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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
"Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 3 Nov 2004 01:26:15 +0000
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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The Bianca Soros article titled "Mark Twain's Martin 2 1/2-17" can be
located in ACOUSTIC GUITAR, May 1999, No. 77, p. 114.  The text of the
article has already been transmitted by another Forum member, but I'll add
the following comments regarding the actual guitar pictured in the one-page
article.  It is, indeed, a 2 1/2-17, parlor or beginner's guitar, but was
not made in 1835, as stated in the article.  The pictured guitar has a
slotted headstock and three tuning keys on each side of the headstock,
features not common to Martin guitars until the 1870s and later.  The Martin
Guitar Company's own website notes that, through the 1840s, all Martin
guitars were "characterized" by having all six tuning keys on one side of
the headstock, a feature adopted from Johann Georg Stauffer, the Viennese
violin and guitar maker for whom Christian Friedrich Martin worked prior to
moving to New York and setting up shop in 1833. The headstock design with
all six tuners on one side is, inci!
 dentally, very similar to that adopted by Leo Fender for his electric
Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars over a century later. Early Martin
guitars, and 1835 is very early in Martin guitar history, all had paper
labels in the soundhole, unlike the pictured guitar.
       Twain may have indeed owned a guitar, but he did not purchase the
pictured guitar in 1861 and take it west with him- the photographed guitar
is of a much later vintage.  As for the shipping label referred to in the
article, it is conspicuous, to say the least, by its absence.  If this
so-called signed shipping label has indeed been "authenticated," and is
attached to the original Martin "coffin" case, it is certainly strange that
neither item made an appearance in conjunction with the guitar.
       I suspect that this is more information than the average Twainiac has
any interest in reading regarding this subject, which generated much
interest, and criticism, when the ACOUSTIC GUITAR article was published in

Martin Zehr
Kansas City, Missouri