Martin Guitars: A Short History (Documentary)

I think this is a solid documentary on Martin Guitar including a tour of their factory.

I wrote a full review of the documentary below. Or, you can just jump right into the video.


Watch “Martin Guitars: A Short History”

You can watch the full documentary by clicking the video embed above or here:


  • My Rating: 88/100
  • IMDB Rating: na
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: na

My Review of “Martin Guitars: A Short History”

“Martin Guitars: A Journey Through Time” takes us through the history and legacy of Martin Guitars.

Martin, of course, is the gold standard of acoustic instruments.

The creator of this doc is musician Mary Spender. She uses a Martin factory tour (led by Martin’s Archives Museum Manager Jason Ahner, as the nucleus of the 2022 doc)

We start with the early days in Germany. That’s where Johann George Martin was crafting guitars in the family’s ancestral home in Markneukirchen.

The journey across the Atlantic in 1833 brought Christian Frederick Martin to New York.

The Big Apple is where he sets up shop on Hudson Street before relocating to Pennsylvania in 1839.

We learn about the pioneering inventions that put Martin on the map.

The X-bracing technique, introduced in 1843 on a guitar built for Madame Nigoni, changed the game for acoustic guitars.

This innovative bracing method allowed for a sturdier build and richer sound. And it’s still a hallmark of Martin guitars today.

Ahner showcases the oldest known Martin guitar from 1834. He points out the early design labels and the violin-like influence with maple back and sides.

The narrative moves to the company’s relocation to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in 1859.

This period saw Martin navigating the Civil War and economic downturns.

Yet, Martin emerges stronger with increased production and the introduction of new guitar styles.

One standout moment is the creation of the first X-braced guitar for Madame Nigoni, showcasing Martin’s knack for innovation.

The ukulele boom of the early 20th century is another fascinating chapter.

Hawaiian music swept the nation, and Martin was quick to ride the wave, introducing their first ukulele models in 1916.

The doc highlights a historically significant ukulele owned by Richard Cotter, an officer in the U.S. Navy. The ukele is famous for making a trip to the North Pole with Admiral Byrd.

A pivotal development came with the OM-28 in 1929.

Built for banjo player Perry Bechtel, this model featured a longer neck and new body shape, making it the first modern acoustic guitar.

This period, considered the Golden Era of Martin, saw the company innovate more than ever before.

Next up, Martin adds the iconic Dreadnought model. Early Dreadnoughts like the Ditson 111, and later the D28, became staples for country and bluegrass musicians.

Post-war America saw a surge in popularity for Martin guitars, fueled by the folk revival and rock and roll.

Iconic instruments owned by Joan Baez and Les Paul are showcased, emphasize Martin’s significant impact on various music genres.

Baez’s guitar, with her setlist, is still taped to the side.

And they show Les Paul’s first “good” guitar, a 1929 018K.

Fast forward to the modern era, and Chris Martin is at the helm, steering the company through new challenges and opportunities.

The Custom Shop, introduced in 1979, allows for bespoke creations, giving customers exactly what they want.

Innovations continue with the introduction of sustainable woods and the highly successful signature models like the Eric Clapton edition, which became an instant hit.

Whether you’re a guitar aficionado or just love a good underdog story, this doc hits all the right notes.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly

Chief Maniac, Daily Doc