Gibson (used, 1916) Style A-1 mandolin

Tag No 32-3982 Used

#30334, natural finish, in excellent original condition with original hard shell case.

This is a nice, clean example of a standard model mandolin – it has all five of its original components – tuners, elevated celluloid pickguard bearing a March 30, ’09 patent stamp, having the original adjustable side clamp bearing the July 4, 1911 patent stamp; having the original ebony bridge with removable saddles, and having the original slide-on engraved “The Gibson” tailpiece cover.   It shows typical string changing marks on the headplate, which is inlaid “The Gibson,” an ivoroid bound ebony fingerboard that is inlaid with six mother of pearl dots in 5 positions, having an ivoroid bound oval soundhole, which is surrounded by twin rings of “rope” style wooden marquetry.  It shows normal very light scratches, dings and signs of use, including a surface scratch on the bass side.   

 

Here’s a very interesting and unique side note to the description:  On the inside lining of the lid of the case is written in black “Art Nelson, Kane, PA, Co. E., 16th PA.”   This was the father in law of the person from whose home this mandolin derives.  We understand that Kane, PA is out west, near Erie.   We presume that this was World War I since the mandolin is from 1916.  This written remnant of a century past refers to his military company.

 

Few mandolins are as straight-forward and traditional (or as fine sounding) as a prewar Gibson A-1.   It measures 25 1/2” in length, not counting the end pin, and 10 1/8” in width at the widest part, and sports a large central oval soundhole that, itself, measures 2 ½” in the horizontal and 1 ½” in the vertical, with an elevated faux tortoise shell fingerrest (more commonly called “pickguard”) on the right hand side of the soundhole and bridge, a “floating” ebony bridge, and, at the bottom of the face, there is that charming slide-on nickel-plated tailpiece cover that’s etched “The Gibson” with a floral pattern.  

 

 The black ebony fingerboard sports 20 frets and is bound on three sides in grained ivoroid.   Said ‘board is inlaid with six mother of pearl dotmarkers in 5 fret positions (5, 7, 10, double dot on 12 and 15).  The finish is original – being tawny pumpkin color for the carved, arched and wide-grain spruce top.   The back of the neck is mahogany and three-piece with a center stripe of pearwood.   Its original ebony strap button with the mother of pearl dot resides in the expected place on the bottom side.   On the Style A-1 the top is bound in crème ivoroid, but not the back or the neck; the ebony headplate is inlaid “The Gibson” in script mother of pearl; the oblong orifice is ringed with crème ivoroid. Outside of that there are twin concentric purfling rings of crème and black parallelograms, circumscribed in black, separated by spruce.

 

The model A-1 is preceded in the line by the “straight” and plain A-, which has no “The Gibson” headplate inlaid logo – just a black headplate.   Later on, in 1920 Gibson added a no-frills model called A-Jr. which lacked the engraved tailpiece cover.  So- this is the third in the line of 6 models, technically.  Following the A-1 is the A-2 which had back binding, the A-3 which had a squiggle of pearl in the headplate and the fancy A-4 which was deluxe with a fleur-de-list headstock inlay and fancier components.     This, the  A-1, features that “The Gibson” script pearl inlaid headplate logo in a polished ebony overlay, original four-on-a-plate open-gear tuners with ivoroid buttons, an ebony fingerboard with 6 mother of pearl dotmarkers, twin rings of “rope” wood marquetry comprise the soundhole rosette, “The Gibson” and floral etched slide-on tailpiece cover, ebony bridge with removable saddles.

 

The back and sides on this era Gibson A-style might still be birch – at some point they changed the spec to maple, and the top is carved of high grade spruce, possibly Adirondack. This is a wholly original and extremely handsome instrument, and one suitable for another hundred years (or so, give or take a few weeks) of professional or semi-professional performance.   

 

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