Gibson Prewar Electric Guitars 1936-1943 (Only 7 models)

1941 Gibson ES150 guitar and amplifier

Gibson electrical instruments were one of the first revolutionary steps in the evolution of electric instruments today. Rickenbacher created the first marketable electric, the 'frying pan' lapsteel, in the early 1930's. By furthering the electric pickup design, Gibson was able to innovate and become the first to market with the very first electric guitar in history, the 1936 ES150.


Gibson's first electric, however, was the E150. A cast aluminum body lapsteel shipped in late November 1935-early Spring 1936.


The following prewar instruments are the ES models. ES is short for 'Electric Spanish'. These models were designed from 1936-1943. Once the U.S. entered the war in December 8, 1941, production of Gibson electrics slowed in their evolution until the end of the war. The 7 prewar electric models are:


1936-1939 ES150 with 'Charlie Christian' bar pickup

1937-1939 ES100 with 'Charlie Christian' bar pickup

1939-1940 ES250 with 'Charlie Christian' bar pickup

1940-early 1941 ES300 long slant pickup and adjustable polepieces

1941-1943 ES300 short slant pickup and adjustable polepieces

1940-1943 ES100 new metal covered pickup with adjustable polepieces (name changed to ES125)

1940-1943 ES150 new metal covered pickup with adjustable polepieces  


Between 1941-1943 several Gibson models were not given FON, factory order numbers (serial numbers were reserved for higher end models), thus dating can be tough. There are not a lot of references for dating these precious instruments, but using preexisting appointments helps. 


An easy way to date many prewar instruments, in general is by using the FON. In 1935, FON, (factory order numbers) started with the letter A. Letters were then assigned for each consecutive year up to 1943. Thus, A=1935, B=1936, C=1937, ETC. Most the lettering stops at 'I', 1942, but I have heard of instruments made up through 1943. 

Please browse through the next few pages and enjoy the photos and information.



A complete description of the evolution of Gibson's electric pickups, used in their prewar electric guitars can be found on page: First Gibson Electric & Lapsteels

Catalog Descriptions of Gibson's 7 Prewar Electric Guitars

1939 Catalog AA (ES 150 & ES 250)
1939 Catalog AA (ES 100)
Oct. 1, 1940 Supplement to Catalog AA (ES 300)
Oct. 1, 1940 Supplement to Catalog AA (1942 Catalog BB, ES100 changes to ES125) ES 100 & ES 150
1942 Catalog BB ES 300