A beautiful 1949 Gibson ES-350N, serial #A4308.

Gibson introduced its first electric guitar—the ES-150—in 1936. Its acceptance by influential players like Eddie Durham and Charlie Christian led to the manufacture of both lower- and higher-end models (the ES-100 and ES-250, respectively) over the next few years. These earliest electric guitars were amplified with a magnetic “bar” pickup (later called the Charlie Christian pickup) designed by Walter Fuller. The apex of Gibson’s pre-war electric production was the 17" wide ES-300, which used a long diagonal pickup in an attempt to deliver a more natural acoustic sound.

Gibson’s refinement of the electric guitar was halted briefly during World War II. When production had fully resumed after the war, a cutaway version of the ES-300 was designed called the ES-350 Premier. This guitar was initially equipped with one neck-position P-90 pickup (also designed by Walter Fuller), covered by a black plastic shell. By 1949, a bridge pickup was added and the model became known simply as the ES-350. The ES-350 remained in production until 1956, when it was replaced by the thin-bodied ES-350T.

LEFT: The ES-350N boasted a 17" wide body with two P-90 single-coils designed by Walter Fuller. MIDDLE: This guitar’s truss rod cover is engraved with “Earl,” which helps explain the “EJS” initials on the pickguard. RIGHT: In 1949, if you wanted a natural finish instead of a sunburst finish, you paid a $15 premium.

The natural finished 1949 ES-350 pictured this month perfectly matches the description in the original 1949 Gibson catalog:

• Beautifully figured curly maple body and neck with Gibson Golden Sunburst or selected natural wood finishes.
• Modern cutaway design to make all 20 frets readily accessible.
• Clear, brilliant solos or full, mellow backgrounds by regulated dual pickup amplification.
• Alnico No. 5 magnetic poles individually adjustable for tone balance.
• Gold-plated metal parts offer rich decorative accents.
• Tone and volume controls make possible wide, powerful electronic range.
• Body size 17" wide and 21" long.

Gibson’s elegant natural finish reveals a highly figured curly maple body and neck.

The 1949 list price for an ES-350N was $340, plus an additional $39.75 for a plush hardshell case. The current value is $7,500.

Detailed in-depth information on the ES-350 and other Gibson electric guitars can be found in Gibson Electrics—The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir.

Original price: $340 in 1949, plus $39.75 for hardshell case
Current estimated market value: $7,500

Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text by Braithwaite.