The first electric guitar was a lap steel guitar and the inventor was George Beauchamp. If you’ve been reading this series, you should recognize George as a co-founder of National Guitars and the person who got the patent for the single cone, biscuit bridge resonator guitar.
George was also the co-founder of another famous guitar company. The company was named Ro-Pat-In Company but you probably know it better as by its present name of Rickenbacker. Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp founded the company in 1931 after George parted ways with National. Adolph had worked with National to supply them with formed metal bodies for their resonator guitars.
This guitar, nicknamed the “Frying Pan”, was made to be played as a lap steel so it could be used for Hawaiian music which was popular at the time. Most electric guitars made soon after this by Gibson, Fender and Gretsch were also lap steel models.
The early history of Rickenbacker, including the first electric guitar, can be found at the Rickenbacker website. Another excellent history of the invention of the electric guitar can be found at the Smithsonian.