Modern Guitar Innovations – 1916 – Dreadnought Guitar

HD-28 Dreadnought in moulded case
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Martin developed the dreadnought style guitar in 1916 for the Distson Company. Martin’s history credits Frank Martin and Harry Hunt with the development of the dreadnought style. Harry Hunt was the manager of Chas. H. Ditson Co., a retailer in New York. During the first half of the 20th Century, it was common for big guitar companies to manufacture “house” brands for smaller retailers – and sometimes large retailers (e.g., Sears and Wards).

Hunt reasoned that a Dreadnought guitar, with its large body and booming bass, would be ideal for accompanying vocals 1.

It wasn’t until 1931 that Martin sold dreadnoughts with the Martin name on them. The original dreadnought guitars had the neck join the body at the 12th fret, as all guitars did at that time. By the time Martin put their name dreadnought models, they were already making guitars where the neck joined at the 14th fret, another innovation credited to the Martin company.

Dreadnought guitars do not have a pronounced waist (the narrowest width on the guitar body), generall square shoulders (though there are “slope shoulder” dreadnoughts) and a deeper than normal body. They have become one of the most popular acoustic guitar styles ever made. Their deep bass and loudness make them good as a rhythm guitar accompanying a variety of styles.

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  1. from Martin’s “Our Story” CHAPTER 8: Martin Innovations.


    1. An interesting comment and one I hadn’t thought about. No doubt true when you think about it. Still, it hasn’t stopped builders from creating a variety of guitar shapes with varying waist and bout dimensions. Thanks for the observation and good luck building guitars in the Netherlands.

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