c. 1872 C.F.Martin 2-27

New York, USA

Born Christian Friederich Martin on January 31st, 1796 in Neukirchen, Saxony, C. F. Martin, was the iconic founder of America’s greatest guitar-making dynasty. His father Johann Georg Martin was a cabinet maker who also crafted guitars. The young Martin carried on the family tradition, working in the workshop of the renowned Viennese guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer and later, pedal-harp maker Karl Kühle.

Date c. 1872
Location Nazareth, PA
Length of Guitar 944mm
String Length 624mm
Upper Bout Width 212mm
Waist Width 174mm
Lower Bout Width 305mm
Side Depth at Waist 92mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Brazilian rosewood| Sides: Brazilian rosewood| Details: tuners by Seidel; ivory bindings, pearl rosette, soundboard x-braced.

Martin left Germany for America in August of 1833 and arrived in early November. His reasons for immigrating may have included frustration with the rigid and powerful craftsmen guilds in Germany which dictated what could be produced and by whom.

Six months later in May of 1834, Martin opened a music workshop at 196 Hudson Street in the Lower West Side of Manhattan. One of his original employees was 18-year-old Louis Schmidt (see the 1852 Schmidt & Maul in this collection) who had immigrated to America with Martin on the steamship Columbus. Martin continued operating in New York City until 1839 before officially moving his business to Nazareth, Pennsylvania not far from his fellow countryman, friend, and sometime collaborator, Heinrich (Henry) Schatz (see the c. 1840 Martin & Schatz guitar in this collection). Schatz had also worked in Stauffer’s Vienna workshop with Martin but had immigrated a few years earlier in or around 1830.

Despite the move to Pennsylvania, Martin maintained a New York distribution presence and briefly worked with Ludecus and Wolter before John Coupa (see the c. 1842 Martin & Coupa in this collection) took over the agency in late 1839. This began a decade-long business relationship with Coupa. When Coupa died in 1850, Martin’s son C.F. Martin Jr. temporarily oversaw the warehouse operations in New York City until an agency agreement with Charles de Janon took effect on January 1, 1851. The company later worked with C.A. Zoebisch & Sons of New York for many years but in 1898 Martin decided to play a direct role in its distribution business and began branding their guitars “C.F. Martin & Co, Nazareth, PA.”

The Martin size-2, style-27 guitar (aka 2-27) in this collection is in excellent condition. First offered in the mid-1850s, the 2-27 had a successful run until its last appearance in the 1898 catalogue. The size-2 was a smaller standard size guitar offered by the company and was marketed as a deluxe model. The “style-27” designation represented the original price of $27 that Martin charged for this instrument.

The 2-27 in this collection has the typical inclusions: Brazilian rosewood back and sides, spruce soundboard, cedar neck, pearl rosette, ivory bindings that continue up the neck to the nut, ebony pyramid-shaped pin bridge, and brass tuners by Seidel. The soundboard is supported by Martin’s signature X-brace with a single tone bar and two finger braces.

Dating the 2-27 requires an educated guess as there is no maker’s date found on the guitar. Martin guitars were typically undated in the nineteenth century. Labels with serial numbers, branding, and physical attributes (materials, shape, bracing, bridge, tuners, adornments, etc.) are most often used to determine an approximate date of manufacture. Using the invaluable Hutton’s Guide to Martin Guitars, we can narrow the window of time when the 2-27 in this collection was built.

It wasn’t until July 20, 1867 that Martin guitars changed the name of their operation and added “& Co.” to the branding of their guitars. The 2-27 in this collection carries the post-1867 brand, “C.F. Martin & Co.” The tuners are by Seidel, not Jerome, and although there was overlap in the use of these brands, the Seidel tuners lean more toward a later – rather than earlier – date. We date the 2-27 guitar in this collection c. 1872.