Frank: What year did the Chicago/U.S. Manufacturers start bracing for steel strings?

 I photo I put up on one of my Facebook sites has started some questions about this. It is a photo of the ladder bracing of a Stromberg/Voisinet from about 1929.  I'd love to read what you your thoughts are. Thanks! 

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Well, I'm not Frank but just to help...if I can; I believe the Larson Bros had developed the first instrument handling what we'd consider "steel string" tension, in the late 1800's. Gibson made the first factory production steel-string: the L-5, in 1922. In 1929 is when Martin started producing more steel-strings. 

Hopefully Frank will pipe in to verify this...


Gibson's first instruments were made for steel stringing.  Far as I know that includes Orville's handmade ones, and everything made by the factory starting in 1902.

And, I agree - the Larson brothers are generally credited with being among the first makers of flat-top guitars for steel stringing.

Martin started right after the Great War with Hawaiian models, notably the 2-17.

Thanks for the clarification on the Gibson factory. I don't know where I came up with the L-5, 1922 date but far as I know, you're far more knowledgeable about this stuff than I. Now to scribble something new into the book ☺



I've had some Benary (Tilten knockoffs) guitars from the late 1800s that were braced for steel.  Tom

I'm a couple years late, here. But, in 1891, Imperial guitars patented and launched what may be the first guitar advertised for steel strings, i.e. a combined bridge and tailpiece made of metal. See John Church Company, Cincinnati, Oh.   


I actually own one such Imperial guitar, nice to have such a special one. The top is very thin and have a tendency to buckle in in the soundhole area, I dare not use any thicker strings than a 0.10 set. The bridge and tailpiece actually sounds very good on this guitar, no metallic sound at all :-)


Very interesting guitars.  In the last example on your site - with the replacement pin bridge - it looks like the tailpiece was never attached to the original bridge,  Why do you suppose the tailpiece extended as far as it did up the top?


Not all Imperial guitars had the patented feature. Other Imperial were made, as common at the time to relieve stress and alter the sound, with regular tail-pieces (and, many tail-pieces were lost and/or replaced with other non-original tail-pieces). A couple of the guitars at Charles' website look like the tail-piece had been either replaced, or removed entirely in preference of a fixed bridge/pins. I think a lot of people (for a variety of reasons) experimented with and/or prefer a fixed bridge/pins instead of the tail-piece - especially a metal tail-piece. But, I've got 2 of these, and I agree with Roger... no real 'metallic' sound, though quite crisp on the attack.

The rest of the build was very much like a John C. Haynes.         

The metallic sound is defeated by the thickness of the sheet metal and the sheer weight of the saddle/tailpiece. The fact that it is screwed down in the top is another reason. The hard attack is a natural consequence of the hard metal seating of the ball ends of the strings.

All in all, not a bad solution. Better than a standard thin sheet metal tailpiece and a floating bridge :-)

My guitar is BTW made with some kind of light colored fruit wood in the back and sides.

Yeah... its a pretty solid feature. I haven't had any inclination to remove it. 

1 of mine is a one-piece ?maple? back/sides; the other 1 of mine is one-piece ?rosewood or mahogany or some fruit wood? back/sides - not sure.   



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