Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Tour of The Martin Guitar Factory

Guitar Towns: C.F. Martin

The Martin family has been making prized guitars since 1830. They still make them by hand -- with a little assist from robots.

By Jim Washburn for MSN City Guides

C.F. Martin I and his family had emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1833, a daunting proposition involving some three months on pitching seas to arrive in a roiling new land whose future was by no means secure.

Martin was fed up with the old world, where his town's guild of violinmakers had tried to force him out of business. Here, he was free to develop uniquely American guitar designs that have allowed him and his successive guitar-making Martins to thrive for 177 years. From settlers' covered wagons to space shuttle launches, Martin guitars have been along for the ride, and Martin instruments have facilitated the music of Hank Williams, Elvis, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and thousands of other name musicians.

Even before the first C.F. Martin had a factory, company records show that musicians were traveling to visit the family house on Cherry Hill above Nazareth, Pa., where he built his guitars, says Dick Boak, Martin's head of artist relations and limited edition instruments. For much of the company's history, there weren't organized tours: Folks would turn up and whoever wasn't busy would show them around. The company started conducting organized tours in the 1960s, after the boom in guitar-driven folk and rock music had necessitated building a new factory, and had inspired more people to seek the source of their sound.

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