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H5315 Arch-top guitar, Model G-40, plastic / metal, made by Mario Maccaferri, New York, United States of America, c.1953. Click to enlarge.

Arch-top guitar

Made
  • c 1953
The use of plastics for musical instruments became especially popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s with companies using materials such as bakelite to create clarinets, saxophones, recorders, small table-top organs and even small sets of bagpipes. Bakelite had also been used for the bodies of banjos but in the early 1950s guitar designer Mario Maccaferri, using a plastic product called Styron, began to manufacture both arch top and flat top guitars.

Maccaferri, an accomplished guitarist, had been apprenticed to a luthier in 1911. He came to prominance in the 1930s when his radical wooden guitar design, that featured an internal soundbox/diaphragm, began being produced in France by the Selmer company. Played by guitarists including Django Reinhardt it is estimated that less than 300 were produced during Maccaferri's short association with Selmer which ended in 1933 (see Evans, 1977 p.227). The company continued manufacturing a Maccaferri-style guitar during the 1930s but with a far simpler design.

Prior to World War 2, Maccaferri moved to the USA and went on to establish a plastics company, Mastro Industries, which began producing both plastic guitars and ukulele's from about 1953. This instrument, from the museum's collection, is an example of the arch top model G-40 that was produced from about this time. Acquired by the museum in 1954 it shows how alternative materials could be used in place of traditional products such as wood. It is also significant culturally reflecting the growing importance of plastic throughout the world as a relatively new and adaptable material, and one that was collected by a museum of technology to show its benefits. Production of the guitars was short lived and apparently only continued briefly due to the lack of popularity of guitars in this style at the time. The ukulele's however sold somewhat better, apprently with sales of over nine million (Evans, 1977 p.235).

Michael Lea
Curator, music & musical instruments
April, 2009


References:
Tom and Mary Anne Evans; Guitars - From the Rennaissance to Rock (Paddington Press, UK, 1977)

Tiesco Del Rae "Off The Wall" in Guitar Player magazine,

Summary

Object No.

H5315

Object Statement

Arch-top guitar, Model G-40, plastic / metal, made by Mario Maccaferri, New York, United States of America, c.1953

Physical Description

Guitar body made of moulded 'Styron' plastic; cut-away arch-top shape with 'f' holes; neck-through-body construction; back and sides dark red/black 'rosewood' plastic; cream plastic soundboard with wooden ribs; metal tailpiece; neck has wooden core, sheathed in steel and finished in plastic; adjusting screw at rear of guitar tilts neck to adjust string height; plastic fretboard, metal frets and white fret dots; metal machineheads with white plastic knobs; plastic bridge; fret dots on back and front of neck; neck incorporates plastic nut; screws in back of neck enable removal.

Marks

Maccaferri in maroon on white headstock; Maccaferri in metal and circular plastic disc with coat of arms and M.M. all on metal tailpiece; sticker Made of Styron on soundboard

Dimensions

Width

345 mm

Depth

130 mm

Production

Made

  • c 1953

Notes

Produced in the USA in the early 1950s.

History

Notes

Bought by the Powerhouse Museum in 1954 as an example of plastics construction and design.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of the French American Reeds Mfg Co Inc, USA through Swift & Co Ltd Sydney, 1954

Acquisition Date

28 September 1954

Cite this Object

Harvard

Arch-top guitar 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 October 2020, <https://ma.as/242937>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/242937 |title=Arch-top guitar |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.