Gibson 1937 H1E Electric Mandola

1937 Gibson H1E Mandola
The very first Gibson electrical instruments ever produced.

The above photo includes: 1938 ES150 (back lft), 1937 H1E Mandola (back mdl), 1940 ETG150 (back rt), 1935 E150 (lft), 1938 ETB150 (rt), 1936 EH150 (frnt).

The 1937 H1E is an instrument that is rarely seen. There is no mention of it in any Gibson catalog, brochure or print ad. There is only one sentence from the Vintage Guitar Price Guide that states they were produced in very small numbers and only in 1938(although this unit's FON has a 'C' for 1937).

In 1935, after the very first E150 was produced, Gibson began its race to electrify all of their instruments. The above photo will show what Gibson had created by the late 1930's.

Later, on this page, one can see that the electric mandolin, EM150, was produced and cataloged. From the photo above, the Mandola was electrified, but there may not have been much demand for it. Thus the low numbers made. Nonetheless, it is beautiful instrument and integral to the evolution of Gibson's first electrics.

Gibson's Mastertone System For Steel Guitar, 1940. Instruments pictured: Gibson budget brand Kalamazoo Electric Spanish Guitar, EM150 and EH150.

The above photo comes from Gibson's 1937 Catalog X. To view all Gibson catalogs, go to Gibson Catalogs. Catalog X is the first catalog to advertise the all new ES150, which was actually introduced in 1936. It also mentions several more electrics, EH150, EH150 amp, and ES150. No mention of the ES100, ETB150, or ETG150. The only mention of an electric mandolin is from sentence in the above ad 'Electric Mandolins-Write for Complete Information'.

Because electrics were just getting started, the above ad also mentions the 'Slip-On Amplifier Unit For Any Carved Top Guitar; ES85 Model'. This unit can be seen pictured on the left guitar, two photos above.

Instruments from left: EM100, EH100 and ES150.

The above image comes from Gibson's Mastertone System For Steel Guitar, 1940. This was one of Gibsons music teaching courses. It came in 4 parts, each part containing 12 pieces of lessons in sheet music in varying difficulty. The four parts were colored peach, blue, magenta and orange. To view all of Gibson's teaching methods, visit Gibson Music Books.

Gibson 1937 Catalog X.
The first mention of electric mandolin EM150 in 1937 Catalog X.

This is quite a rare instrument to come across. As stated earlier, the only reference that I can find is from the Vintage Guitar Price Guide, which does have a listing for a 1937 Gibson H1E Mandola. I asked an expert, Joesph Spann for his thoughts and he replied...


'I can find no mention of a pre-war Gibson model 'H-1E' anywhere in the catalogs, dealer price lists or factory shipping ledgers (1935-1951). What I do see is shipping ledger entries like the following:

25 Sep 1936 - 'EM-85 in H-1'

1 Dec 1936 - 'EM-85 in H-4'

9 Dec 1936 - 'EM-85 in H-0'

And so on and so forth.


Therefore, I do not believe there was ever a specific pre-war Gibson electric mandola model designation. It appears that they simply handled the electric mandolins under their regular designation and added the electric pickup system number (EM-85).'


This is great information because one can question, 'how many mandolas were given an electric pickup system?' I will continue to research this topic, as I have found, this is the fun part about  learning the history of prewar Gibsons!

Gibson H1E Mandola
Pick guard removed

Style H-0 Mandola Vs. The Electric Mandolin, EM150

Style H-0 Mandola pictured in 1939 Catalog AA. A bit larger than the electric mandolin, EM150. Note the 19 frets on the rosewood fingerboard and that the neck meets body at the 9th fret.

The body is also 3/4" wider than the EM150. This photo matches exactly to the H1E Mandola that is featured on this page, sans the Charlie Christian pickup unit.

Description of Style H-0 Mandola. Gibson Catalog AA, 1939.
Catalog AA, 1939.
Late '30's EM150. Taken from Gibson Catalog AA, 1939.
Description of EM150. Note the EM150 has 20 frets, the Mandola has 19 frets. EM150's body is also "3/4 smaller.
Kluson 4 on 1 strip tuning gears.
'PAT. APPLD FOR'. Kluson strip tuners.
Tail piece. Note 2 strings per note (D,G,B,E)
19 frets.
Small peek at the original '30's capacitor and tone pot inside the bass f-hole.
Under the extra layer of lacquer that was applied sometime in the past 70 years is the serial #. Starting with a 'C' for 1937, the other #'s are difficult to make-out.