1909 Gibson Style U Harp Guitar
It’s hard to believe, but this fantastical looking instrument was once an important part of Gibson’s standard line-up. Back in 1903, just a year after the Gibson Company was founded, they offered four different harp guitar models in their catalog. The Style U was the largest and in its original version it had 12 sub-bass strings in the harp section, which turned out to be too many for even a huge guitar like this to handle. Players complained that the lowest strings didn’t have much volume so Gibson redesigned the Style U with 10 strings in the harp section, which is the version we have here.
Back in the first part of the 20th century, the harp guitar was a fairly popular instrument and there quite a few companies building them. Gibson’s version was the most striking and judging from the numbers that have survived, it was a good seller. Unlike just about every other harp guitar, which had flat tops, the Gibson had a carved top and a carved back. As elegant as this looked, I have to say that this type of guitar didn’t sound quite a good as something in the Dyer style. Still, The Gibson Style U is an amazing example of the luthier’s art. This particular example looks to be in excellent condition and comes in a very striking black finish. (You could also order the Style U with a sunburst.) This guitar came from the family of the original owner, a gentleman named Carl Restino who, along with playing the harp guitar, yodeled and played accordion on the vaudeville stage.. If you’d like to add this guitar to your collection, just send $7733 to the good people at Mandolin Brothers.
Click here for the original listing.
For more information on Gibson harp guitars, please check out the amazing research by Benoît Meulle-Stef and Gregg Miner at Harp Guitars.net.
The Gibson Style U as seen in the 1907 catalog.
It’s hard to belive but you could still order a Style U as late as 1936. (Catalog images courtesy of Harp Guitars.net.)