The Head of the Class
Headstocks on Early C. F. Martin Guitars
Many of the earliest Martin Guitars were made with headstocks in the
shape of those used by Martin's mentor, Johann Stauffer.
Stauffer c. 1820
1837 Hudson Street Martin
It has been assumed that all of the earliest
Martins made in America were built with the Stauffer Style headstock,
and so the headstock on this guitar was thought to have been replaced.
But we now know of several of the earliest Martins, this being
one, with slotted headstocks, designed for gears, that appear to be
The near twin to this guitar, widely published, including on the cover
of the "Chinery" book, with photos showing a Stauffer style headstock
which was previosuly thought to be original, in fact has a contemporary
German Stauffer style headstock. While it would be easy to assume
that the previous headstock was a Stauffer style as well, we now
know that the instrument previously had a slotted style headstock with
We believe this may be an early headstock from France. Martin
was an importer, and also obtained imported tuners from his fellow
German-American contemporaries in New York. This set of tuners is
probably from somewhat later. I haven't removed them yet to
check screw holes for signs of originality or change.
1840's koa Martin & Coupa
On this example you can see a horizontal line where the headstock is
joined to the neck.
This early Martin & Coupa is an unusual example with a Stauffer
Style headstock but with a volute, the dart which reinforces the joint
between the headstock and the neck, which is usually seen on later
guitars. It's also the only one I've seen without silver buttons.
1840's Spanish Style Martin & Coupa
Early Martin guitars had a headstock that was separate from the neck and
joined to the neck with a volute added for strength.
1850's Ivory Fingerboard Martin
Martin started making guitars with solid headstocks and
ivory pegs at least by the 1840's. For decades after, Martin
produced most of their guitars with slotted headstocks with machines,
but offered solid headstocks "with pegs" as an option.
The earliest solid headstocks were angular and wide, with small holes to
attach ribbons for hanging.
1840's Spanish Style Martin
By the 1860's, the slotted headstock with "Jerome" machines was
standard, with solid headstocks with pegs available on special order.
The earliest necks with slotted headstocks were ebonized, or painted
black, and had "ice cream" style heels.
In the 1840's, three piece necks of cedar were introduced on Spanish
Style guitars. Cedar neck Martins have a headstock attached with a
volute at the headstock joint.
1896 Martin 0-42, "with pegs", with a Nazareth, PA stamp not usually
seen until 1898.
The Martin "Torch"
The first of the "Style 45" headstock inlays to appear on a Martin
was seen in 1902 on #9372, the first 00-42S, to have pearl inlaid on the
back and side borders. This version was known as the "fern".
This was followed by #9488, which had another version of the fern:
1902 Martin 00-42S
The first version of the "torch" or "fern" seen in 1902 was used on
subsequent early examples, and became the standard when the Style 45
became a regularly catalogued item in 1904.
The design seen on #9488 was revived many years later for the 2004
"Bellezza Nerra" and other custom Martins, and became known as the
By 1905, the fern was replaced by the first version of the "torch",
sometimes also known as the "flowerpot"
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