One hundred years ago, the archtop mandolin was still a relatively new invention. Of course, this new style—with its carved top and carved back—was spearheaded by a clever luthier named Orville Gibson. In July 1917, the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Co. opened production in its new location at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Mich. From that location, Gibson would go on to build first the most iconic mandolins and then later some of the most iconic guitars ever made in the United States.
This 1918 Gibson A Mandolin is an excellent example of an early Parsons Street mandolin. Until 1922, every Gibson mandolin had an oval sound hole. While this design eventually lost favor to the f-hole design, there's something sweet and unmistakable about the tone of a prewar oval-hole mandolin. They are warm and well-rounded, and their sound seems more connected to traditional and old-time styles of music.
This 1918 Gibson A is a joy to play, and it has been nicely preserved over the last century (and counting!). In 1918, the Model As came in the standard brown finish, and simple under-stated appointments provided the perfect match. This mandolin has lost its original pickguard, but it sports a period-appropriate 1-piece, compensated bridge and its original engraved "the Gibson tailpiece." Its nut and German-made tuning machines appear to be original, as well. As for repairs, its center top seam may have been re-glued, but that's pretty much all we can find.
This 1918 Gibson A plays well and produces thick, refined tone that has been enriched by the last 101 years. There are plenty of songs left in this old mandolin!