An early Martin small-bodied acoustic

When someone refers to acoustic guitars, few names resonate like Martin. Martin guitars have been in the hands of everyone from Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams to Eric Clapton and Beck. The historic Nazareth, Pennsylvania-based company—formerly of New York City until 1839—has helped write some of America’s most important songs and shape integral musical genres during the 20th century. But Martin’s guitar history in the 19th century was a bit murkier.

Acoustic historians highlight 1898 as an important year because Frank Henry Martin—grandson of C.F. Martin and then owner and CEO—introduced the serialization process still used on Martin’s guitars. According to the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Martin estimated that 8000 guitars had been built between 1833 and 1898, so he commenced the serialization with number 8000—and it still continues today. One of those 8000 guitars is this 1890s Martin 0-28 flattop.

It’s a 0 concert body size with a 28 Series styling. The 0-28 was the smallest in the 28 Series, while the dreadnought D-28 is currently the largest. It has Brazilian rosewood back and sides with a solid spruce top. The cedar neck matched with an ebony fingerboard and has an ice cream cone-style volute at the 12th fret neck joint. The body features herringbone purfling and a stripe on the back, ivory binding, and a C.F. Martin & Co., New York stamp on the inside of the body.

During this period all of Martin’s guitars were built in the Nazareth shop, but up until 1897 the company still had financial ties with their New York sales agency. While the pre-1898 guitars aren’t sought after or revered as much as the pre-war 1930s flattops, this 0-28 is still a pretty unique instrument.

A special thanks Jeff Sadler of for sharing his photo of this antique Martin.

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