Thanks for stopping by. Have a look around and enjoy the site. If you want to drop me a line you can always write in the guestbook. Thanks, Kevin.

Welcome to my Gibson prewar guitar site. The following pages have been designed to show the efforts of a collection that have taken many years to build.

I have always liked guitars but never imagined that I would collect or even have the interest to build a guitar collection.

The first Gibson I ever bought was a 1952 ES125 (the first guitar I ever owned was an Antares acoustic. In 1991, I begged my mom for it after coming home the night before from a rock concert). At the time, I understood the ES125 was vintage, but had no idea that it was just a regular Gibson student model. It had the basic Kluson strip tuners and P-90 pickup. It played really well, plugged and unplugged. The reason I had purchased it in the first place was that I was trying to learn a new genre of music - jazz, and I heard that a lot of people played '50's ES125's.

Growing up as a teenager in the '80's I gravitated to hard rock and heavy metal. I was familiar with guitar manufacture brands B.C. Rich, ESP, Jackson, Dean, and Ibanez which were played by my favorite bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and Testament. These guitars play fast and loud which is great, but when trying to learn chord shapes and progressions, I wanted something more boxy, something with a little more history. Thus the '52 ES125.

After attending several guitar shows and being exposed to all makes, models, eras and brands, I found that I was most interested in Gibson. Not only because of the many shapes and styles, but because of the company's rich history.

I have a passion for history and started learning that Gibson played a major role in the evolution of the modern guitar.

Original Gibson stock certificate signed by Lloyd Loar on October 5, 1920. Photos of the entire certificate and signature can be found on the Lloyd Loar tab.

Also, please click to see original Virzi Tone Producer.

Removed from an early 1923 Lloyd Loar Master Model 

F-5 Mandolin, is a Virzi Tone-Amplifier. Also known as the Virzi Tone Producer. 

The original owner whom I got this, obtained it from a gentleman who worked for the original Kalamazoo, Gibson Company. With dual U.S. and Foreign patent stamps, this Virzi Tone Producer was removed only after opening-up the mandolin. Although Lloyd Loar did not invent this, with Gibson having exclusive rights, Loar installed these into his signed Master Models. 


1910 Gibson Catalog G

The most amazing fact about Gibson is that they were first to market with the very first electric guitar, the 1936 ES150 (although many sources state that the first ES150's were shipped starting in 1937). Many manufacturers at the time had been working on the idea (the concept of electrifying a guitar had been around since the 1920's) and Rickenbacker marketed the early 1930's 'frying pan' lapsteel; but Gibson was the winner for marketing the first electric guitars.

To learn about Gibson's evolution of their electric pickup just go to First Gibson Electric and Lapsteels.

Another contribution Gibson made to the guitar world came in the early 1920's, when Gibson's Lloyd Loar designed the first f-hole guitar, his Master Model L5. This invention had a major impact in the look and sound of guitar/mandolin manufacture because up until this time, the tops of guitars had only a large sound-hole.

Gibson's influences on stringed instruments began at the end of the 19th century with the founder, Orville Gibson. In the 1880's, Oriville Gibson focused on perfecting his mandolins by carving solid chunks of tone wood into arched tops, backs and sides. This was a revolutionary idea that changed the looks and tone of the centuries old 'bowl' style European mandolins. Orville's concept, A and F style mandolins are two designs that have kept current up to present day. 

In 1902, Orville Gibson sold his concepts/designs for a mere $2,500 to 5 shareholders who started the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co.

Orville Gibson's ideas were not only applied to mandolins, but incorporated into guitar designs, thus producing the first arch top guitars. Click on the Gibson Prewar Archtop Guitar tab and scroll down to see an illustration of how Gibson carved a solid chunk of wood into and arched top masterpiece.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 'Kalamazoo Gals' exhibition, January 23, 2016. Special thanks to Sarah Humes for reaching out for this exhibition.

This site will take you through several instruments and collectibles from the early 1900's to the prewar time, namely 1943 (even though WWII began in 1939 and the U.S. entered on Dec. 8, 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor). 

The prewar era is what I am most interested in namely because Gibson only designed 7 styles of short-lived electric guitars up until about 1943 (check out Gibson Prewar Electric Guitars). After 1943, Gibson instrument production, especially electric production dramatically slowed, if not even halted for some models. Government rationing of wood, metal, etc., along with converting almost all of the Gibson factory to a wartime producer of airplane skids and sub-machine gun parts, forced Gibson to temporarily lose focus on their instruments.

If wartime was not enough, in May 1944 Gibson was acquired by Chicago Musical Instrument Co., changing the name to Gibson Co. By 1945, Gibson models started to be produced again and within the next couple of years, postwar Gibson instruments would have dramatic changes in models, electrictronics and even headstock logos.


 Please check-out the 'Kalamazoo Gals' exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in early 2016. Click 

1910 Gibson Catalog G

The most intriguing evolutionary contribution that Gibson prewar electrics have given modern guitars is how something as simple as a pickup (electrics mounted to the top of the guitar to amplify vibration of the strings) starting off with large magnets and no adjustments (late '30's 'Charlie Christian' pickup) can change to something as compact and highly sought after as a late '50's humbucking PAF and then morph into a strong output EMG humbucker used onstage at a heavy metal concert!


1940 Gibson 10-string EH-185. Only 8 produced.

The following pages of this site are dedicated to my Gibson pieces starting from the early 1900's to 1943. (Eventually I will add some postwar pieces from the '40's and '50's to show Gibson's evolution after the war).

Everything I have written has been backed up by facts and integrated into this site from prewar Gibson catalogsGibson Music booksGibson prewar advertising and brochures. I have also consulted many Gibson books in order to make this site as unbiased and factual as I can (a list of books referenced can be found at the end of this site).

Please note that the Headings in the column to the left, when clicked, will open to more subheadings....thus, take your time through the site. There are a lot of pages.

Although, Gibson made many prewar instruments, you may find that not all of the instruments are listed. Again, this is only my collection. 

In all, I am sharing my passion of vintage Gibson guitars on this site and intend this as a fun site to browse through. I am also a glass artist and silversmith. More can be found about what I create by visiting the about me tab, or going directly to my other website www.kevinmarkdesigns.com . If you have a second, take a moment and let me know what you think in the guestbook! Most of all, enjoy!

Guy Hart accepting Gibson's 1st Army Navy E Award from the US War Department for Gibson's participation in the war effort. Original photo, circa 1944.
The Crescendo & Cadenza Catalogs, 1908.
Gibson 1939 L-5 Premier & Gibson 1940 L-5

NEW FOR 2016: 1940 Super 400 PN

Gibson 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1940 Super 400 Premier Natural.
Coming soon. The above Gibson cellos, violins, viola, bass and bows will complete Gibson's prewar attempts at revolutionizing orchestral instruments.
Gibson's prewar monsters. Above from left; Gibson 1941 Cello, 1918 Style-J Mando-Bass and 1941 Upright Bass.
1937 Roy Smeck 7-String Electric Hawaiian Guitar from A.R. Duchossoir's collection and featured in his book, '1935-1967 Gibson Electric Steel Guitars'.
From Left: Gibson 1939 EM-100, Gibson 1940 ETG, Gibson 1939 EM-150, Gibson 1938 ES-150 and Gibson 1937 H1E Mandola.
1924 Master Model TL-4 Gibson Tenor Lute
Mid-1930's Gibson Mona Steel Store display cabinets.

To view more about Gibson first issue strings, or for Gibson string info please visit the following: Gibson's First Strings

Gibson Prewar Accessories, Gibson Mona-Steel Strings, Mona-Steel String Ads

Gibson's first electric instruments....1935 E-150 & 1935/37 E-150.
Mastertone Players Edition for the steel guitar in E7th tuning. Copyright 1942.
Just added Gibson prewar EH-185's!
New for 2016!!!! 1936 Super 400 (middle). Coming up will be my rare Super 400 Premier Natural(PN). Keep checking back!
WWII Hell's Angels
Published in 1936, Gibson's 'Road To Happiness, A Self Instructor For Guitar', became a great learning tool for young musicians. Note the price change from .50 to .75 cents (uncommon to find this Gibson instruction book with the .75 cent price tag).
Although not a Gibson, this fountain adds a nice touch to the patio, as well as provides a great bath for the local hummingbirds! Check out the little guy right in front of the sound-hole!
Quick view of some of the items that are in this prewar site! Just click here to view Gibson's prewar electrics.
Here are the Gibson Electric Hawaiian Lapsteels you will encounter in my collection. Click the image to go to the directory.
After adding a few more modern electrics to the collection, it was time to add some of my newer pieces for 2016. Click the photo or Modern Electric Guitar tab to see each one individually.
Although the prewar era is my passion, I can't forget guitar evolution and the metal movement. Here is Mr. Hinckles posing next to my Zakk Wylde collection!!
Living in the heart of San Francisco, unbelievably there is still wildlife. Here is a hawk perched on the back patio fountain.
Just because I collect prewar Gibson items doesn't mean I can't collect cool items from my favorite company....Southwest Airlines. Displayed on the wall is a Boeing-737 window and Takamine Southwest Guitar! This is a small tribute to the best employer!

Although prewar guitars are my passion, I have to admit that Halloween is right up there, as well. Here was our Halloween haunt this year, 2018!