c. 1860 Klemm & Brother

Germany & Philadelphia, US

Saxony was a major hub for the manufacture and export of musical instruments during the nineteenth century. The region was a treasure trove of natural resources, especially for the tone woods used in the luthier trade.

The Klemm family of Markneukirchen established outlets in America, likely to disintermediate the supply chain, and sell German-made instruments directly to their clients. Like C. F. Martin who left Germany for America over a decade later, the Klemms presumably wanted to escape the rigid restrictions imposed by the German luthier guilds.

Date 1860
Location Germany & Philadelphia
Length of Guitar 927mm
String Length 623mm
Upper Bout Width 221mm
Waist Width 182mm
Lower Bout Width 300mm
Side Depth at Waist 92mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Brazilian rosewood | Sides: Brazilian rosewood | Details: An ornate presentation guitar.

Performance Video


Johann Georg Klemm and his brother Frederick opened their first shop in 1819 at One, North 4th Street in Philadelphia, selling instruments made in Germany. They later opened a piano factory in 1825, and in 1831 became Klemm & Brother. Besides importing pianos and brass instruments, they made and marketed their own flutes and guitars.

Klemm & Brother supplied C. F. Martin & Co. with tuning machines and strings in the 1860s, and also sold Martin guitars. They ran their business from various addresses, but they were located at 705 Market Street from 1857–1880, during the time when the Klemm & Brother ornate presentation guitar in this collection was likely made.

It is difficult to establish if the c. 1860 Klemm & Brother guitar was imported by the Klemms from Germany or made in Philadelphia by German emigrants. The German design suggests the former. The tuning machines, of unknown origin, are inlaid into the side of the head – a typical German design. It has a German “V” neck-to-head joint with back and sides made of Brazilian rosewood.