The history of guitar involves some great legacies which had humble beginnings. One of these is Martin Guitars, one of the largest and most respected of acoustic guitar makers. This article briefly details the life of founder Christian Frederick Martin, and early history of the company.
The C.F. Martin & Company was established in 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin. Martin was born in Germany and came from a long line of cabinet makers and woodworkers. In his early years, he worked under luthier Johann Staufer in Vienna. After completing his training, he married and started a family, returning to his hometown of Markneukirchen to open his own shop.
He became embroiled in a dispute between the Violin Makers Guild and Cabinet Makers Guild. Looking to limit competition, the Violin Makers Guild sought to prohibit the cabinet makers from producing musical instruments, arguing that the cabinet makers could not produce quality instruments that reflected a cultured taste.
The Cabinet makers argued successfully that the violin makers had no exclusive rights in making guitars. Christian Frederick Martin was himself cited as an example of a craftsman who had studied with the noted violin and guitar maker Stauffer and who's work was of outstanding quality
Concluding that the guild system severely limited his opportunities, Martin moved to the United States, settling first in New York and then in Nazareth Pennsylvania. The early models were hand-crafted products, made on a one-by-one basis, and reflected his European background. The Martin guitars from this period featured an asymmetrical headstock with all the tuning keys on one side, similar to models produced by Johann Staufer, his schoolteachers was discontinued during the mid 1840s and was not really reflected in guitar design again until Leo Fender produced the Telecaster in 1948.
In the 1850s, the company developed one of its best technological innovations for the guitar, the X-bracing system on a model known as the N20. This bracing gave the instrument structural integrity without compromising the resonance and tone. This design is still in use today on all steel-string Martin guitars.
In 1859 the business had expanded so much that the original one-man operation now employed over a dozen craftsmen. The home-based workshop was superseded by a factory that still stands today and is used by the company as a warehouse and shipping location.
C. F. Martin, Sr, died on February 16, 1873 he was succeeded by his son, 48-year-old Christian Frederick, Jr.