The story of Gibson begins when the founder Orville Gibson made the 10 string, which is a part of the Gibson Collection. He invented two new mandolins, which were the F (scroll body) and A (teardrop body). He also made an archtop guitar. The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., LTD. was formed in 1902.
The mandolins made by Orville were superior to the competitors. There was such a high demand for the instruments that the company could not keep up. For $2500, five Kalamazoo businessmen bought the rights to his name and patent. Orville Gibson was a consultant for a while but did not get along with the board of managers and sold his stock in the company.
Gibson dominated the mandolin orchestra world from 1903-1918. The kept making great improvements to the mandolin such as making them smaller, with a rounded back and elevated pick guard.
Ted Mcllugh, an employee at Gibson invented the height-adjustable bridge and adjustable truss rod in 1921. These inventions made the modern guitar evolution possible. The ultimate mandolin was designed by Lloyd Loar. It was the F-5 with f-holes, a longer neck, tone bars and a hand-tuned top. He then invented the L-5.
When the Great Depression hit, Gibson branched out into making toy instruments.
In 1934, the Advanced L-5 and Super 400 were introduced. An instrument that was regarded as the pinnacle of arch top design was the 18” wide super 400, created by Gibson. The first Gibson electric was introduced in 1935 and then the first Spanish electric was introduced.
Ray Whitley who was a singing movie star ordered a super-large flat top and this gave rise to the J-200. This instrument went into production in 1938. For many country players, the J-200 is still the standard.
Gibson was purchased by Chicago Musical Instrument Co. in 1944. The company’s production and profits skyrocketed. At the same time they lend the industry in the development of electric arch tops when they perfected the P-90 pickup. Many more innovative products were introduced in the next couple years.
Ted McCarthy was an engineer who did not know how to play the guitar. He became company president and invented the tune-o-matic bridge, which remains the standard bridge on Gibson guitars even today. Over the next several years the labor force and sales of Gibson continuously increased.
The first solid body was introduced in 1952. The Les Paul Model was introduced and since then there have been over 40 models. Around 1957, Gibson acquired Epiphone.
When they introduced the new line of Epiphones, their dealer base increased. Gibson was no able to offer many guitars at a lower price. The ES-335 was introduced in 1958. This is a semi-hollow design, which became one of the most successful electric guitar era concepts.
ECL took over Gibson and ECL became known was Norlin. Gibson continues to be created and offers some reissues of former designs. They offer innovative designs in the B.B. King models. They also introduced the first Chet Atkins solid-acoustics. The company did begin experiencing problems and it was purchased by . Henry Juszkiewicz and David Berryman.
The purchase of Gibson from Norlin had a positive impact on the company. There are several acquisitions in the next few years. Gibson experienced a growth period. In the early 90’s there is a growing interest in vintage instruments and some replicas of instruments were made.
When Gibson celebrated their Centennial, they introduced the Nighthawk which one an award for Most Innovative Guitar. Gibson has continued to diversify over the years. They have many brands that they own and their own unique touch. Their instruments can be found in bands throughout the world.