Orville Gibson

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Orville Gibson
Orville Gibson pre-1910.jpg
Orville Gibson (pre 1910)
Born Orville H. Gibson
(1856-05-01)May 1, 1856
Chateaugay, New York, United States
Died August 18, 1918(1918-08-18) (aged 62)
Ogdensburg, New York, United States
Occupation Inventor and company founder
US Patent No. 598.245, patent drawing for the archtop mandolin[1]
1921 Gibson A4 mandolin (pick guard was removed)

Orville H. Gibson (May 1856 – August 19, 1918) was a luthier who founded the Gibson Guitar Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1896, makers of guitars, mandolins and other instruments.

He was born in Chateaugay, New York. According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was born in May, and his obituary published in The Malone Farmer on Wednesday, August 21, 1918, states he died on August 19th and his funeral was held at the home of his brother O. M. Gibson on August 21st.


Advertisement for Gibson mandolin, circa 1914 [2]

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 rather than bent, and arched like the top of a violin.[3] He applied for and was granted a patent on the 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.

Gibson carved top mandolin, F series

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. Julius Bellson states in his 1973 publication, The Gibson Story, that "Orville Gibson had visions and dreams that were considered eccentric."

Illness and death[edit]

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 19, 1918, at 62 years of age, in St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York.[4] Gibson is buried at Morningside Cemetery in Malone, New York.


  1. ^ a b US 598245, Gibson, Orville, "Mandolin", published 1895, issued 1898. 
  2. ^ Philip J. Bone (1914). The guitar and mandolin, Biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments. London: Schott and Company. 
  3. ^ Gruhn, George (1991). Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars. San Francisco: GPI Books. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-87930-195-8. 
  4. ^ Siminoff, Roger (2007), Orville H. Gibson, 1856–1918, retrieved 2009-03-17 
  • Chris Gill (1994-09-01). Guitar Player (magazine) (September 1994).  Missing or empty |title= (help)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]