Used Acoustic Guitars
Martin, C.F.: STYLE 2 1/2 17(Item ID: STYLE 2 1/2 17 Serial#: 3/92)
1892 Martin Style 2 ½ 17
Considering the worldwide popularity that the guitar enjoys today, it is hard to imagine a time when the guitar was not a respected mainstream instrument. Yet, throughout the 19th century and certainly before, the guitar was rather dismissively regarded as a “parlor” instrument, more suitable as an implement for entertaining one’s dinner guests. Indeed, amidst the oppressive patriarchal attitudes of the Victorian era, the guitar was often considered a “woman’s instrument,” as it was quite common for society women and debutantes to receive musical training for just such a purpose as being trotted out to entertain guests. Of course this wasn’t universally true; and, though the powerful projection of the banjo still reigned supreme for the average Joe performing in informal settings like a pub or a hootenanny, the portability and relatively low cost of the guitar made it increasingly appealing to folks of all backgrounds (and genders!), including Mark Twain, who evidently acquired his own 2 ½ 17 in 1861.
From the mid-19th century leading up to 1900, the Style 17 was the least expensive series offered by Martin. Style 17 appointments were initially offered in two body sizes: the Size 2 ½, and its smaller counterpart, the Size 3. Though larger models were gradually introduced as the guitar became increasingly popular, the Style 2 ½ 17 remained Martin’s top seller throughout the latter part of the 19th Century. (The size 2 ½ Martin guitars have the following general measurements, which are useful for identification: 11 5/8” lower bout width, 3 7/8” depth, 17 7/8” total body length, 24 ½” scale. While still somewhat Spartan for a company that prided itself on customization, the style 17 guitars of this era were appointed quite differently compared to the all-mahogany construction that we associate with 20th century and modern Style 17s. Some important features include: a fan-braced Adirondack spruce top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and a French polish finish. Perhaps most important and interesting is the use of fan-bracing, as Martin is known to have begun implementing the X-brace as early as 1845 (C.F. Martin is credited with the invention of the X-bracing pattern). For those more familiar with nylon string construction, the lighter weight of fan bracing is much better suited for building a top that is still capable of projecting, despite the low tension of nylon and gut strings. As a result, this little 2 ½ 17 has a voice that is surprisingly powerful and full, and it is subsequently more impressive than many of Martin’s larger-bodied nylon string offerings of the 20th century folk era.
At the time this guitar was produced, Martin had not yet begun to serialize their instruments—serialization began in 1898 with #8000, which was an approximate. Any guitars made prior to 1898 are widely regarded as coming from two different eras, which are reflected by the maker’s stamp. From 1833 – 1867, C.F. Martin was the sole owner of the company and thus all guitars of this era are stamped, “C.F. Martin, New York.” In 1867, C.F. Martin took on his son, C.F.M. II, and his nephew, Christian Frederick Hartman, as partners, and the stamps were changed to read: “C.F. Martin & Co., New York,” though the company had moved to Nazareth, PA years earlier. The company stamp was ultimately changed in 1898 to read “C.F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, PA,” which it still reads today. In addition to a hand-written date on the underside of the top reading 3/92 (March, 1892), this guitar has the “C.F. Martin & Co, New York” stamp on its center strip and on the neck block—this enables us to say with authority that it was made after 1867 but before 1898.
For an instrument that is nearly 130 years old, this 2 ½ 17 is in remarkably good shape, both structurally and cosmetically. The top has sustained a crush/impact on the butt edge of treble side lower bout which resulted in a crack from the butt to the bridge. There are also a few other minor top cracks extending from the butt edge, some of which do appear to be incipient rather than open. All of these cracks have been addressed and are tight. Quite surprisingly, the fragile and brittle Brazilian rosewood back and sides appear to be crack free. This instrument is French-polished, and subsequently it has some finish wear and missing finish on the back, as shellac-based finishes are quite light and delicate. In addition to the wear on the back, we note two longer shallow finish gouges: one on the top at the bass side upper bout, and one on the back bass side shoulder. These gouges are not through the finish, but are evident upon close inspection. Additionally, some of the paint along various points of the headstock (especially around the top edges and corners) has worn away, exposing the wood. Finally, the original ebony endpin is intact but approximately half of the wood mass at its base has chipped away—even so it is stable. The original brass tuners (likely made by Jerome, but not stamped with any brand) and their original bone buttons are in excellent shape and work beautifully. VERY GOOD+ to EXCELLENT condition.
• Size 2 ½
• Fan-braced Adirondack spruce top
• Brazilian rosewood back and sides
• Rosewood binding (top only)
• Painted Cedro/Spanish cedar neck with “ice cream cone” heel
• Ebony fingerboard and pyramid bridge
• Slotted Headstock
• C.F Martin & Co New York stamp on neck block
• 3-ring rosette with multicolor rope center ring
• Engraved Jerome brass tuners with bone buttons
• bone bridge pins with abalone dots
• French polish finish
• 1 3/4” (45mm) nut width
• 24 1/2” (625 mm) scale
• 11 5/8” lower bout width
• 3 7/8” depth
• 17 7/8” total body length
• 18 bar frets (original)
• Harptone (c. 1990) arched-top case included (used)
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