Orville Gibson

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Orville H. Gibson (1856 - 1918) born in Chateaugay, New York, Gibson was a luthier who founded the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1902, makers of guitars, mandolins and other instruments.

His father was John Gibson, of England. Before making instruments as a full time job, Gibson held various day jobs while pursuing his hobby, which was making guitars and mandolins. For unknown reasons, possibly to seek therapy at a world-famous sanitarium in nearby Battle Creek, he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1890. There he made musical instruments and applied for his first and only patent in 1895. His designs were a departure from the traditional Italian-style mandolins looks and technical features. His mandolins featured a relatively flat carved back, a carved top, and a longer fretboard to make room for easier fingering. They were constructed with either a teardrop-shaped or a Florentine style with points and scroll. Mandolins of this design would eventually replace the popular bowl-back instruments of that era. In 1902, he sold his patent rights to a group of businessmen, as part of the establishment of a company that bore his name. He then continued of on and off as a part-time or full time employee of the Gibson Company, earning an average salary and collecting some royalties. It is unclear as to the relationship that he had with the company that bore his name after he sold the patent.

Many of the surviving instruments that were made by him are elaborately ornamented and are now highly valuable. There are no known instruments made by him after 1906 that still survive. His health gradually failed and he moved back to New York. Gibson died from chronic endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner membrane of the heart, on 19 August 1918.