CHAPTER 8: Martin Innovations
According to C. F. Martin III, the 14-fret neck was developed in late 1929. Prior to the period, guitars were generally equipped with a 12-fret neck. As the story goes, a renowned plectrum banjoist of the day, Perry Bechtel, suggested to Frank Henry Martin that he make a guitar with a 14-fret neck. Bechtel reasoned that the longer neck would increase the guitar's range and make it a more versatile instrument. Following Bechtel's advice, Martin introduced a guitar with the longer neck and dubbed it an "Orchestra Model."
The 14-fret neck was so well received that Martin eventually extended the feature to all models in its line. In short order, it became the standard design for the American guitar industry.
The Dreadnought guitar, named after a large class of World War I British battleships, has become something of a trademark of the Martin Company. The original Martin Dreadnought models were designed by Frank Martin and Harry Hunt, manager of Chas. H. Ditson Co., a leading music retailer with stores in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. A shrewd judge of the market, Hunt reasoned that a Dreadnought guitar, with its large body and booming bass, would be ideal for accompanying vocals. The first Dreadnoughts, introduced in 1916, were sold under the brand name of "Oliver Ditson and Co., Boston, New York." At first the instruments were not very well received simply because there were not many singers using guitars, and solo players felt that the bass on the Dreadnought was overbearing. However, as folk singing became increasingly popular, sales of the Dreadnought picked up. The Ditson Company went out of business in the late 1920s, and in 1931 Martin incorporated the Dreadnought into its line of guitars. Today, the model is a dominant factor in the Martin line, and virtually every maker of acoustic guitars, both domestic and foreign, has introduced a version of this original Martin design.