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Martin Acoustic Guitars The History Of Martin & Best Prices Online

Updated on February 17, 2013

C. F. Martin & Company

C.F. Martin & Company is a US guitar manufacturer established in 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin. Martin is highly regarded for its steel-string guitars, and is a leading mass manufacturer of flattop acoustics with models that retail for thousands of dollars and vintage instruments that often fetch six figures at resale. The company has also made several models of electric guitars and electric basses.

The company's headquarters and primary factory are in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, located in the Lehigh Valley region of the state. It also manufactures instruments in Mexico. During the year 1900, Martin produced 182 instruments. By the year 2000 that figure had risen to 24,084.

Martin HD28
Martin HD28

C.F. Martin & Company History

Throughout its history, the company has been run by the Martin family. The current chairman and CEO, C.F. 'Chris' Martin IV, is the great-great-great-grandson of the founder. Many characteristic features of the modern flattop steel strung acoustic guitar were first introduced by the firm. Influential innovations include the Dreadnought body style and scalloped bracing. Some time in the 1970s, Martin bought LEVIN guitars, and around 200 D-18's were apparently built in Sweden; they are stamped LD-18

Born in 1796 in Markneukirchen, Germany, C.F. Martin came from a long line of cabinet makers and woodworkers. His father, Johann Georg Martin, had also built guitars. By the age of 15, C.F. Martin was apprenticed to Johan Stauffer, a well-known guitar maker in Vienna, Austria. After completing his training, Martin returned to his hometown and opened his own guitar-making shop. However, he soon became embroiled in a controversy between two guilds.

At that time European craftsmen operated under the guild system. The guitar (in its modern form) was a relatively recent instrument, and most guitar makers were members of the Cabinet Makers Guild. The Violin Makers Guild began to claim exclusive rights to manufacture musical instruments. By filing appeals, the violin makers guild tried on three occasions, the first in 1806, to prevent cabinet makers from producing guitars. In a surviving submission dated 1832, Johann Martin is mentioned.

Although the cabinet makers successfully defended their right to build guitars, C.F. Martin decided that the guild system was too restrictive. In 1833 he moved to New York City, and by 1838 he had moved his business to Nazareth, PA.

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