The History of Gibson

The Gibson history goes back to 1894 when Orville H. Gibson perfected a new design for mandolins which was a very popular instrument at that time.

His parents immigrated from England to the United States and Orville Gibson was born in Chateaugay in the state of New York in 1856. He was working as a clerk in a shoe store but his favorite pastime was wood-working. He was applying the principles of making violins with a carved back and top to the manufacturing of mandolins and guitars.

In 1894 he left his job as a clerk and he started a guitar and mandolin making workshop. His reputation grew fast and in 1899, when Gibson's workshop was in 104 East Main Street Kalamazoo, he received an offer of some local business men to set up a company. Orville accepted and in 1902 the Gibson Mandolin Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd. was founded. Due to the terms of his contract Orville teached the craftsmen of the new company and shared his secrets. Then, in 1916 the construction of a new factory began in Parsons Street, Kalamazoo / Michigan.

Lloyd Loar, a multi-talented person, mandolin player, acoustic engineer, musician, author and composer, joined Gibson in 1919. He refined the carved top design by adding f-holes to guitars and mandolins. The results were the L-5 guitar introduced in 1923 and the F-5 mandolin.

Around 1922 the adjustable metal reinforced truss rod for the neck was patented. This enabled the production of slimmer necks. At the same time Gibson started out to produce its own strings. This period also marked the decline of the mandolin era and the beginning of the banjo era. Therefore, in 1924 the company was renamed Gbson Inc.

In 1926, the first Gibson flat top guitars were presented, in particular the Nick Lukas model. In the beginning of the 1930's the guitar generally became the preferred instrument above all others. Since that time "The" in "The Gibson" logo was omitted. During this decade many remarkable instruments like the Hawaiian guitar, the first classical guitars, L-7, L-10 and L-12 were presented. The biggest novelty surely was the Super Grand Auditorium sized Super 400. Its astronomical price of 400 US$ at that time was simply derived from its name, Super 400

In 1944, Chicago Musical Instruments has taken control over Gibson Inc. and the Sales department went to Chicago but the production and designing stayed in Kalamazoo.

In 1948, Ted McCarty joined the company and became president in 1950. During his presidency many major developments have been made, such as the first Les Paul models in 1952 and in 1958, to fill up the gap between solid and electric spanish guitars, the first semi-solid guitars appeared. The endorsement of Johnny Smith around 1961 is also his merit. To keep up with the ever growing demand of that time, several buildings had been added to the Parsons Street plant. Around 1965 Gibson had its peak in sales due to the boom of solid and semi-solid guitars.

In 1969, on December 22, E.C.L. Industries Inc. has taken control over C.M.I. but for the public Gibson Inc. remained under the control of C.M.I. In 1974, it was announced that Gibson Inc. is now controlled by Norlin. Norlin is a contradiction of H. NORton, president of E.C.L. and M. BerLIN, president of C.M.I. Obviously, the company was ruled by a mainly profit-oriented investor group that tried to repeat the big success of the mid 60ties - but without success.


A new plant was built in Nashville / Tennessee in 1974. At the end of August 1984, Gibson has formally closed the Kalamazoo factory. In 1986 Norlin finally sold the company to three Gibson-ites : H. Juszkiewicz, D. Berryman and G. Zebrowski. Soon thereafter Gibson recovered from the past.

In 1989, Gibson opened a plant for the production of flattop guitars in Bozeman/Montana.

Today, Gibson is a major influential force in acoustic and electric fretted instruments and it consists of two plants, Bozeman and Nashville. The complete manufacturing is exclusively in the United States.


Dieter Staron

Postfach 15333

66978 Deutschland


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