Joe & Linda Morgan took some extra vacation time before Harp Guitar Gathering 9 to spend some time in Nazareth, PA, where they greatly enjoyed touring the Martin Guitar factory.

I’ve never been (and don’t know when such a trip would be possible), so was glad that they could share the visit with us.

Joe writes first:

“The museum is located in the Visitor’s Center at the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA, about 50 miles north of Philly near Allentown.  We decided to swing up that way when we left Philly on our way back to Milford.  Glad we did.  It was a great way to spend a couple of hours if you’re a guitar nut.  Or, even if you’re not a guitar nut.  We took the factory tour, which is free for anyone who signs up in the gift shop.  The tour takes about an hour.  It is a factory, in every sense, with the latest computer-controlled machinery doing many of the jobs.  But, there is still a surprising amount of handwork involved.  It’s interesting to see how it all comes together to produce a high-quality guitar.

“Next up was the museum.  It is open to anyone and you can spend as much time as you like looking at the instruments.  Of course, most of the instruments are Martins showing the history and evolution of their instruments, but there are a few examples from other builders/companies to show what the competition was up to.   And, there are a couple of harp guitars in the museum.   Apparently, they only built a couple of these before deciding not to venture into the harp guitar business.  Interesting instruments, though.   The museum also has the instruments Martin has built to commemorate milestones in their history.  They are works of art, built with the finest woods and the most exotic materials available used in inlays covering just about every surface of the guitar.  You really have to see them to believe them.

“Last stop was the gift shop, which also has a picking parlor with quite a few of their higher-end instruments hanging on the wall for anyone to play.  There is also another area in the lobby with instruments available and a wall covered with cd and album covers (remember those?) that feature Martin guitars as part of the artwork.

“After leaving the Visitor’s Center, we made a quick stop at the Guitar Maker’s Connection, which is located in the original Martin factory a few blocks from the Visitor’s Center.  This is where you can buy or order guitar parts or kits if you are interested in building an instrument.

“From there, we hit the road to head back to Milford for HGG9.  We enjoyed the visit and will do it again if we ever find ourselves in that part of the world.”

Linda continues:

“I was amazed by the milestone guitars: 750,000th (the peacock) and 1,000,000th, with incredible inlay designs.  I learned that Gene Autry ordered a special guitar design that was the first large body dreadnought for Martin. My favorite was the little backpacker guitar that Pierre Thuot commissioned so he could take a guitar on the Space Shuttle.  You guitar guys are fanatics!”

Of course, the Morgans diligently took photos of any and all harp guitar sightings in the new and improved Martin Museum.  No surprises there (all have long been documented), but nice to see first – well, second – hand.

This 1902 harp guitar is in all the books and is unusual in having a full twelve sub-basses added (almost like an afterthought) to a normal 000-21 body.  Note that it is strung in nylon (and classical overspun strings), as this was Martin’s gut-strung period.  By the way, I have yet to learn if Martin originally called them “harp guitars.”

The sign maker needs to learn how to count!.

I forget which I saw first several years ago – the Gaskin patent or the incredible Martin harp mandolin (in an image sent to me by Mugwumps’ Michael Holmes).  Regardless, it was obvious that they were the same design, and so it was proved.

I could’ve sworn there were two of these known, but I may be mistaken.  I had a chance to buy this wonderful piece (but hadn’t the substantial cash necessary), but glad Martin sprung for it.

I have one more harp guitar at the Museum, courtesy of the Morgans, to show you, but in doing my standard follow-up research, it turned into a whole separate topic.  See next blog!

Among the many guitars were mandolins, and a nice uke case.

Thanks, for sharing, Morgans – someday I’ll get there myself!

(UPDATE: I did! See my Moravian Adventure!)