The MoMI - Museum Of Musical Instruments

1955 D'Angelico New Yorker Special, made for Johnny Smith -- This guitar epitomizes D'Angelico's ultimate achievement in creating a guitar perfect for jazz

   John D'Angelico (1905-64) built exceptionally fine archtop guitars for some of the 20th century's greatest musicians in his workshop located in Manhattan's Little Italy. New York's art deco architecture inspired D'Angelico's distinctive guitar designs, which he developed in the early 1930s. By the late 1930s, D'Angelico settled on two models, the New Yorker and the Excel, which became his mainstays of production for the remainder of his career. Many guitarists consider D'Angelico guitars built during the 1950s the ultimate instruments for playing chord-melody styles. John D'Angelico's elegant instruments frequently appeared on the silver screen.


1988 D'Aquisto Avant Garde -- The guitar that launched D'Aquisto's Modernistic Series

   James L. D'Aquisto (1935-95) started his career by tending to the D'Angelico shop in the early 1950s. As D'Angelico's health began to fail in the late 50s, D'Aquisto assisted him with instrument construction. After John D'Angelico died in 1964, D'Aquisto constructed his own guitars, which resembled those made by D'Angelico. In 1988, D'Aquisto developed the Modernistic Series beginning with the Avant Garde, co-designed by Hank Risan. The Modernistic Series is a radical departure in style and design from his earlier models.

1951 Epiphone Emperor Concert -- Epiphone's premiere solo instrument, designed by legendary Jazzman Johnny Smith

   Epiphone began manufacturing high-quality guitars in the late 1920s, but back then the company was best known for producing decorative Recording-series banjos and guitars. The banjo declined in popularity during the late 1920s, and, consequently, Epiphone retooled their factory in order to focus on manufacturing guitars. In the 1930s and 40s Epiphone was best known for the Emperor and Deluxe models. Epiphone's outstanding guitars were a prime choice for influential artists like Johnny Smith and Nappy Lamare.

1957 Fender Stratocaster -- Mary Kaye Model

   In 1946 Leo Fender started a musical revolution when he established the Fender Electric Instrument Co. A few years later, he began work on an avant-garde solidbody electric that single-handedly re-defined the shape and design of modern electric fretted instruments. Fender's Telecaster and Stratocaster are world renown because of their superb engineering, aesthetics, playability, and tonal versatility. Much of the music that dominated the latter half of the 20th century was played on these beloved instruments. Guitarists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix are only a few of the many artists who shaped the development of modern music using these mass-produced, machine-age instruments.

The 1902 Style O-2 Prototype -- This 18-inch wide steel-string guitar started a revolution of art and design for Gibson

   Orville H. Gibson (1856-1918) started making guitars in the 1890's and the company bearing his name has enjoyed tremendous success as an innovator since its formation in 1902. For nearly a century, Gibson has worked closely with a multitude of professional musicians, engineers, and designers to develop a wide range of stylish instruments that have been used to play and create music ranging from ragtime to rap.

1944 Gretsch Synchromatic 400 -- Built in the Streamform Style

   Freidrich Gretsch founded the Gretsch company in New York in 1883 to manufacture banjos, drums, and tambourines. In the late 1930s, Gretsch developed their innovative Synchromatic series of archtop guitars featuring distinctive cats-eye sound holes. Gretsch electric solidbody and hollowbody guitars built in the 1950s and 60s are considered some of the finest guitars the company ever made. Celebrities such as Chet Atkins, George Van Eps, Mary Osborne and Brian Setzer were proud endorsers of Gretsch guitars.


1939 Prairie State Big Boy owned by William L. Piel -- Built for a 17 year old virtuoso who liked to Swing

   August and Carl Larson began building instruments in Chicago in the late 1890s for Robert Maurer, a retailer and music teacher. Maurer sold his shop to August Larson in 1900. Larson-built instruments were distributed under the following names: Champion, Wack, Stahl, Maurer, Dyer, Prairie State, Euphonon, Hispania, and others. They crafted custom instruments for many luminaries, including Gene Autry, Les Paul, and Patsy Montana. Larson instruments' "built under tension" style of construction gives them a loud, clear, and projecting sound. Gifted with exceptional creative genius, the Larson brothers made each instrument they built into a masterpiece featuring rich tone, innovative design, and attractive visual appeal.

The 1940 Martin Dreadnaught Trio:  D-18, D-28 and D-45 -- The Dreadnaught at its best

   The C.F. Martin company is America's longest-running instrument manufacturer, building great guitars since 1833. Martin perfected the dreadnaught guitar, named after a WWI battleship design, during the 1930s, and its loud, booming voice and rich tone influenced the development of many styles of modern music. From Mark Twain to Shania Twain, nearly every notable musician who has ever picked up a guitar has played a Martin. Many of the earliest-made Martins are still in use today.

1963 Mosrite Ventures Model

   Semie Moseley was born in Oklahoma in 1935, but he spent his formative years growing up in Bakersfield, California. Moseley found work in Southern California's Rickenbacker factory, but he returned to Bakersfield to begin building guitars on his own in the mid 1950s. The Ventures, one of the biggest rock groups of the early 1960s, liked the Mosrite guitar so much that they offered to go into business with Moseley and endorse his instruments. In late 1968, Mosrite was forced to shut down due to a bad business decision to manufacturer amplifiers, which were of substandard quality. Moseley established a number of short-lived business relationships after that debacle and toured the country in a converted Greyhound bus.


1928 National Style 4 Tricone -- Amplified sound.  Batteries not included

   John Dopyera formed National in 1926, Dobro in 1929, and then merged the two companies in 1935 to start National-Dobro. As historian Tom Wheeler describes in American Guitars: "The history of National, Dobro and Valco is a labyrinthine saga so convoluted and rife with skeletons leaping out of closets that Dickens could have used it for a plot-twisting novel." National-Dobro manufactured high-quality resophonic instruments, electric lap steels, and electric guitars. Famous musicians like Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Sol Hoopii, and Stevie Ray Vaughan used National-Dobro guitars for a wide variety of musical styles such as blues, Hawaiian, country, jazz and rock 'n' roll. National guitars are acclaimed for their bluesy resophonic sound.

1936 Regal Custom, owned by Lulu Belle -- Proof that the guitar is art

   The Regal Musical Instrument Company, established 1908 in Chicago, produced thousands of student-grade and high-quality custom instruments. Musicians who wanted something really stylish had instruments built by the Regal custom shop. Regal was one of the world's largest instrument manufacturers during the 1930s through the 1950s.

1966 Rickenbacker 360-12 Model

   Swiss-born Adolph Rickenbacker and two partners formed the Rickenbacker Manufacturing Co., a metal stamping shop, in 1925. Rickenbacker, George Beauchamp, and others formed the Ro-Pat-In Corp. in 1931 to develop an electric guitar with a magnetic pickup. In 1953 Rickenbacker sold the company to F.C. Hall, the founder of an electronics company and the exclusive distributor of Fender products. In 1954, Hall expanded the guitar line with the introduction of a solidbody line and shifted Rickenbacker's emphasis away from Hawaiian steel guitars and towards Spanish-style electrics. In 1957, Roger Rossmeisl designed a new solidbody line for Rickenbacker, followed by the hollowbody Capri series in 1958. The Beatles popularized Rickenbacker guitars during the mid 1960s, helping the company become the dominant manufacturer of electric 12-strings.

1940 Selmer Jazz Guitar -- The purchase of this guitar had to be approved by the Nazis during the German occupation of France

   In 1932 Selmer of Paris began to produce a famous line of acoustic guitars in collaboration with musician-designer, Mario Maccafferi. By 1934, Selmer offered various guitar models suitable for jazz, Hawaiian, and classical music. The Gypsy king of swing, Django Reinhardt, endorsed and popularized Selmer guitars worldwide.

mid 1930s Stella 12-string -- For sound, no other 12-string is its equal

   Established in the late 1880s, the Oscar Schmidt company began producing guitars prior to WWI under the trade names of Stella and Sovereign. Stella is best known for their big-bodied 12-string guitars built between 1918 and 1938. The Stella 12-string was a moderately priced, well-made guitar favored by blues legends such as Blind Blake and Lead Belly.

1950 Stromberg Master 400s -- The ultimate in performance and beauty

   Charles Stromberg and Son, founded in 1905 in Boston, created some of the finest big-body archtop guitars of the 20th century. Their designs were innovative, attracting a clientele of well-known musicians such as Freddie Green and Hank Garland. Stromberg is best known for their top-of-the-line Deluxe and Master 400 models built during their golden period from 1940 to 1955. Fewer than 300 Stromberg guitars remain in existence.

1894 Washburn Lyre Guitar -- This guitar embodies the spirit of Romanticism of the late 19th century

   Washburn of Chicago began producing guitars, mandolins, zithers, and banjos near the end of the Civil War in 1864. By the end of the 19th century, Washburn became one of America's largest manufacturers, and their efforts had a profound impact on the steel-string guitar's development.

Classical and Flamenco Manufacturers
of the 20th Century:

Manuel Ramirez 1912 Manuel Ramirez Presentation(1864-1916) is considered one of the greatest luthiers of Spanish classical guitars. He continued and improved upon the principles of Antonio Torres. Santos Hernandez and Domingo Esteso were under Ramirez's supervision became great builders in their own right. Ramirez is best known for the Concert Classical guitar built in 1912 for classical guitar maestro Andrés Segovia.

Santos Hernandez 1924 Santos Hernandez(1873-1943) worked as foreman for Manuel Ramirez in Madrid then opened his own shop in the early 1920s. Santos is best known for his superb flamenco- and classical-style construction and innovations. From the 1920s through the 1950s, Segovia exclusively used a Manuel Ramirez guitar that Santos built while working for Ramirez.

Enrique Garcia 1904 Enrique Garcia(1868-1922) is considered the "Stradivarius" of the classical guitar. Garcia apprenticed in the shops of Jose Ramirez and Manuel Ramirez, and he gained recognition when he won first prize in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. In 1895 he established his own facility in Barcelona and began to create some of the finest guitars of the 20th century.

Francisco Simplicio 1927 Francisco Simplicio(1874-1932) studied with the great Madrid luthier Enrique Garcia, who acquired his skills working in the famous shop of Manuel Ramirez. In 1929 Simplicio achieved greatness in his own right, receiving a gold medal at World's Fair in Barcelona for his finely crafted creations.

Ignacio Fleta 1961 Ignacio Fleta(1897-1977) is one of the great Barcelona builders whose work was inspired by Simplicio and Garcia. In 1957, Segovia used a Fleta in concert and significantly increased the popularity of Fleta's guitars. The "Fleta Fraternity" developed during the 1960s and 70s and consisted of Fleta enthusiasts led by classical guitar virtuoso John Williams.

Marcelino Lopez 1961 Charlton Heston -- Marcellino Lopez Classical(1931-) is a highly regarded Madrid builder. He is best known for his guitars made in the 1950s and early 60s. Lopez is also well regarded for his restoration abilities.

Jose Ramirez 1957 Ramirez Flamenco (1858-1923) specialized in moderately priced guitars for amateur and professional players. By the 1950s, the Ramirez dynasty was producing superb flamenco and concert classical guitars. They continue to build a wide range of excellent models suitable for guitarists of all levels.