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The Martin Story

Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

Martin’s steadfast adherence to high standards of musical excellence, mixed with experienced management, has largely accounted for the company’s remarkable longevity. Marketing methods and product mix have changed at Martin over the years, but the company attitude towards guitar building has never varied. In the preface to the 1904 catalog, Frank Henry Martin explained to potential customers, "How to build a guitar to give this tone is not a secret. It takes care and patience. Care in selecting the materials, laying out the proportions, and attending to the details which add to the player’s comfort. Patience in giving the necessary time to finish every part. A good guitar cannot be built for the price of a poor one, but who regrets the extra cost for a good guitar?" Almost eighty years have passed since Frank Henry Martin authored this statement of policy, but it still is an accurate expression of Martin’s ongoing commitment to quality.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The C. F. Martin Story
Chapter 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
Chapter 3: Guitars for Wine
Chapter 4: From Workshop to Factory
Chapter 5: Testing a Young Man's Character
Chapter 6: Education Instead of Sales
Chapter 7: Riding the Ukulele Boom
Chapter 8: Martin Innovations
Chapter 9: An Era of Prosperity
Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation
Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns
Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns

C. F. Martin formalized its long-standing ecological policy in 1990. This program embraced the judicious and responsible use of traditional natural materials and encouraged the introduction of sustainable-yield, alternative wood species. Martin’s consumer focus group research has led to the introduction and wide-spread acceptance of guitars utilizing structurally sound woods with natural cosmetic characteristics formerly considered unacceptable. Martin has also developed numerous sustainable-yield, alternative wood guitars for industry-wide exhibitions intended to educate our consumers and provide direction for the company and industry. The company recognizes CITES as the governing authority on endangered species and closely follows their directives.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The C. F. Martin Story
Chapter 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
Chapter 3: Guitars for Wine
Chapter 4: From Workshop to Factory
Chapter 5: Testing a Young Man's Character
Chapter 6: Education Instead of Sales
Chapter 7: Riding the Ukulele Boom
Chapter 8: Martin Innovations
Chapter 9: An Era of Prosperity
Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation
Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns
Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

Chapter 9: An Era on Prosperity

Frank Henry Martin died at the age of 81 in 1948, and C. F. Martin III assumed the presidency of the company, which continued to enjoy worldwide recognition for its guitars of uncompromising quality. Post-war prosperity, coupled with a growing interest in guitars and folk music, made the years 1948-1970 an unprecedented era of growth for C. F. Martin. Demand for Martin guitars increased at a far greater pace than did production capacity, and thus by the early ’60s the company was back-ordered as much as three years. While some might have felt that Martin’s back-order situation was enviable, C. F. Martin III recounted that it was a frustrating time. "When someone walks into a music store with several hundred dollars and asks for a Martin guitar, he wants it then, not three years later. Our lack of production capacity at the time cost us sales and strained our relationships with our dealer family."

Thus, C. F. Martin III, with the aid of his son, Frank Herbert Martin, who joined the company in 1955, made the major decision to build a new larger plant. In 1964 the North Street plant, with its multi-story construction and numerous additions, was no longer adequate to service the demand for the company’s product. "The North Street plant was not the best production facility, but running up and down four flights of stairs constantly every day probably contributed to the longevity of Martin family members," quipped C. F. Martin III.

Production methods at the new Sycamore Street Martin plant have evolved slightly from methods used at North Street. Hand craftsmanship was and remains the trademark of the Martin guitar. However, with the building’s efficient one-story layout, Martin has been able to improve the flow of materials and work in progress and thus gradually increase output without sacrificing quality.

Under the direction of Frank Herbert Martin, who succeeded his father, C. F. Martin III, as president in 1970, Martin began a period of acquisition. In 1970, the company purchased the renowned Vega Banjo Works of Boston. Months later, it acquired the Fibes Drum Company, makers of a unique fiberglass drum. The year 1970 brought still another acquisition, that of the Darco String Company, owned by John D’Addario, Sr., John D’Addario, Jr., and James D’Addario. Another addition in the early ’70s was the A. B. Herman Carlson Levin Company of Sweden. Levin made a variety of classic guitars as well as the steel string type. In subsequent years, Vega, Levin and Fibes were spun off; however, the manufacture of Martin and Darco strings remains an integral part of the company.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The C. F. Martin Story
Chapter 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
Chapter 3: Guitars for Wine
Chapter 4: From Workshop to Factory
Chapter 5: Testing a Young Man's Character
Chapter 6: Education Instead of Sales
Chapter 7: Riding the Ukulele Boom
Chapter 8: Martin Innovations
Chapter 9: An Era of Prosperity
Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation
Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns
Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation

Christian Frederick Martin IV was born on July 8, 1955. He then attended UCLA, majoring in Economics. In his free time, he helped in the guitar repair shop of Westwood Music in West Los Angeles, and this also gave him a valuable insight into the retail end of the music business.

When Chris was small, he helped box strings, 6 to a box. In 1972 and 1973 he became more active in the business, helping in the office and attending the NAMM Trade Show in Chicago. He also worked in the machine room cutting out guitar neck blanks on the bandsaw.

During the summer of 1973, Chris spent his time learning every operation and assisting with the construction of a D-28S guitar. This and his apprenticeship in the shop was an invaluable experience when he took his place in the family business.

Chris joined the Martin Guitar Company full time after his graduation from Boston University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the School of Management. Chris worked in many departments, learning how the business functioned from the bottom up. In 1985 he was appointed Vice President of Marketing, and he took an active roll in the day-to-day challenge of running a traditional business in a modern world. After the death of his grandfather, C. F. Martin III, on June 15, 1986, C. F. Martin IV was appointed Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, indicating his responsibility for leading Martin into the next century.

Under Chris’ management, the Sycamore Street facility was expanded, the successful Backpacker travel guitar was introduced, and the limited edition guitar program was expanded to include signature models of significant artists like Gene Autry, Eric Clapton, and Marty Stuart as well as unique collaborations like the 1996 "MTV Unplugged" MTV-1 guitar. Perhaps the boldest new direction that Chris took was the development and introduction of the patented "X Series" guitars, which thoroughly re-examined the way guitars are designed and constructed. Through the use of innovative processes combined with computer aided manufacturing, the "X Series" models offer an affordable acoustic guitar without compromise of tone or craftsmanship.

The Martin Guitar Company is thriving under the direction of Chris, whose management style is friendly and personal, yet firm and direct. Chris travels extensively world-wide in order to stay abreast of market trends and to do instructional clinics at Martin dealerships around the world.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The C. F. Martin Story
Chapter 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
Chapter 3: Guitars for Wine
Chapter 4: From Workshop to Factory
Chapter 5: Testing a Young Man's Character
Chapter 6: Education Instead of Sales
Chapter 7: Riding the Ukulele Boom
Chapter 8: Martin Innovations
Chapter 9: An Era of Prosperity
Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation
Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns
Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

Chapter 8: Martin Innovations

According to C. F. Martin III, the 14-fret neck was developed in late 1929. Prior to the period, guitars were generally equipped with a 12-fret neck. As the story goes, a renowned plectrum banjoist of the day, Perry Bechtel, suggested to Frank Henry Martin that he make a guitar with a 14-fret neck. Bechtel reasoned that the longer neck would increase the guitar’s range and make it a more versatile instrument. Following Bechtel’s advice, Martin introduced a guitar with the longer neck and dubbed it an "Orchestra Model."

The 14-fret neck was so well received that Martin eventually extended the feature to all models in its line. In short order, it became the standard design for the American guitar industry.

The Dreadnought guitar, named after a large class of World War I British battleships, has become something of a trademark of the Martin Company. The original Martin Dreadnought models were designed by Frank Martin and Harry Hunt, manager of Chas. H. Ditson Co., a leading music retailer with stores in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. A shrewd judge of the market, Hunt reasoned that a Dreadnought guitar, with its large body and booming bass, would be ideal for accompanying vocals. The first Dreadnoughts, introduced in 1916, were sold under the brand name of "Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston, New York." At first the instruments were not very well received simply because there were not many singers using guitars, and solo players felt that the bass on the Dreadnought was overbearing. However, as folk singing became increasingly popular, sales of the Dreadnought picked up. The Ditson Company went out of business in the late 1920s, and in 1931 Martin incorporated the Dreadnought into its line of guitars. Today, the model is a dominant factor in the Martin line, and virtually every maker of acoustic guitars, both domestic and foreign, has introduced a version of this original Martin design.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The C. F. Martin Story
Chapter 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
Chapter 3: Guitars for Wine
Chapter 4: From Workshop to Factory
Chapter 5: Testing a Young Man's Character
Chapter 6: Education Instead of Sales
Chapter 7: Riding the Ukulele Boom
Chapter 8: Martin Innovations
Chapter 9: An Era of Prosperity
Chapter 10: The Sixth Generation
Chapter 11: Ecological Concerns
Chapter 12: Continuing Adherence to Principles

 
 
 
 
 
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