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THE ARCHIVE ROOM: THE MARTIN UKULELE CELEBRATES 100 YEARS

Posted by Dick Boak

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2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of Martin’s formal catalog introduction of ukuleles to the marketplace. Martin first prototyped ukuleles in 1906, Like Martin guitars, these had spruce tops and didn’t achieve the desired “plinky” tone. Following San Francisco's Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, the popularity of the ukulele was on the rise and Martin gave it another try, this time shipping a batch of mahogany topped ukuleles that had the perfect tone. During 1916, Martin gradually developed Soprano Styles 1, 2, and 3 and by the time Martin's first ukulele catalog appeared in 1917, Frank Henry Martin boldly claimed that the Style 3 was “superior to original Hawaiian instruments in quality and volume of tone.” In the years that followed, Martin came to define and extend ukulele design by adding larger Concert, Tenor, Taropatch, Tiple, and Baritone configurations, many of which were offered with genuine Hawaiian koa tonewood.

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"The Martin Ukulele Celebrates 100 Years" will be on display throughout 2017 in the Martin Guitar Museum. The exhibit traces the vibrant history and spirit of this exquisite little instrument, including a rare 1870 machete (a predecessor of the ukulele) made in Madeira and a 1910 Nunes ukulele made in Hawaii. Throughout the first three decades of the 20th Century, the popularity of the Hawaiian culture swept across America and with it there was an abundance of related Hawaiian cultural ephemera like the many hula statuettes and ukulele related souvenirs displayed, courtesy of the extensive collection of Tom and Nuni Walsh. Other significant instruments in the exhibit are Tin Tim's personal Martin ukulele, plus ukuleles owned by Vaudeville star Art Fowler and the legendary Roy Smeck.

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Please join us in celebrating these joyous little cousins of the guitar!


Planning a visit to the Martin Guitar Factory? You can find information regarding visiting here. You can also learn more about our Buy From Factory Program where you can purchase a Martin guitar or ukulele during your visit here.

Martin Guitar has released three new ukuleles for 2017! You can explore the new arrivals here.


If you come across something that you think we would be interested in, please feel free to share it with us at: archives@martinguitar.com.

Dick Boak

Director: Museum, Archives, Special Projects

Topics: The Archive Room

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