Gibson 1941 Viola VA-42
'The Gibson Violin Family'
According to 'Gibson Makes Violins' brochure:
"All Gibson Violins are the same size, shape and design, regardless of the price; except the three-quarter size. They are fashioned, to a great extent, after the Stradivarius of 1692 and to this is added Gibson traditions, experience, and resources. All necks, backs and rims are of Northern Maple; all tops are of fine grained Upland Spruce; all accessories and parts are made of the finest materials, already proven best for the purpose. Each violin carries the Gibson Guarantee; and remember, all woods are air-seasoned by Gibson."
Please note the text below is from the original 1941 Gibson brochure. The Gibson prewar violin/viola mixup occurs over and over online. For example, a Viola labeled (printed on the inside of the body) VA-50 was up for auction earlier this past year. This is misleading, as VA does signify a Gibson Viola, but VA-50 does not exist. The interesting part was that there were no numbers written after the VA-50 for factory designation. If one reads the paragraph below, it is quite obvious that Gibson did not create a VA-50 viola. However, Gibson did build the V-50 violin. I have scoured the internet for years looking at prewar labels and have yet to find a V/VA lettering missing numerals after the designation.
One logical suggestion would point out the fact that by 1941 U.S. manufacturing was beginning to move towards the war effort. Since rationing effects were slowly taking effect and limited instruments were being manufactured, perhaps the above VA-50 was hastily printed on the label in lieu of V-50. Or, perhaps the VA-42 and V-50 were 'mashed' together into one simple designation and the following factory numbers were mistakenly not printed. The point is, Gibson did not keep as indepth records on its orchestral line as it did on its other projects. Thus, there is a vagueness that coincides with Gibson's line of violins, violas, cellos, basses and bows.
More information can be found on the introduction page Gibson Prewar Violin & Bass and Gibson Catalogs.
Because there is not much information about Gibson prewar violins and violas, I asked Joe Spann if he could help on this topic. He replied,
"Since instruments could also be purchased at the factory and were therefore not tracked in the shipping ledgers, it is probably safe to estimate a total production of around 450."
It appears that this number would not be very significant if one were to include all of Gibson's Violins, Violas, Cellos and Basses. Thus, most of these prewar orchestral pieces are not very common.
'Gibson Makes Violins'
May 22, 1942
"Only A Gibson Is Good Enough".
"It is with pride that we present to you, the Gibson Violin. Every violin is fully guaranteed so that you are assured of perfect satisfaction. The Maple and Spruce used in Gibson Violins come from the forests of the North. In cold climates, trees grow slower and the wood fibres are, therefore, more closely knit which means they are strong and resilient; and will retain their elasticity with years of usage.
Every piece of wood must be of just the right quality and texture for violin construction; then it is air-seasoned in our own yards for years and years before put in work. After months in process of construction; the violin finally reaches the finish room where it remains at least three full weeks. The finish must be of such materials, and applied in such a way as to bring out the beauty of the wood and at the same time seal in the moisture and preserve the wood fibres to assure everlasting response."