Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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Double bowlback mandolin 1903 - L. Johnson -  US 738,811 I've stumbled across a variety of unusual and innovative guitar patents in my r...

Early Pre-War Guitar Patents

Double bowlback mandolin
1903 - L. Johnson - US 738,811

I've stumbled across a variety of unusual and innovative guitar patents in my research and have compiled them into a list here in hopes that they would be interest for some folks. They may inspire interesting historic builds or perhaps someone owns an example of one of these instruments that was actually built. 

1854 - W. H. Towers - US 10,934

Towers' guitar features bridge pins with a hole through them, instead of a solid wood pin, which is hollowed out to the gauge of the string that it accepts. This may be the precursor to the slotted bridge pin design. He claims it reduces wear on the strings and improves the sound of the instrument. The two middle bridge pins extend all the way to the back of the instrument to act like a soundpost in a violin and improve the tone of the instrument.

1873 - G. D. Reed - US 145,241 

Reed patented a guitar constructed from sheet metal for the back and sides and a wood top

1886 - R. F. Flemmings Jr - US 338,727

I struggle to understand exactly what is going on with this drawing due to the complex nature of the instrument and the excessive shading. But I can see that this instrument is braced like a tank in an attempt to build a solid instrument that would not collapse under string tension. Reading the text of the patent is an interesting view into his mind where every weak area in the instrument was reinforced with wood or metal strips, bolts, or some other device. It certainly sounded terrible.

1895 - G. Almcrant

1895 Patent by Gerhard Almcrantz [1]

Gerhard Almcrant, a Swedish immigrant living in Chicago, devised an instrument with a large thumb screw that passes through the neck block and into a threaded insert in the neck heel. The joint is still a conventional dovetail but the screw was intended to eliminate the use of glue for adjustment or replacement of parts.

1895 - W. D. Kyle - US 536,634

The "multiplex" instrument which is a combination of a banjo, guitar, and mandolin.

1895 - J. Holtvoight - US 539,056

This patent focuses on the meeting of the fingerboard to the body of the instrument. It specifically mentions the issue of the fingerboard not running parallel to the sound board (perhaps referring to a "ski ramp" over the body). Holtvoight does not mount the fingerboard to the soundboard at any point but instead has it supported by the heel block and also by a removable wedge which could be sanded down to bring the fingerboard extension back into parallel.

1898 - P. Benson - US 608,279

This guitar has a laminate neck made up of at least 3 pieces along with another set of laminations at the heel to strengthen it. Benson notes that the heel of the instrument is the "weakest point of the neck" to "persons familiar with the manufacture or use of guitars" because of the short grain. He also includes a metal reinforcing strip stamped into a V shape to strengthen the neck. He also deviates from the standard bridge construction (citing 'objectionable construction' leading to bridges being torn off) and instead runs the strings through the bridge to anchors in the tailblock.

1898 - G. C. Ward - US 613,540

A variant of the harp guitar designed to alleviate playing struggles of the traditional harp guitar design.

1898 - L. Utt - US 615,053

Utt devised a bridge for acoustic guitars to allow for adjustable intonation and was likely the first adjustable saddle setup ever devised for the modern guitar. It bears a striking resemblance to the Fender guitar bridge.

1900 - S. A. Hunt - US 646,539

This instrument offers a curious take on the traditional method of bracing an instrument. Only one brace, 'd', spans the width of the instrument but it also connects the top of the instrument to the back. The other braces stop far short of the sides but extend deep into the body of the instrument.

1901 - T. Wolfram - US 687,097

Wolfram illustrates a typical ladder braced guitar top except with the addition of "rim B" which attempts to blend banjo and guitar construction. He describes the rim as being the end point for the braces which leaves the space between the rim and the kerfing "completely free" like a "strained drum-head"

1911 - A. Degulio - US 1,010,240

Degulio's patent describes an instrument with a second plate under the soundboard in order to anchor the top and prevent it from bowing.

1916 - P. Gardie - US 1,183,369

Paul Gardie designed a guitar he described as of the "contrabass type" but is what we would probably toss under the "harp guitar" moniker. It has six strings across the fretted neck but has a second body attached which sports eight more strings. The neck is also hollow with a wooden brace running down the middle. 

He claims that this instrument has been build and used and weighed between six and seven pounds!

1926 - R. Sawyer - US 1,747,650

A unique take on the 'whammy bar' which involves a lever that alters the neck angle changing the tension of the strings and thus changing the pitch.


1928 - A. Boothe - US 1,684,467

A bizarre guitar zither hybrid that Boothe dubbed the "sirelin"

1928 - H. E. Hall - US 1,692,207

This patent describes a sheet metal fingerboard that is mounted with screws for ease of manufacturing as well as allowing for ease of replacement.

1929 - V. C. Overton - 1,707,192

This guitar was designed with a bolt on fingerboard and an adjustable neck angle via a countersunk screw.

1930 - W. W. Nelson - US 1,762,408

This patent describes an instrument top with an exaggerated radius in the middle of the guitar much like the Howe-Orme cylinder top and back instruments.

1932 - N. Turturro - US 1,912,106

Nicola Turturro, a New Yorker, invented a truss rod that was adjustable through the tail block of the instrument through a worm gear drive much like a tuning machine.

1938 - G. A. Peate - US 2,130,248

This device took the place of a regular tailpiece and featured tension indicator blocks whose locations were marked when the instrument was in tune and allowed for the user of the instrument to tune their instrument back to pitch without having to hear it based on the location of the blocks. This is actually a fairly clever invention in theory.

Honorable Mentions





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