Vintage Steel

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Vintage Steel: The Art and History of the American Steel String Guitar

Curated by John Thomas


September 15, 2012 - January 11, 2013

Opening Reception September 22, 2012, 5 to 8 pm
Closing Jam January 11, 2013, 6 to 9 pm


The X-ray images on display in Vintage Steel were born from the insatiable curiosity of law professor, music writer, fingerstyle guitar player and guitar aficionado John Thomas. In an effort to document of the impact of WWII-era shortages of metals, rubber and plastics on the construction of Gibson guitars, Thomas convinced a team of radiographers at Quinnipiac University to X-ray a few guitars from that period.

The X-rays indeed revealed that the wartime Gibsons eliminated metal reinforcements in the guitar necks and used coin-thin tuning gears. But even more striking was what Thomas discovered about the WWII workforce. Experts have long contended that Gibson’s WWII guitars are standouts because, when draft-age employees joined the war effort, only the most seasoned craftsmen remained at the factory to build instruments. But a quick glance at company photos reveals that nearly every one of those “craftsmen” was in fact a craftswoman.

Vintage Steel also features X-rays of dozens of other vintage guitars, including Martins from the 1800s, instruments crafted by the Larson brothers in the early 20th century, and a handful of rare and remarkable harp guitars.

Read more about John on his site >>