid and T-shaped rosewood piece, bound in white celluloid with black celluloid purfling strip; rosewood inlaid with mother-of-pearl notched diamond and mother-of-pearl Gibson; bell-shaped pearloid truss rod cover secured with nickel-plated, steel, slot-head screws.  Neck:  mahogany; integral with head.

Fretboard, Front and Back of Peghead, Bridge

Fretboard Front of peghead Back of peghead


Trim:  Heel cap:  none. Fingerboard:  white pearloid bound in white celluloid with black celluloid purfling strip; 19 nickel-silver frets; rosewood block inlays behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, and 15th frets; three mother-of-pearl diamonds inlaid in rosewood blocks behind 3rd, 9th, and 15th frets; two mother-of-pearl diamonds inlaid in rosewood blocks behind 5th, 7th, and 12th frets; single imitation tortoise-shell celluloid side dots behind 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 15th frets; double imitation tortoise-shell celluloid side dots behind 12th fret. Nut:  bone. Bridge:  rosewood; angled bone saddle; white plastic bridge pins. Tuners:  six chrome-plated steel Grover worm-gear machine tuners with decoratively cut plate outlines; white celluloid heads. Endpin:  white celluloid. Pick guard:  imitation tortoise-shell celluloid. Lacquer:  dark red-brown sunburst with fine craquelure.

Neck Heel and Soundhole

Neck Heel Soundhole

Inlay:  Binding:  white celluloid. Rosette:  three-ply (white-black-white) celluloid purfling strips set in from inside edge. Back stripe:  none. End graft:  none.

Interior:  Linings:  kerfed maple. Neck block:  mahogany. End block:  mahogany. Top bracing:  spruce X-brace, the joint of main cross brace reinforced with white cloth; transverse and finger braces with tapered ends; maple bridge plate. Back braces:  four spruce back braces with tapered ends. Back graft:  spruce.

Measurements:  Total guitar length:  1006 mm (39-5/8″)
Back length:  492 mm (19-3/8″)
Upper bout width:  292 mm (11-1/2″)
Waist width:  213 mm (8-3/8″)
Lower bout width:  374 mm (14-23/32″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  87 mm (3-13/32″)
Rib height, at waist:  98 mm (3-27/32″)
Rib height, at end block:  110 mm (4-15/16″)
Head length:  167 mm (6-3/8″)
Head width, top:  69 mm (2-23/32″)
Head width, bottom:  56 mm (2-3/16″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  349 mm (13-3/4″)
Neck width, nut:  44 mm (1-23/32″)
Neck width, heel:  56 mm (2-3/16″)
Soundhole diameter:  103 mm (4-1/16″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  high E:  631 mm (24-27/32″); low E:  635 mm (25″)

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