Exeter showroom, Strictly by Appointment Only

Martin History

The history of C.F.Martin & Co begins in 1796 when Christian Friedrich Martin, the son of a cabinetmaker and guitar builder and the founder of C.F. Martin & Co, was born in Mark Neukirchen, Saxony, Germany. At 15 he moved to Vienna to work with Johann Stauffer, a highly recognised and important luthier where he developed finer skills in building guitars before briefly also working with a harp builder in the same city. Disputes with the Violin Makers' Guild led C.F.Martin to leave and he and his family moved to New York City in 1833 where the C.F. Martin & Company was established.

In 1838, the business moved to Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Already a successful business, between 1842 and 1843,  C. F. Martin created the earliest X-braced guitar ever recorded. This bracing was to become a key specification in the design of most future guitars. The special X-bracing was made on a guitar for Madame Delores N. De Goñi, whose solo performances were popular throughout the country around this time and her positive feedback, on the superiority of the Martin instruments to any other she had worked with, boosted sales.

From the 1850s on, Martin models began to increase in size and variety. In the early 1900s Martin begin to produce Ukes and also design and build for the Oliver Ditson Company of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Whilst building for this company the first Dreadnought guitar is made to provide greater volume and bass to compete with the variety of other instruments increasingly entering the market. In 1917 Hawaiian guitars are introduced as lap style models and sales continue to increase. In 1929 Martin modifies the Orchestra Model to 14 frets and later calls this the OM-28, which was the first regular Martin guitar designed for steel strings. Many other makers copy this design and as a result of its popularity it becomes the industry standard. In 1931 Martin introduces their own version of the Dreadnought guitar and the Martin original Dreadnought becomes the most copied and popular guitar design in the world. In 1933 Martin custom builds the first D-45 for cowboy star Gene Autry. It becomes one of the most sought-after Martins by collectors and players. Only 91 top-of-the-line D-45s were built before being discontinued in 1942 due to wartime restrictions on materials.

In 1945 Frank Henry Martin retires after managing the company through two world wars, a depression, shortages of materials, while still capitalizing on succession of major musical trends. This knowledge continues into the next century with folk and prominently popular and talented artists taking to stage and screen with a Martin guitar in their hands. Key artists, who helped boost sales include The Weavers, Lonnie Donegan, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley who initially played a 1942 D-18 Martin.

In 1971 Frank Herbert Martin, son of C.F. Martin III, took over the business. He built a new factory and bought the Darco String Company that would eventually become Martin Strings and the Martin Custom  Shop was introduced in 1979. By 1986 Chris F. Martin  IV takes on leadership  embarking on a wide range of custom options, tone woods and use of computer-assisted production to keep in line with their competitors. Martin were also one of the first companies to ensure that all of their wood was CITES Certified and making sure that each guitar they make is responsibly sourced. A variation on the Martin's Backpacker guitar, a miniature Backpacker “Space Guitar” is the first to go into orbit around the earth in 1994 in the Columbia Space Shuttle STS-62. The Signature Series is also launched at this time with the reissue of Gene Autry’s original D-45. A popular technique Martin go on to issue further signature models  throughout the 90s and into the Millennium with more than 100 artists with their own signature guitars based on their input and playing preferences, including the ongoing series of Eric Clapton Signature Editions.

In the 21st Century Martin continue to be favoured by professional artists, producing new signature models and consistently appear in the top 10 of all best acoustic guitar lists and the valuable production-model vintage guitar lists; a clear testament to their quality, unparalleled, inspiring warm tone and unique character. In 2004 the One Millionth Martin guitar was built and in 2019 Martin introduced their brand-new Modern Deluxe Series in four styles: D-18, D-28, 000-28, and OM-2 at Winter NAMM in California. The new series combines all the sophistication and performance you would expect from one of the most revered instrument makers in the world. Martin have never faltered, in almost two hundred years, in their commitment to premier acoustic craftsmanship to create a truly unique playing experience and the Modern Deluxe Series does just that.