Everyone A Gibsonite

Promotional photo for 1921 Gibson Mandolin Company "Catalog M". Ivers Mandolin Orchestra/Adams Plectrum Society, Adams, Massechusetts.

Members I can identify: Center Middle Row: Joseph Ivers, Orchestra leader, Gibson Mandolin Company Agent,and my Great Grandfather, Center Left Holding a Gibson F-4 Mary Ivers-Bassette, my Great Grandmother, Back Row from left: Leonore Ivers-Carmel, my Great Aunt, George Ivers, my Grandfather, Sitting in front, white dress, Doris Ivers-Hueston, my Great Aunt.

Page 21 Gibson Mandolin Catalog M: See right side second photo from bottom

Page 21 Gibson Mandolin Catalog M: See right side second photo from bottom
I recently discovered that this photo of my Great grandfather's Mandolin Orchestra appears on page 21 of the Gibson "M" catalog, published in 1921, confirming my theory that he (Joseph L. Ivers) was a Gibson "teacher-agent" or dealer, and that this photo was part of the "Everyone a Gibsonite" marketing campaign. Some of these instruments are still owned and played by Ivers family members. For example, my father Robert Ivers still plays the 1914 F4 in the center played by my Great Grandmother Mary Ivers in this photo. He also owns a 1921 H2 Mandola, no doubt pictured brand spanking new somewhere in this photo. I would love to try to contact other family members to see where some of these other instruments ended up.

Water Color "Grandfather's Mandolin" by Robert Ivers of Gibson F-4 #24532

Water Color "Grandfather's Mandolin" by Robert Ivers of Gibson F-4 #24532
Water Color Of My Great Grand Father's F4 painted by my Father, Robert Ivers. Look !!!!!!! Notice unintended ghost image of my Great Grandfather Joseph Ivers in upper left !

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Review: Spann’s Guide to Gibson 1902- 1941

Book Review: Spann’s Guide to Gibson 1902- 1941, by Joe Spann, Centerstream Publishing

I preordered at Amazon, and I've had a chance to read through it, and have found it to be very interesting, and detailed in a lot of uncharted areas, particularly with respect to serial number and factory order number records during the years in the title. The most interesting revelation for me and maybe others, who read the book, is a new perspective on dating Gibson Instruments. I've always relied on serial numbers and more specifically, information based on serial numbers listed in the Mandolin Archive Website to date family owned and other Gibson Instruments. (See link to the Mandolin Archive on the right sidebar below) From new research presented in the Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941, it turns out that serial numbers are really only reliable indicators of shipping date and not manufacture date. According to Spann, the Serial Number was only assigned to an instrument when the label was applied just prior to shipping. It turns out, according to the information in this book, the Factory Order Number, which evidently all instruments were stamped with at the inception of the manufacturing process, is a more accurate indicator of manufacture date. Since Serial Numbers were only applied just prior to shipping, it's possible that instruments could have been manufactured but not shipped in the same year. It seems well documented in the book that a number of instruments may have been stored sometimes for several years before they had a Serial Number/Label applied and shipped. Therefore, using Serial Number records to determine the year an instrument was “from” might have been incorrect, prior to this new Factory Order Number dating system.

I was however disappointed a bit by the lack of focus and information about Gibson mandolin family instrument sales and marketing from the teens and twenties. The research included in this book regarding teacher-agents and dealers, or the sales channel in general, is focused primarily on the period from the late twenties, through the late thirties. I would go, as far as to say that title of the book; Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902-1941 is a bit misleading. While there is detailed Serial Number and Factory Order Number and a lot of other historical information for the whole period covered in the title, other chapters and topics are very light on information or data from the early years, teens, and early twenties. Most, if not all, the sales and marketing data presented in the book dates from the late twenties to the Second World War.

My primary interest in this stuff is biased of course towards my family history, and the Mandolin Orchestra Era, which peaked for Gibson during the teens and early twenties. It is during the teens and early twenties that my Great Grandfather Joseph L. Ivers was a teacher, mandolin orchestra leader and a Gibson Agent. It's my understanding, that during this period (teens and early twenties) dealership networks, and retail store sales were still small, and the "Everyone a Gibson-ite" marketing strategy used as it's primary sales channel, teacher-agents, and their promotion of Mandolin Orchestras and Mandolin Clubs. The only profile of a "teacher -agent" in this book focuses on someone from the thirties, well past the late twenties when Mandolin Orchestra's were fading from popularity, and Gibson was phasing out the "Everyone a Gibson-ite" teacher-agent sales channel. 

I had very high expectations for this book when I learned of its publication on the Mandolin Café Website. And for the most part I was very happy with the purchase, as it’s full of information that is new and of great interest to me.  I would say that it’s a must have for anyone with an interest in Gibson Company history, vintage instruments or specifically Gibson Mandolin family instruments. I only wish there had been more data or information regarding catalog publication, advertising, and sales and marketing strategies particularly from the earliest years, teens and early twenties. After all, the focus of this Web Log is the Golden Era of the Mandolin Orchestra, and most of the antidotal information in this book is based on data from the late twenties and beyond, well after the heyday of the Gibson Mandolin Orchestra or Mandolin Club. 

All in all, the book offers a lot of new and fascinating, historical information about the manufacturing process, materials used, factory staff, suppliers, product lines, and Gibson Company management. I look forward to re-reading and continuing to use the book as a research tool, particularly with respect to dating instruments. 
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