Early Gibson Company Production

When the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company Limited came into being it was expected that Orville couldn’t do it all. There would have to be other employees also producing ‘The Gibson’ and that these non-Orville made instruments would find their way out into the world and take on lives of their own.

Orville as superintendent

Orville’s title within the new company was “Superintendent.” As new employees were hired, he instructed them on how to produce his patented design.

Below is an article that appeared in a local newspaper on December 7, 1902.

Kalamazoo Gazette-News, December 7, 1902
Kalamazoo Gazette-News, December 7, 1902

It’s difficult to say what “demands made upon the company” actually meant. Did they covertly mean the custom orders that Orville himself already had in the pipeline at the time the company was formed? Orville had his list of elite clientele, some of which were repeat customers, who would no doubt insist upon his skills and no one else’s.

I don’t think Orville would have told them, “Sorry, there’s a company now. The instrument you ordered from me in September 1902…well, I’m going to let the new guys take a swing at it.” And the company would not have gotten far with, “This guy over here was a cabinet maker 6 months ago. You want him to make another harp guitar for you, not Orville.”

Considering that the company didn’t have a factory building until the beginning of November, didn’t have a complete machinery set-up until mid December, and that it took Orville, a master luthier, about 6 weeks to finish an instrument, the number of sellable “new hire” made instruments that could have been completed in 1902 is slim to none. There would not have been enough time and the learning curve would have been too great for there to be any. That includes the specimens photographed for the 1903 Gibson company catalog which was released in February of that year.

I believe that the Gibson Company started numbering their factory output with the instruments sent to their first clients and selling agents in 1903. And in 1904, continued with the wholesale lots referred to in the article above.

Considering what few employees they had and the list of known agents, clients, and retailers in 1903/1904, instruments would have been shipped out as fast as Orville and the crew could make them.

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