Samick Motherlode

December 2014
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1917 'The Gibson' Harp Guitar, Style U


Harp guitars, like this one from the early 1900s, are certainly relatives of the modern doubleneck guitar—offering, in essence, two stringed instruments in one, even though it is played as a single instrument. With the exception of a factory refinish that occurred in either the 1940s or 1950s, this excellent example is completely original (sans pickguard), and features Gibson’s iconic script logo on the six-string headstock. The top is crafted from spruce, with a neck made from mahogany and topped by an ebony fingerboard. The back and sides on this particular model are made from birch, which was quite standard for many Gibson models during this time—even though the company routinely advertised its back and sides as being made from maple. All of the tonewoods on this harp guitar are standard for what Gibson used during this period.

This Style U is the most common model of all Gibson harp guitars, and this particular model from 1917 is its most common configuration—10 sub-bass strings (tuned chromatic), and six standard strings (tuned to standard tuning). Earlier harp guitars, some of which were built with 12 sub-bass strings, are considered quite rare and hard to find in good condition. This Style U model measures approximately 45.5” in length, 18.75” in width, with a rim depth of 3.5”. Its scale length is 24.75”, and it weighs approximately 9.5 lbs. In 1917, its list price was $248.21—a pretty hefty price tag for any instrument in its day.