Orville Gibson

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Orville Gibson (pre 1910)
US Patent No. 598.245, patent drawing for the archtop mandolin
1921 Gibson A4 mandolin (pick guard was removed)

Orville H. Gibson (August 21, 1856, Chateaugay, New York - August 21, 1918, Ogdensburg, New York) was a luthier who founded the Gibson Guitar Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1896, makers of guitars, mandolins and other instruments.

Gibson began in 1894 in his home workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. With no formal training, Gibson created an entirely new style of mandolin and guitar, with tops carved and arched like the top of a violin. His creations were so different that he was granted a patent on his design.[1] More importantly, they were louder and more durable than contemporary fretted instruments, and musicians soon demanded more than he was able to build in his one-man shop.

Advertisement for Gibson mandolin, taken from the book The guitar and mandolin, Biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments by Philip J. Bone, published by Schott and Company, London, 1914.

On the strength of Gibson's ideas, five Kalamazoo businessmen formed the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd., in 1902. Within a short period after the company was started, the board passed a motion that "Orville H. Gibson be paid only for the actual time he works for the Company." After that time, there is no clear indication whether he worked there full-time, or as a consultant. Orville Gibson was considered[by whom?] a bit eccentric and there has been some question[by whom?] over the years as to whether or not he suffered from some sort of mental illness.

Starting in 1908, Gibson was paid a salary of $500 by Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Limited (equivalent to $20,000 a year in modern terms). He had a number of stays in hospitals between 1907 and 1911. In 1916, he was again hospitalized, and died on August 21, 1918, his 62nd birthday, in St. Lawrence State Hospital, a psychiatric center in Ogdensburg, New York.[2] Gibson is buried at Morningside Cemetery in Malone, New York.[3]


  1. ^ US 598245, Gibson, Orville, "Mandolin", published 1895, issued 1898. 
  2. ^ Siminoff, Roger (2007), Orville H. Gibson, 1856-1918, retrieved 2009-03-17 
  3. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GScid=65305&GRid=10664204& Orville H. Gibson (1885 - 1918) - Find A Grave Memorial] at www.findagrave.com

(4) Guitar Player(Magazine)9/1/1994, Chris Gill

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