Gibson Style U Harp Guitar

  • $4,999.00
    Unit price per 


Summary: The Gibson Style “U” was a harp guitar produced by the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company from 1902 until 1925. The Style “U” was produced in several different configurations over the years, with the most common variation having ten sub-bass strings. The tops were made of hand carved spruce and, although in the Gibson catalog the back and sides of the instrument were listed as being made of maple, most of them were built out of walnut. According to George Gruhn, Gibson expected the instrument to surpass the guitar as the next evolution of the instrument. It was the most expensive Gibson guitar produced until 1934 and appeared in the Gibson catalogs for sale from 1902 to 1937.

Cosmetics: This instrument has wear that is consistent with a guitar from the early 1900’s. This harp is structurally sound and playable but could use some repair in the long term. There is a crack in the sub-bass headstock. The crack is between the low string and the second low string. There are several cracks in the binding on the six-string part of the instrument. There is a stamp inside the body noting repair work done by a shop in 1931. You can see glue along the edges of the top of the guitar and on the sub-bass side of the instrument near the scroll carve. It is unclear whether the top was removed, or this glue was simply to fill in small separations. There are small cracks in the binding in a few places. The binding on the treble side of the six-string neck near the highest 6 frets on the bass side has been replaced. There are dents and scratches as well as unworn finish where the pickguard once was. The end pins on the plastic tailpiece have been replaced. Overall, this instrument is still in great shape considering it is over 100 years old. This instrument is sold as-is.

Playability: This instrument seems to hold tune and is playable though the frets are sharp and could stand to be crowned. The sub-bass side needs a well-fitting square key to tune it and we were not able to tune the 2 lowest strings as a result. Many people purchase these as a piece of history but with a relatively small amount of work it could be brought back to prime playing condition.

Modifications: A new plastic tailpiece was crafted. On the bass side of the six-string part of the instrument, someone has inexpertly replaced the binding from the 13th fret to the 19th fret.

Weight: 10 lbs., .02 oz.

Case: This instrument ships in the original case with the original pickguard, brackets, and the tension rod tool. It ships professionally packaged and fully insured.

From an original 1907 Gibson catalog: Finest quality, carefully graduated, select spruce top (sounding board), of regular, straight-grain, beautiful finish; finest selected, thoroughly air seasoned maple rim and back, dark mahogany finish, highly polished throughout; hand carved, ornamented and veneered head piece, top and back; laminated extended head-piece supported by octagonal arm extending beneath sounding board to the rim at the end of body, which is the only construction that gives the proper strength to resist the immense tension of the ten sub-basses. To this construction we point with pride, for all the other makes of harp-guitars have failed in supporting any length of time even six sub-basses. East India mahogany bridge, hand carved and ornamented. The immense leverage on the bridge is overcome by the scrolls in the bridge and by the Gibson nickeled extension bridge stay. Ivory-celluloid binding on outer upper edge of rim, so that the inlaying does not affect vibrations; ebony, ivory-celluloid bound artist extension fingerboard, with twenty oval narrow frets; pearl position dots on fingerboard and upper side of neck, thus enabling the performer to catch a position quickly; oblong ivory-celluloid bound sound hole, inlaid with fancy colored woods and celluloid-ivory border; finest quality machine head; bone nut; inlaid bridge pins; extreme length, 46 ½ inches; extreme width, 21 inches; extreme depth 5 ¼ inches; length from nut to bridge 25 ¾ inches, length from nut to bridge on sub-basses, 34 inches. The strings are tuned so as to enable the performer to get an open bass for any chord desired; therefore, the treble only is necessary to finger. Grace and ease of execution are possible, even above the twelfth fret, as body is made low and oval where it joins the neck on the first-string side. Every tone in the treble is responded to in sympathetic vibration by its octave in the basses, which with our construction, gives a power and volume of tone unsurpassed. In staccato and pianissimo passages the performer plays with a little lower wrist, which brings the sleeve down as a damper or acts like the so-called “soft pedal” on the piano. Modulating is as easily performed as on the harp or piano. By actual test with a $1,500 harp, it was proved that this instrument would sustain tone fifteen seconds longer than said harp. The ordinary six string guitar is much more difficult of execution, particularly in flat keys, and is more limited in compass and possibilities. We unhesitatingly recommend the Gibson sixteen-string harp-guitar as the greatest instrument of its kind ever produced.