Happy Birthday, Electric Guitar

The Gibson electric guitar was patented in the United States seventy-two years ago today.  The first electric guitars were developed by the mid-30s in response to the needs of guitarists in jazz orchestras to produce more volume.  These were played flat on the lap and became popular with Hawaiian bands.  Guy Hart, general manager of the Gibson guitar company, worked on a better design in order to exploit this market:
In late 1935, Gibson rolled out the E-150, its first electric, Hawaiian-style lap steel guitar. It came with an amplifier (just like all electric guitars of the era), and the whole package sold for $150 (more than $2,300 in today’s leaf).

Unlike Rickenbacker’s “frying pan,” Gibson’s guitar actually looked like a guitar, complete with round feminine curves, shoulders and scooped waist. Early models were made of aluminum, but in early 1936, Gibson started building them out of the same wood as its acoustic instruments, making the E-150 look more like a traditional guitar.

Soon thereafter, Gibson duplicated the success of the Hawaiian model by adapting one of its more common “Spanish style” guitars into an electric.


Image by flickr user crandlehall2008 used under creative commons license

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The article says it's the anniversary for the patent on Gibson's pickup, not for the guitar. And Gibson's electric wasn't even the first on the market.
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