Christian Frederick Martin PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 August 2010 15:52

Christian Frederick Martin, Sr. German: Christian Friedrich Martin I.

Born: January 31, 1796, Markneukirchen, Germany

Died: February 16, 1873, New York

Age: 77

Notable because: Designed the flat top acoustic guitar and established principles that are now accepted standards in acoustic guitar design.

C. F. Martin was a luthier who specialized in guitars.

Born in Markneukirchen, Germany to a family of cabinet makers, Martin became an apprentice of the guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer of Vienna, Austria.

As a result of a dispute between the Cabinet Makers Guild, of which Martin was a member, and the Violin Makers Guild, Martin moved to the United States in 1833. On arriving in New York City , he set up shop at 196 Hudson Street on the Lower West Side. Martin’s first workshop housed a small production setup in the back room, and a retail music store up front. This shop was the forerunner of C. F. Martin & Company, which is still family-owned and operated, whose current CEO is CF Martin's great-great-great grandson, CF Martin IV as of 2007.

At the insistence of his wife, Ottilie Lucia Kühler (daughter of the Maschinentischler [machine carpenter] Karl Kühler of Vienna), Martin moved the guitar shop iマーチンギターの歴史n 1838 to Nazareth, Pennsylvania where it is still located. 

Martin's guitar construction and design innovations produced a model of flattop guitar that is still in use today

While records of the period were sketchy, it would appear that the young Martin was a gifted apprentice, as he was named foreman of Stauffer's shop shortly after his arrival. After marrying and bearing a son, he returned to his homeland to set up his own shop. Shortly after launching his business in Markneukirchen, Martin found himself caught in an acrimonious dispute between the Cabinet Makers Guild and the Violin Makers Guild.

Martin and his family had long been members of the Cabinet Makers Guild, as had numerous other guitar makers in the area. Looking to limit competition, the Violin Makers Guild sought to prohibit the cabinet makers from producing musical instruments. Attempting to receive an injunction against the cabinet makers, the Violin Guild launched an abusive rhetorical campaign, declaring: "The violin makers belong to a class of musical instrument makers and therefore to the class of artists whose work not only shows finish, but gives evidence of a certain understanding of cultured taste. The cabinet makers, by contrast, are nothing more than mechanics whose products consist of all kinds of articles known as furniture." Slandering the work of the cabinet makers, the Violin Guild added: "Who is so stupid that he cannot see at a glance that an armchair or a stool is no guitar and such an article appearing among our instruments must look like Saul among the prophets."

In defending their right to manufacture guitars, members of the Cabinet Makers Guild asserted that "violin makers had no vested right in making guitars" and that "the discovery of the guitar" had been brought about 35 years ago and had been completed by the cabinet maker George Martin, father of Christian Frederick Martin. In supporting their claim before local magistrates, the cabinet makers submitted testimony from a noted wholesaler, who declared, "Christian Frederick Martin, who has studied with the noted violin and guitar maker Stauffer, has produced guitars which in point of quality and appearance leave nothing to be desired and which mark him as a distinguished craftsman."

While the cabinet makers successfully defended their right to manufacture guitars, the drawn battle took its toll on C. F. Martin. Concluding that the guild system severely limited opportunities in Germany, he made the decision to emigrate to the United States, and on September 9, 1833, he left his homeland for New York City.

On arriving in New York, he quickly set up shop at 196 Hudson Street on the Lower West Side. Martin's first establishment on these shores was a far cry from the company's current 84,000-square-foot factory staffed by nearly 500 employees. His modest storefront housed a limited guitar production set-up in the back room, as well as a retail store selling everything from cornets to sheet music.

Given the limited output of guitars and the immaturity of the music market in 1833, distribution of Martin guitars was a haphazard affair in the early years. To augment the sales of his retail store, C. F. Martin entered into distribution agreements with a variety of teachers, importers, and wholesalers, including C. Bruno & Company (operating today as a subsidiary of Kaman), Henry Schatz, and John Coupa. Consequently, a number of Martin guitars manufactured prior to 1840 are labeled "Martin & Schatz" and "Martin & Coupa."

Accepted business practices in the early days of Martin's retail and manufacturing operation were far removed from today's methods and reflected a simpler society. Barter was common in the retail trade. C. F. Martin's personal records contain numerous entries of trading musical merchandise for everything from a case of wine to children's clothing. New York City's teeming Lower East Side was a harsh environment that was a world apart from the pastoral Saxony where Martin and his family grew up. Correspondence between Martin and his close friend and business associate, Henry Schatz, revealed that he never felt truly at home in New York and longed to move. In 1836, Schatz moved to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, purchasing a 55-acre tract near Nazareth. When C. F. Martin's wife paid a visit to Schatz and his family, she developed an instant affinity for the tranquil Pennsylvania countryside. Upon returning to New York, she exerted what must have been considerable influence and prompted her husband to make the big move to Nazareth. Thus, in 1838, Martin sold his retail store to another music dealer by the name of Ludecus & Wolter and purchased an eight-acre tract on the outskirts of Nazareth. He had obviously found what he wanted, for he spent the remainder of his life there.

The following years were a period of significant development for C. F. Martin & Company guitar makers. In addition to products sold by Ludecus & Wolter in New York, company records indicate that numerous shipments were made to the then centers of trade, which were primarily shipping posts and those cities served by the canal system, since the railroad had yet to evolve. Martin's shipping recorMartin Guitarsds made frequent mention of sales in Boston, Albany, Philadelphia, Richmond, Petersburg, Nashville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and New Orleans. Business in the period was obviously satisfactory, for in an advertisement in 1850 the company declared, "C. F. Martin, Guitar Maker, respectfully informs the musical public generally that the great favor bestowed upon him has induced him to enlarge his factory, in order to supply the increasing demand for his instruments."

 The early Martin guitars were totally hand-crafted products, made on a one-by-one basis, and there was little standardization. However, there were a few features that commonly incorporated in most of C. F. Martin's instruments. Until the mid-1840s, Martin guitars were characterized by a headstock that had all the tuning keys on one side. Martin acquired this design from his teacher in Vienna, Johann Stauffer. The headstock design with all the tuning keys on one side was discontinued by Martin and went unused until Leo Fender resurrected the design in 1948 with his Telecaster guitar.

Another feature of the early Martin guitars was an adjustable neck. A screw mounted in the back of the heel of the neck was extended into the neck block. At the top of the dovetail (where the neck joins the body) there was a wooden fulcrum about which the neck could pivot up and down. With the strings attached, the neck could be adjusted via a clock key inserted into the heel. While the adjustable neck allowed the player to adjust the playing actions of the guitar, the device was complicated and prone to slipping under full string tension. So gradually, Martin phased out this unique neck adjustment.

The 1850s also witnessed one of C. F. Martin's major design innovations, the "X" bracing system for the guitar top. Still in use today on all steel-string Martin guitars, the bracing system is largely responsible for the distinctive Martin tone, characterized by brilliant treble and powerful bass response.

Martin Bucer's Ground and Reason: English Translation and Commentary

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Manufacturer: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
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C. F. Martin and His Guitars, 1796-1873 (H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series)

Author: Philip F. Gura
Manufacturer: The University of North Carolina Press
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Gura is the first historian to study thoroughly the Martin company records dating back to the 1830s: letters, account books, inventories, and other documents. Using this rich archive, he establishes how a German immigrant from Saxony's guild tradition became the finest American guitar maker of his time and created a uniquely American business that successfully eclipsed its competition.

As Gura shows, Martin's success was based on his astute navigation of the rapid economic expansion and industrialization of his time. Martin adapted his artisanal craft to modern industrial methods, maintaining quality while meeting increased demand. After Martin's death in 1873, the company continued to grow, and it thrives today, producing instruments that are still the most sought after in the world.

With more than 175 illustrations, many of them in color, this book is a handsome and entertaining history of the nineteenth-century American music trade told through C. F. Martin's innovation and vision.



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Last Updated on Monday, 23 August 2010 16:03
 

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