Gibson H-4 Mandola (1915)

GIBSON’S SUPREMACY IN THE MANDOLIN market was underscored by its willingness to develop and cultivate an entire family of mandolin-like instruments, patterned closely after those of the violin family. The tenor-voiced larger-bodied mandola, corresponding to the viola, was introduced in 1902 with three “A-style” models (H, H-l, H-2). In 1912 the first “artist” model mandola style H-4 was premiered, patterned closely after the top of the line F-4 mandolin, but tuned a fifth lower (C-G-D-A). These deep-sounding, throaty instruments became popular with the many mandolin ensembles and orchestras which had been developing all across the country since the turn of the century. Gibson produced quite a few mandolas prior to 1930, but few were made after that. This early example has a beautiful one-piece curly maple back and has belonged to David Grisman for over 30 years. It can be heard on many recordings of his and other artists.

Track 1: Swanee
(from Tone Poems II CD booklet, used by permission)

Photography by D. Brent Hauseman