Washburn Model 5241 Classic Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson (1939)

Washburn Model 5241 Classic Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson  (1939)
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Item # 8795
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Washburn Model 5241 Classic Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson (1939), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, natural lacquer finish, mahogany back, sides and neck,spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, chipboard case.

This very interesting pre-war 16" Jumbo guitar has two famous names behind it; "Washburn" which is on the headstock, and Gibson who actually built the instrument. The Washburn brand had been used on Lyon & Healy's premium instruments from the 1880s through 1928; after that it passed to Tonk Bros, another Chicago jobber. Tonk still used it on their better fretted products but had them built by different suppliers, primarily Regal. For a short time in the late 1930s Gibson picked up some of this contract work, and thus some very nice Washburns were born in Kalamazoo between 1938 and 1940.

This Gibson-made 5241 "Classic" Model has a spruce top with ladder bracing over mahogany back and sides. The natural-finish top is bound in white celluloid, with a bound sound hole edge and small rectangular rosewood bridge. The 14-fret mahogany neck has the typical 1930s Gibson "V" profile, with a bound rosewood fingerboard and pearl dot inlay. The large and strikingly unusual peghead design has a very deco look with diagonal lines stenciled over Celluloid showcasing the "Washburn" logo. It is also outfitted with standard period strip tuners with cool translucent plastic buttons.

Like all of Gibson's off-brand instruments of the 1930s, this guitar does not have the company's adjustable truss rod, but is otherwise made with the same quality of materials and workmanship as the regular line. This "Classic" is basically a 16" arch-top body form with a flat top, something Gibson did not make under their own name at the time. In the 1950s the highly esteemed J-185 would be made to the same basic shape, with rounded bouts and a comparatively narrow waist. The 5241 is not quite in a league with that model as it has a shallower body and straight braced top (instead of X braced) which is the way nearly all the secondary line instruments were built. This combination of features gives the "Classic" a very unique tone, big but somewhat less sweet than many Gibsons, more in the Jumbo Stella mode. The 5241 makes a very fine fingerstyle blues guitar but also is a nice "cowboy" strumming machine.

Some of the 5241s were built by Regal in Chicago; their version has a 20 fret fingerboard while the Gibsons have only 19. Gibson-built 5241s also can be distinguished by their distinctive "firestripe" celluloid pickguard, which Regal did not use. The Regal version is built a bit heavier all around, and while a nice instrument on its own merits is not really the sonic equal of this Kalamazoo-made example. Gibson's shipping ledgers show only 57 of this model were sent to Tonk starting September 1939, making it an extremely rare guitar. While not an expensive guitar when new this is a high quality and very unique instrument, a cool piece of pre-war Gibson history and a lovely guitar to play.
Overall length is 41 in. (104.1 cm.), 16 1/16 in. (40.8 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 15/16 in. (10 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This guitar is in nicely original condition overall with some light wear overall, mostly scratching and dings to finish particularly on the back. The neck has been neatly reset and refretted so playability is excellent. The only notable alteration is a new repro bridge plate; the original is included (in the case) but was very worn through at the pinholes. This is a very interesting and unusual-sounding guitar with a tone all its own. The large 16" body, ladder bracing, and high quality construction combine to make a loud but surprisingly sweet-toned instrument, excellent for both fingerstyle and straight strumming. Considering its rarity, this is an extremely well-preserved example of a guitar few have ever seen. Excellent - Condition.