Timeline of the development of Martin's OM model guitars
Martin alters the shape of its 0-size guitar body to allow a 14 frets clear tenor neck. This follows specific requests from tenor players, primarily Al Esposito, the manager of the Carl Fischer store in New York City. These "Carl Fischer Model" tenors were soon renamed 0-18T. This was the first time Martin had altered one of their original body shapes to accommodate a longer neck with more frets clear of the body.
Perry Bechtel, also a banjo player (plectrum version) but one who plays 6-string guitar instead of tenor guitar, visits the Martin factory and requests a modified version of the 000-28 (with typical slotted headstock) he's been borrowing from his employer, Cable Piano Co. of Atlanta. John Deichman draws a modified 000 shape that allows 14 frets clear of the body with the same long (25.4") scale used on the standard 000. As soon as Perry leaves Nazareth, C.F. III writes to Cable, describing the special features Perry has requested and quoting a price for the custom guitar.
C. F. Martin III receives confirmation of Perry's order from his boss at Cable on July 5th. C.F. replies by letter on July 9th, and on July 10th a "000-28 Spec," serial number 39081, is begun as a single order and the foreman notes "Rush" on shop order #476. Perry makes templates of the fretboard radius, neck width, and string spacing of his Gibson Style 0 and sends them to Martin for use in construction of the neck on his custom guitar.
Perry Bechtel receives the 000-28 Special, writing to Martin on August 9th to tell them it arrived safely. He has already mentioned in letters to C.F. III that if he likes it, he'll return it to the factory to have the headstock "dressed up a bit." Perry likes the guitar, but complains about the action being too low for good tone, so it is shipped back to Nazareth to be "regulated" and to have an inlaid and bound headstock overlay added. He sends a drawing of the slotted headstock with his name at the top, but upon reading C. F. III's reply Perry balks at how long a custom inlay would take and so opts for the standard "torch" headplate, as seen on Style 45 models, which Martin has in stock.
On September 13th, Perry writes to C.F. III that he likes the results of the work Martin rushed through on his behalf, and comments that he is using the guitar and getting many compliments on it.
On October 5th, Martin begins work on a "000-28 Special Perry Bechtel Model," probably a sales sample to be used by Martin's traveling salesman, James Markley, the man who had "discovered" Perry at Cable and suggested he visit the factory. At this point, we don't know if this guitar had a slotted headstock like Perry's, or a solid headstock with banjo tuners like Martin's tenor guitars and most later OM models. Because of the notation in Martin's records, years later Mike Longworth, mistakenly assumes that this was the "prototype" made for Bechtel, simply because it was the first time Perry's name appears in the logbooks (all the correspondence between Martin and Bechtel was in the Cable Piano Co. file). On October 12th, Martin receives an order for a "000-28 Special" from the Wurlitzer store in Cincinnati. This guitar, serial #39904, is begun on 10/15, and has survived to this day, with John Deichman's initials on the underside of the top. It has the slotted headstock and regular binding of a Style 28, but with the shortened body and 14 fret neck.
On 11/5 work is begun on the first batch of three "000-28 Perry Bechtel Models." Another batch of seven is begun on 11/21, one of which is left-handed, and in Martin's log books these are called "000-28 Professional model, Perry Bechtel" Several of these early versions have survived, and all have the solid headstock, so we assume that by this time Martin had decided to make the solid head with banjo tuners ("gear pegs") a feature of its new model. These guitars also have a neck 1 3/4" wide at the nut, and Martin's standard 16 inch fretboard radius. The slightly more narrow neck was probably the result of requests from Martin dealers, who were also pressuring Martin to make archtop models.
Perry returns his 000-28 Special for action adjustment again, repeating his earlier claim that the neck is not deep enough. C.F. III agrees to adjust the action, but from the tone of his reply he clearly realizes that Perry is too fickle to be a useful endorser of Martin's new guitar. The name "Perry Bechtel" ceases to appear in Martin log books for the 000-28 Special models, and instead they are called "000-28 Orchestra Model."By late December, the name is shortened to "000-28 OM model."
On 1/15/30, work is begun on what are apparently the first two OM-18 models. This is the first appearance of the "OM" initials for "Orchestra Model" preceding the Style code in Martin's log books. On 1/24, work is begun on a batch of ten OM-28 models. The "000" designation no longer appears in connection with the new models, as they are called "OM" instead. On 3/7, work is begun on the first two OM-45 models.
By this time, the wider "belly bridge" has replaced the pyramid bridge on most OM models. The first OM-45 Deluxe models are begun.
Four OM models appear in Martin's newest catalog, OM-18, 28, 45, and 45 Deluxe. Only the OM-28 and OM-45 Deluxe are pictured,, both with belly bridge, short pickguard, and banjo tuners. Also in October, the model code is added to the neck block, stamped just above the serial number. Two OM-42 models are made, but no Style 42 OM is never listed in a catalog or price list. Apparently these were the only OM-42 models made, both later surfaced in California (one in San Francisco and one in the Sacramento area).
First appearance of the longer "teardrop" pickguard and right angle guitar "machine heads." The longer pickguards were also a request from Martin dealers who found the shorter version didn't offer enough protection against pick damage. The transition to long pickguard and regular tuners isn't all that orderly, and exceptions will probably be found. But by late Summer of 1931, the OM models had reached their final form, with right angle tuners, long pickguard, and belly bridge. The gold silk-screened "C. F. Martin" script logo first appears on the headstock at the very end of the year.
Martin finally realizes that its OM models will not satisfy dealers' clamoring for archtop models, and issues the C series archtops (which are the same body shape as the OM).
The rosewood binding on OM-18 models is replaced with black Fiberloid early in the year. OM models are no longer the only Martin flattops with 14 fret necks, as the company has introduced "0-18 Specials" which feature shaded tops on a shortened 0-size body (not the same shape as the 0 size tenors), large teardrop pickguards, and solid headstocks with right angle tuners. The first half dozen of these have the long 25.4" string scale, which Martin calls "OM scale."Many OM-18 models from this year are also given shaded tops. The gold silk-screened "C. F. Martin" script on the headstock is replaced by a nearly identical gold decal by June.
OM-18 models continue to sell moderately well (200 were sold for the year) but sales of the more expensive OM-28 have essentially stalled (only 25 were sold in '33, compared to almost ten times that many sold in 1930).
The OM designation is dropped, and OM models revert to being called, and stamped, 000 models. (In the '34 catalog, the 000-28 listing is followed by the notation "formerly OM-28") At this point, Martin is introducing 14 fret versions of virtually all its flattop guitar shapes, from Size 0 through Size D, which fall under the sub-heading "Orchestra Models" in the catalog. The 12-fret models are listed as Standard models, a designation that surfaces in the catalog years later with the D-28S, and which survives to this day in guitars like the 000-28VS.
Remember! When Martin made new versions of an old model, they were often stamped "S" after the model code, meaning "Special." (even the first R-18 archtops were called 00-18S). Once the 14-frets clear revolution had changed all the old models, the 12-fret models were called "Standard," and an "S" after the model code usually indicated the older style. There were lots of "S" suffixes in the late 1920s that did NOT indicate a 14 fret model, such as special tenor and plectrum 4-string models, guitars with narrow necks, etc. To make it even more confusing, there were many special order 14-fret guitars made in the 1930s with the "S" suffix which were not 12-fret models, but instead had special inlays, extra strings, or just about any customer or dealer request that deviated from the usual description of the model at that time. In summary, the "S" suffix was widely used at Martin for many years, and often had several different meanings even within the same time period.
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