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MARTIN MARTIN HISTORY: MID-1950'S-PRESENT The folk boom of the late 1950s increased the demand for Martin guitars. The original factory produced around 6,000 guitars a year, which wasn't enough to keep up with demand. Martin began construction on a new facility in 1964, and when the new plant opened a year later, production began to exceed 10,000 guitars a year. While expansion of the market is generally a good thing, the limited supply of raw materials was detrimental. In 1969, Brazil put an embargo on rosewood logs exported from their country. To solve this problem, Martin switched over to Indian rosewood in 1969, and Brazilian rosewood from legal sources does show up on certain limited edition models from time to time.
The 1970s was a period of fluctuation for the Martin company. Many aggressive foreign companies began importing products to the U.S., and were rarely challenged by complacent U.S. manufacturers. To combat the loss of sales in the entry-level market, Martin started the Sigma line of overseas-produced guitars for dealers. Martin also bought Levin, the Swedish guitar company, in 1973. The Size M, developed in part by Mark Silber, Matt Umanov, and Dave Bromberg, debuted in 1977. Martin's second try at electric guitars with the E Series were introduced in 1979 and produced through 1983. A failed attempt at union organization at the Martin plant also occurred in the late 1970s. Martin's Custom Shop was formally opened in 1979, and set the tone for other manufacturers' custom shop concepts.
The late C.F. Martin III, who had steered the company through the Great Depression, said that 1982 was the most devastating year in the company's history. The balance of the 1980s produced some innovations and radical changes at the Martin company. It was 1985 when current CEO and Chairman of the Board Chris F. Martin IV assumed his duties at the youthful age of 28. The Martin Guitar of the Month program, a limited production/custom guitar offering, was introduced in 1984 (and continued through 1994, prior to the adoption of the Limited Edition series) as well as the new Jumbo J Series. Martin introduced two radical changes in the mid-1980s with the adjustable truss rod and a thinner neck profile. Martin had always maintained the theory that a properly built guitar wouldn't need a truss rod, but they finally began using Gibson's patented system in 1985. The thinner neck or "low-profile neck" as it was often referred to as was inspired by Taylor Guitars. By the end of the 1980s, both of these features were standard equipment across the board for Martin. In 1986, Martin introduced the Style 16, which was intended to be a special run of affordable guitars that were offered at the annual NAMM show, and these guitars have evolved into standard production models, which continue to be Martin's most affordable all solid wood guitars. The Korean-built Stinger line of solid body electrics was offered the same year as the Shenandoah line of Japanese-produced parts/U.S. assembly.
In 1988, Martin discontinued the Style 18 1/9/1 grouping soundhole rosette configuration and replaced it with the 5/9/5 grouping used on Style 28 and other models. In 1992, Martin introduced the Backpacker travel guitar that is built in their Mexican manufacturing facility. In 1993, Martin introduced the 1 Series of guitars that featured a combination of solid and laminated woods. Martin continued to expand and experiment with other wood styles with the introduction of the all-laminated Road Series in 1996, and the new high-pressure laminate X Series in 1998. Guitars with Smartwood and aluminum tops solidfy Martin's commitment to exploring other options for building guitars as wood supplies get tighter. Martin also adheres to the guidelines and conservation efforts set by such organizations as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Rainforest Foundation International, and SmartWood Certified Forestry (Certified Wood products).
In 1996, Martin introduced the first version of their semi-annual Sounding Board magazine that highlights new Martin models and a news briefing about what is going on with Martin. During 1999, Martin proudly opened up its new 85,000-square-foot addition where production rose to 225 guitars per day. This new efficient technology also has enabled Martin to keep consistent high quality production within the U.S., while actually lowering consumer costs.
At the 2001 summer NAMM Show in Nashville, TN, Martin showcased yet another milestone in its company's history with instrument number 750,000. This Peacock Deluxe flattop was the most elaborate and ornate Martin guitar manufactured at the time, with over 2,000 handcut pieces of shell inlayed on the back, sides, pickguard, and neck.
During 2002, Martin continued to expand its line of regular models, with prices ranging from $619 to $25,000! Additionally, Martin released eighteen new special and limited editions at the winter NAMM Show, and eleven new special/limited editions at the Nashville Summer NAMM Show. With this new lineup, Martin continues to be the leader in acoustic instruments, covering a wide variety of price points, building materials, and both vintage and high-tech guitar construction techniques.
In 2003, Martin introduced the Little Martin (LX) Series of guitars that are constructed out of HPL and built in Martin's Mexican manufacturing facility. Serial number 800,000 (a CFM3 Commemorative) was announced at the Anaheim winter NAMM show in January of 2003. During mid-2003, the first Martin resonator guitar was introduced (Alternative II resonator). Longtime Martin employee Mike Longworth also passed away in 2003.
In 2004, Martin unveiled a company milestone at the Anaheim NAMM Show with the Millionth Martin Guitar, serial numbered 1,000,000. This is the most elaborate guitar the company has ever manufactured, and to help commemorate this historic event, Martin announced that it would be producing a D-100 Deluxe limited edition, priced at $100,000, with only fifty scheduled to be manufactured. Martin also announced the collaboration with archtop builder Dale Unger to produce a limited amount of Martin f-hole archtops (two models, the CF-1, and CF-2) with a choice of either a Seymour Duncan or Kent Armstrong pickup.
In late 2004, Martin began construction of a new Visitor's Center and Museum on the site of the old factory. The Martin Visitor's Center and Museum was completed during late 2005, and over 130 instruments are featured in the museum. Also in 2004, Chris Martin and his wife gave birth to a daughter named Claire Frances Martin and in 2005 she already had her own signature model with the Baby Claire!
In 2006, Martin introduced the Custom Artist Series that feature guitars designed by selected artists, but they are not built to any limited quantities or set orders.
In 2008, Martin celebrated the 175th Anniversary of their company (1833-2008) with three 175th Anniversary models: the DX 175th Anniversary Limited Edition, 00 Stauffer 175th Anniversary Limited Edition, and America's Guitar 175th Anniversary Limited Edtition.
In 2009, Martin celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the "modern" dreadnought body shape (1934-2009) with two anniversary models: The D-18 and D-28 75th Anniversary editions.
In 2010, Chris Martin IV, celebrated his 55th birthday and Martin released a lmited edition CFM IV 55th Anniversary D-28 based on a 1955 D-28.
In 2011, Martin produced their 1.5 millionth guitar called DaVinci Unplugged. Inlaid by Harvey Leach and engraved by Bob Hergert, this guitar features Mona Lisa on the headstock, the Last Supper on the pickguard, and the Vitruvian Man on the back.

Sources: Mike Longworth, Martin Guitars: A History; Walter Carter, The Martin Book: A Complete History of Martin Guitars; and Tom Wheeler, American Guitars.

From Blue Book Publications:

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