Celebrating the 100th birthday of an American original—the mighty dreadnought
When the first dreadnought hit the market in the summer of 1916, it neither bore the Martin name nor was it particularly well received. Designed and built by C.F. Martin & Co., it was intended exclusively for sale in New York and Boston music shops. The first dreadnought, dubbed the Model 222, carried the Oliver Ditson brand name and was considered “too loud” by many guitarists and listeners accustomed to the more genteel sound of parlor-sized instruments.
When the Ditson brand sank in 1925, the dreadnought seemed destined to be a guitar-history footnote. But then the Great Depression arrived, and early forms of bluegrass and other acoustic folk styles became popular and began being performed in larger halls. Without modern amplification, the smaller guitars of the day were getting lost in the acoustic mix. What worked well on the back porch and front parlor didn’t do so well in theatres.
With guitarists urging Martin to build louder acoustic guitars, the company’s luthiers recalled they still had the jigs and molds for the original dreadnought, leading to the design being brought out of mothballs. In 1931 the first Martin-branded dreadnoughts, the D-1 and and D-2, entered the market and were met with immediate approval by guitarists hungering for stronger projection.
CEO Chris Martin IV and archivist Dick Boak talk about the historical relevance of the dreadnought.
Shortly after this, the D-1 morphed into what is now known as the D-18 and the D-28—two of the most revered acoustic guitars ever. Over the following decades, these big-voiced dreadnoughts established the standard for acoustic-guitar sound in American popular music. And that remains true to this day.
That was then…
Fast forward to the present. Martin is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first dreadnought with a limited-edition guitar worthy of the lineage. The resulting limited-edition Martin DR Centennial Dreadnought Acoustic is a remarkable buy and a great addition to the dreadnought story.
The guitar is fitted with an Adirondack spruce top that has been aged using Martin’s Vintage Tone System—a heat and pressure process—that gives the instrument the sort of harmonic complexity usually found only in vintage guitars whose voices have aged and bloomed. The solid rosewood back and sides balance the bright articulation of the top with punchy response that gives this guitar its trademark rhythmic power.
In creating the DR Centennial Dreadnought, Martin has taken a more-is-less approach, dispensing with elaborate cosmetics in favor of solid tonewoods and the audible benefits they bring. Undoubtedly, the plainer appearance also allows Martin to bring this dreadnought to market at a surprisingly attractive price.
With its vintage-style open-gear tuners and antique white binding, the DR Centennial announces its heritage at a glance. But it’s that first time, when you hard-strum a big G chord that the Centennial fully confirms it’s a Martin dreadnought through and through. Play a few minutes more and get prepared to be won over by the big rolling bass voice combined with tightly defined trebles and a midrange that achieves a nice balancing act.
Once the allotment of limited-run DR Centennials are sold, there will be no more. The guitar is both a fabulous performer and a great buy. For an in-hand audition, detailed photos or a Skype session, call one our Private Reserve guitar advisors at 866-926-1923.