Steel String Martin Hawaiian Guitars
In July of 1916, with Hawaiian music all the rage, the
C. F. Martin Co. shipped six samples each, of Hawaiian koa wood
guitars with appointments generally similar to Martin's styles
0-18, 0-21, and 00-28, to
the Southern California Music Company of Los Angeles, a chain of
Southern California music stores, and one of Martin's largest
accounts. SoCal provided Martin with the koa
wood from Hawaii, and asked that the trim on
these guitars, designed for playing in the
Hawaiian style, be as close as possible to
those of SoCal's popular ukuleles. To appeal to the Hawaiian
market, SoCal asked that the Martin stamp be replaced with the
Southern California Music Company stamp, and affixed decals on
the headstocks bearing the name "M. Nunes & Sons, Hawaii"
and labels inside with either the name "M.
& Sons" or "Rolando". These
early samples had koa wood back and sides and tinted spruce tops, but
after seeing the samples, SoCal decided to offer all koa guitars, and
to market the three models as the 1350, 1400, and 1500. The
first of the new SoCal models was shipped in November of 1916.
These guitars, and those Hawaiian guitars designed
at about the same time for the Oliver Ditson
Company, were the first Martins to be built for steel strings.
And while Martin had previously used fan bracing only for
their gut string guitars in the Spanish Style, and had since switched
it's production to X-bracing, Martin curiously decided to build these
early heavier steel string guitars with braces in the shape of a fan.
The Model 1500, however, for reasons we may never know, has X
As the new edition of the Longworth book says (p. 245) of the
"Hawaiians" first made for the Ditson and Southern California Music
Companies in 1916, and the early Martin 18K and 28K that followed:
"Although called Hawaiian models, the guitars had raised frets and
were often played as regular guitars with steel strings, with a metal
nut adjuster used to convert the guitar for Hawaiian style playing."
A high nut was only added to the "K" models in 1925, with flush frets
listed in the catalog of 1926. A straight saddle was standard on
all Martins until the 1930's. But some from 1926 appear to have
original raised frets.
The "H" models were the first Martin Hawaiians made exclusively with a
high nut and flush frets, including the 17H
introduced in 1927, the 40H
introduced in 1928, and the 18H
introduced in 1937.
"M. Nunes & Sons"
and "Rolando" Models
1350, 1400 and 1500
1916 Model 1400 #28,
1919 Model 1350 #14001, 1917 Model 1500
#181, and 1916 Spruce Top Sample with no
The guitars designed for SoCal had serial numbers of their own.
The Model 1400 shown here, from the very first batch, is number
28. Their numbers started with number 19, apparently allowing
for the eighteen samples which were sent without serial numbers.
The latest Southern California Music Company Hawaiians have
trim similar to a regular Martin, and Martin serial numbers.
While earlier SoCals bear the Southern California Music Company
name on the headstock, later examples have either both the SoCal
and Martin names or the Martin name only.
The early Model 1350 and 1500 examples I've seen have the "Rolando Koa
Wood Guitars" label, while the 1400 has the "M. Nunes & Sons,
Royal Hawaiians" label inside. The later examples have the
Martin stamp inside.
C.F. Martin/Southern California Music Company Model 1400
1916 Southern California Music Company Model
Beautiful original condition variation of a style 21 guitar made for the
Southern California Music Company, and sold as the Model 1400.
From the first batch of production SoCal guitars, this was also
one of the first batch of Martins to utilize all Koa wood construction.
Along with the early Ditson dreadnaught, also made with fan
bracing, this was also one of the first production Martins made
for steel strings.
The pyramid style bridge is a replacemement.
C.F. Martin/Southern California Music Company
1919 Southern California Music Company Model
Fan style braces similar to a Ditson dreadnaught.
Stamped inside, "C.F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, PA"
Stamped on back of headstock "Southern California Music Company, Los
Both the initial samples for the Model 1350 and the earlier 1350 with
the Rolando label have a single ring rosette like some of the guitars
Martin made for others such as Ditson, Wurlitzer, and Foden, but
the later examples with Martin serial numbers have a standard Martin
three ring rosette.
Serial numbers 14001 and 14003.
In 1919, Martin began selling their less expensive
guitars with rounded slots in the headstock. Previously, all
Martins had square slots, a process that took extra time which was in
short supply as as Martin's production was doubling yearly.
Curiously, these two guitars, two serial numbers away and both
from the same batch, have different style headstocks, which is not
surprising if you follow Martin history. No doubt, the necks
were made first, and different styles appeared when the worker reached
into the pile when it came time to attach a neck.
14003 and 14001
C.F. Martin Guitars Hawaiian Guitars Made
for Oliver Ditson & Co.
The "Standard" size Ditson Model 1-21, "Concert" size Ditson
Model 11, and "Extra Large" (Dreadnaught) size Ditson Model 111.
Martin's "Ditson Model"
guitars, with their wide waisted body shapes reminiscent of
early European guitars, were made expressly for the Ditson Stores
and came in three sizes, Standard, Concert, and Extra Large.
The Standard Model has a width at the lower bout of 11 1/8"
The Concert Model has a
width at the lower bout of 12
The Extra Large Model
has a width at the lower bout of 15
The Extra Large model,
requested by Harry Hunt of the Ditson Company, and designed with the
help of Martin shop foreman John Deichmann, became known as
"the Dreadnaught", and was the first Dreadnaught guitar ever
The Ditson Models had their own model designations, and unlike other
Martins, their trim level was designated as 1, 2, or 3, but their
size was designated by the number of digits, ie. 1, 11 or
All of these regular Ditson Models were made with a spruce top and
mahogany back and sides.
Some Ditson Model guitars have either lighter orange tinted tops or
dark stained tops. In some years the stained top was an
While fan bracing is generally associated with lighter guitars made
for gut or nylon strings, the Ditson models have the same style of
fan bracing as seen on the koa wood guitars made for the Southern
California Music Company, which were originally made to be played
with heavier steel strings in the Hawaiian style.
The Models 1, 11 and 111
have dark binding on front, none on the back.
The Models 2, 22 and 222 have white binding front and back.
The earlier Ditson models had bridges
by Lyon & Healy of Chicago with raised flat topped squares on
the wings rather than the pyramids typical of many of the
better vintage Martins.
The 3 and 33 were fancier models which changed a bit through the
years. These had pearl inlaid bridges supplied by Lyon &
Healy, and the earliest examples had fancy fingerboard inlays.
The extra large 333 was catalogued, but none seem to have been
Early Ditson Model 2 #144 and Model 22 #160, both from December, 1916
Early Ditson Model 22 #160 from December, 1916 with
white binding, standard tinted top and Chicago style bridge, and one
from the very last batch of small Martin "Ditson Model" guitars, a Model
11, #565 from January, 1921 with dark binding on top only, optional dark
tinted top and standard Martin pyramid bridge. The Model 111 was
revived in 1923, and 19 more were made between then and 1930, with
standard Martin X bracing replaing the earlier fan bracing.
Ditson also sold guitars which combined the trim levels of regular
Martin Styles with the same small, narrow body shape of the
Ditson "Standard" size, an example of which is the Style 1-21 shown
here. The 1-21 has standard Martin Style 21 trim,
including herringbone design marquetry in the rosette around
the soundhole and in the center strip on the back. Besides the
1-21, this Ditson size was also available as Ditson Models 1-18,
1-28, 1-30, 1-42, and 1-45.
Ditson Model 1-21 #433 from July, 1919 and Model 11 #565 from
Ditson was a large music retailer with
stores in New York and Boston (and earlier in Philadelphia), and was
one of Martin's largest customers, selling guitars
and other instruments, including many mandolins.
Besides the "Ditson Model" Martins, a large number of regular
Martin models, stamped with the C. F. Martin name only,
were sold by Ditson.
A number of the regular Martin models were also sold by
Ditson with the Ditson stamp on the back of the headstock and/or on
the inside center strip. And many other models,
such as the Empire, were
by other manufacturers for Ditson. So finding an instrument
with the Ditson stamp does not necessarily mean you've found a
"Ditson Model" Martin, or even an instrument that was made by Martin
C.F. Martin 1918 000-42
In 1918, Martin made their first two Style 42 guitars in the relatively
new and larger 000 size. While one of the two was a rather
conventional Style 42 in the 000 size, this 000-42 was special ordered
by the Ditson Company in 1918 in the style of Ditson's new Dreadnaught
guitars, which were built for Hawaiian style playing with steel strings.
That makes this guitar a rare example of an extremely early 000
size Martin built for steel strings, as well as a rare example of a
Martin built for steel strings with an ivory pyramid style bridge.
As was true of the early Martin Dreadnaught, and all of Martin's
early Hawaiian steel string guitars built for both the Ditson Company
and The Southern California Music Company, this guitar was built with
fan braces. This guitar was also special ordered with a cloud
shaped pickguard inlaid into the top.
C.F. Martin 1934 00-40H
One of 12 made in 1934. Excellent original condition aside from
conversion from original Hawaiian style.
Abalone pearl border inlaid on the top of the guitar and into the
soundhole ring. 45 style wood marquetry in backstripe.
Back and sides of Brazilian Rosewood, with top of red spruce, and
fingerboard in ebony with abolone inlays.
56430 with 56433
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