Born on this day in Mark Neukirchen, Germany, Christian Frederick Martin Sr. (1796-1873) was the patriarch of the Martin Guitar Company, the maker of some of the world's finest acoustic guitars for over 170 years.
Martin was as an apprentice of renowned luthier Johann Stauffer, then emigrated to New York City where he opened a workshop/music store. In 1838, he moved his one-man shop to Nazareth, Pennsylvania where for six generations the family has remained, creating beautiful guitars with quality craftsmanship.
"Built like a Martin" became the industry standard. The popular Dreadnought model became the "most copied guitar shape in the world."
Many believe the instrument's unique sound cannot be duplicated. For Hawaiians, the koa Martin ukulele has a sound sweeter than heaven. Hank Williams slung his Martin guitar across his shoulder and changed the landscape of country music. Willie Nelson calls his "Trigger." And a young Elvis Presley used a Martin to create his famous "Sun Sessions" recordings.
Building the guitar, explained Martin's grandson Frank Henry Martin "takes care and patience. Care in selecting the materials, laying out the proportions, and attending to the details which add to the player's comfort. Patience in giving the necessary time to finish every part. A good guitar cannot be built for the price of a poor one, but who regrets the extra cost for a good guitar?"
The process of making a guitar can last from three to six months. With a price tag of over $9,500, today's hand-made Martins are crafted with high quality Brazilian rosewood, mahogany, and ebony. No laminates. The woods, said current CEO Christian Martin IV, "make a Martin guitar sound more like a Martin guitar."
And with time, a Martin is guaranteed to appreciate in value. According to USA Today, the privately-owned company in 2002 sold 77,000 guitars and recorded $77 million in revenue.
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