Gibson Prewar Upright Bass & Viola

Photo courtesy 'Gibson Guitars 100 Years of an American Icon'

Between 1939 and 1941 Gibson produced basses, cellos, violins and violas. According to 'Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941,' in 1939 'the center of the violin manufacturing universe was located in Europe, specifically in the countries of Germany, France, Italy and Czechoslovakia...Perhaps the political unrest in those areas led Gibson to predict an opening in the market, as instruments from those countries became unavailable...The violin line never sold in great numbers and was quietly dropped at the end of WWII.'

1939 Gibson Violin Announcement

According to the side announcement made by Gibson in 1939 introducing their violin line,

'The long anticipated day has arrived when Gibson can announce a Violin - a reliable American made instrument of known quality and value. Fine violin woods have been saved for years, slowly air-seasoning - a finish has been perfected which insures tonal and visual beauty - violin experts in all parts of the country have been consulted. - and so we announce an American made violin built entirely in the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan - a violin that can proudly bear the name of Gibson.'

Back of Catalog BB 1942 Violin ad

Advertising for violins in Gibson catalogs started with the back page of 1939 Catalog AA (the side photo is of 1942 Catalog BB)....The pink slip is a violin insert found in 1939 Catalog AA. 

Click on Gibson 1939 Upright Bass or Gibson 1940 Viola to view the actual models.

'Gibson Makes Violins' May 22, 1941

A quick excerpt from this 1941 violin announcement,

'When fine woods, expert workmen, and the Gibson tradition are brought together under one roof, there can be only one result - perfection! Under these ideal conditions, the Gibson violin is being produced. From scroll to end pin, every vibrating part and all accessories are designed and created in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A., the home of the Gibson Violin Makers.'

Gibson violin announcement 1939

This page, along with a few more can also be found in my Gibson Catalog section of this website. 


One quick piece of information that comes from 'Gibson Makes Violins', 22 May 1941...Gibson violins, violas and basses have very distinct letter identification which I will list here, partly because this information is difficult to find and I have received several questions about this. The letters are as follows:


V - Gibson Violin

VA - Gibson Viola

VC - Gibson Cello

B - Gibson Bass

C - Violin Case

GB- Violin Bow

GB-V -Viola Bow

GB-C - Cello Bow

GB-B -Bass Bow

Gibson violin announcement 1939

The announcement on the left side of these two documents is the ad that appears on the back of 1939 Catalog AA.

The information spanning Gibson prewar violins and basses was produced for such a brief period, that it is nearly impossible to find any real information in print to this day.

There are more prewar violin documents in the 'Catalog' section of this site; also, the following two instrument catagories, Gibson Prewar Upright Bass and Gibson Viola will help shed more light onto these rarely seen or heard of instruments.

Upright bass photo from 'Gibson System For Guitar' 1939