Orville Gibson Patent and Studio, 1895

Through his attorney, Lucius C. West, Orville applied for his mandolin patent on May 11, 1895. Entitled “Mandolin,” the patent states that it pertains to OHG Patentmandolins, guitars, mandolas and lutes. If Orville had applied for it at the height of a guitar craze it may well have been entitled “Guitar.”

The patent was granted on February 1, 1898. So, why did it take three years for his patent to be granted? The answer lies with the United States Patent Office.

For a time, the USPO had changed their criteria for granting patents. Previously, they had granted patents on common knowledge alone. They changed their process to actually doing research to see if they could locate the same invention by someone else. This may account for the three year delay in it being granted.

The USPO eventually went back to granting patents on the basis of common knowledge alone and new patents were, once again, granted and issued within a few months of being filed.

Former Gibson employees have said they were told Orville perfected his instrument-making in his garage. After further research, it turns out that when Orville applied for his patent, he lived at 318 South Burdick St. which had a large garage-like structure attached to the back of the residence.

Photo courtesy of the Clarence L. Miller Family History Room, Kalamazoo Public Library, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Photo courtesy of the Clarence L. Miller Family History Room, Kalamazoo Public Library, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Orville’s studio, 1895. The white house at the left edge of the photo is 318 South Burdick. There is an elongated addition on the back. And attached to that is a long garage-like structure of which the long, low roof can be seen behind the tree on the right.

This photo was taken in 1891 when the new post office was being built at the southwest corner of Burdick and South Street. In the foreground, bricks can be seen stacked neatly encircling the building site. Within its parameter, the foundation was being dug by hand. The Post Office had been completed by the time Orville lived at this address.


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