Gibson Prewar Orchestral Collection

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."

Above is Gibson's Orchestral Collection of instruments and bows. Each piece has its own tab for thorough viewing. It has taken almost ten years to find these pieces, but the photos will provide a rare glimpse into Gibson's short lived ('39-'42) orchestral
1939 Gibson Violin Announcement

According to the above original announcement, Gibson introduced their violin line in 1939. This line would consist of an assortment of violins from student grade, V-15 to advanced grade, V-100. The VA-43 viola, cello and upright bass were also available in both cermona brown and the all new blonde. Below is the excerpt from this announcement:

"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 above 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

Below is a brief excerpt from Gibson's 1941 violin announcement (above):

"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. 


Gibson Violins, Violas, Cellos and Basses have very distinct letter identification which is listed below.


Gibson Violin Designation

          Gibson Violins

V-15 Violin

V-15 3/4 Violin

V-25 Violin

V-30 Violin

V-50 Violin

V-55 Violin 

V-100 Violin

           Gibson Violas

VA-42 Viola

VA-47 Viola

           Gibson Cellos

VC-110 Cello

VC-125 Cello

           Gibson Basses

B-125 Bass

B-135 Bass

B-250 Bass

B-300 Bass

There tends to be a lot of confusion and misinformation about Gibson Violin designation on the internet. I have observed countless times violins designated as V-15, for example, to be touted as "highly advanced". Unfortunately, a V-15 would be only a student model and the starting rung for a Gibson Violin. 

Please note the information presented to the left is direct from the brochure, "Gibson Makes Violins", May 22, 1941.

Please take the time to view each tab on this site that is dedicated to Gibson Orchestral Instruments. The core of the collection is represented and should help you understand the craftsmanship behind Gibson's Violins, Violas, Cellos, Basses and Bows.  


Gibson violin announcement 1939

The announcement on the left side of the above two flyers is the exact 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.

Gibson was not the only U.S. prewar company trying to take advantage of the 'European violin drought'. Above is a wholesale brochure carrying Stradivarius-like violins by "Arno Hendel".
Upright bass photo from 'Gibson System For Guitar' 1939. Next to the bass is the infamous ES-150. Other instruments include two Gibson Ukes and an EH-150 with matching amplifier.
From left: Gibson V-100 Violin, V-42 Viola and V-25 Violin.
Gibson 1942 & 1942 Cello VC-110.