Gibson L-C Century of Progress Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1937)

Gibson  L-C Century of Progress Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1937)
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Item # 10058
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Gibson L-C Century of Progress Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1937), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 279C-3, sunburst lacquer finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood and celluloid fingerboard, original brown chipboard case.

The L-C "Century of Progress" model is one of Gibson's most distinctive and beautiful acoustic guitar designs, and one of the most visually striking flattops of any era. Combining a 14" 3/5 wide curly maple body with flashy pearloid ornamentation on the neck and headstock, the Century is somewhat reminiscent of the flash of many 1920's tenor banjos. Not just a "looker", the Century is also a sonically distinctive guitar in its own right. The maple back and sides give it a crisp powerful sound perfectly suited to blues and ragtime fingerpicking and when played with a pick the guitar is both loud and cutting enough to play rhythm in a small dance combo.

The Century is single bound top and back, with finely shaded golden sunburst on all surfaces. The flamed grain on the back of this one is particularly nice. The softly V-shaped mahogany neck is also subtly sunbursted. The tuners are individual plastic button Grover Sta-Tites, the pearloid headstock and fingerboard are bound in black and white celluloid. The soundhole ring is 3-ply W-B-W, while the pickguard is made of Gibson's striking pre-war firestripe tortoise celluloid. Small pearl diamonds are set into rosewood blocks inset into the celluloid fingerboard creating a dramatic three color visual scheme which nicely offsets the sunburst-finished spruce top. Legend has it that this was originally designed to use up pre-made banjo fingerboards, as banjo orders had dwindled substantially.

This is a relatively late example of the Century, with a larger sunburst area on the top typical of 1937. Only 120 of this model were shipped that year, the first figures are preserved for. The model was originally introduced for the "Century of Progress" exhibition in Chicago in 1933, and was discontinued around 1939. The L-C was a fairly expensive instrument, listing at $60.00 the year this example was made. While never a common instrument this unmistakable Gibson can be easily spotted in old photos of some Hillbilly and Radio Cowboy acts of the 1930's, including the Girls of the Golden West and Mainer's Mountaineers. A truly distinctive guitar, Gibson's L-C Century is a wonderful if slightly eccentric connoisseur's delight in a pre-war flat top.
 
Overall length is 40 in. (101.6 cm.), 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This is overall a superbly well preserved example of this unusual and striking Gibson creation, looking to have not seen much use in 80+ years. The finish shows some typical light checking and a couple of random wear spots on the top but does not exhibit much play wear. The only alteration is the bridge is a slightly oversize replacement, with a bit more depth at the forward end but otherwise in the correct period pattern. There is some small finish disturbance at the perimeters from this installation. Internally the small maple bridgeplate and all bracing remains original.

One small sealed back grain split is the only crack repair. This guitar does not appear to have had a neck reset, but even so is an excellent player. The frets are in excellent condition with very little wear. With its relatively small maple body and spruce top the Century does not sound quite like any other guitar, offering a powerful, well-defined yet still sweet tone. This L-C is housed in the original brown chipboard case which is somewhat delicate for day-to-day use after 80+ years but still fully intact and functional. Overall Excellent Condition.