Here is a beautiful and historical early Gibson. This is from the very first year and very first production run by the newly formed Gibson Company, incorporated in October of 1902. No instruments were made by the Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Co. in 1902, as a factory building needed to be acquired and set up, employees needed to be trained, and equipment to manufacture guitars had to be purchased. Orville Gibson was employed to train the new work force, and he was present to build and instruct the new Gibson craftsmen on his designs patented February 1, 1898.
The serial number of this guitar is 2626 and it is the earliest serial number for a guitar built by Gibson in the Gibson serial number database maintained by the Mandolin Archive website. However, I am also aware that other Style O guitars were built at the same time as this one. Serial numbers 2622, 2623, 2625, 2629, and 2630 have been located. Number 2622 was in the Chinery Collection, and 2623 is privately owned and received extensive restoration. 2625 can be viewed at the great website Earlygibson.com. 2629 recently turned up in Philadelphia,and 2630 has also been located, but in distressed condition. All of these Style O guitars with consecutive serial numbers were shipped by Gibson to fill their earliest orders as soon as they came off the production line, probably in late 1903.
This Style O guitar is very loud, plays great, and has a beautiful balanced sound.
Restoration work was done on this guitar in the mid-1970's by Mario Martello, the great San Francisco Bay Area repairman. Two top cracks were expertly repaired and cracks around the end pin hole were reglued. The top and sides were refinished with nitro lacquer. The back of the guitar and neck seem to be oversprayed. The ebony bridge was reglued and, I believe, replaced with a correctly carved reproduction. The top is a one-piece carved spruce top. The back is one piece of walnut, carved to an arch on the inside and flat on the outside. The walnut sides are also carved, not bent, and extend into the lower part of the neck. The back, sides, and neck are stained dark brown. The inside of the body has no bracing, no end block, and no neck block. Where the neck block would be in other guitars is a hole that extends into the partially hollow neck. All of these features are true to Orville Gibson's design, and to his 1898 patent for mandolin and guitar construction.
The paddle headstock is typical of early Gibson instruments, and has the serial number 2626 branded into the side of the headstock. This number matches the number on the paper label visible through the abalone inlaid oval soundhole. The original Grover Champion friction tuners have been replaced by a set of geared banjo tuners. Also, the bridge pins are not original to the guitar. A newer hard shell case is included with this slice of guitar history.