Martin and Coupa Brazilian Tigerwood Guitar
Once the Martin family
moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania in 1838, distribution
of the guitars remained in New York, handled by
guitar teacher John Coupa,
and the guitars were
either affixed with a "Martin & Coupa" label, or
continued to be stamped "C.F. Martin, New York".
This is a typical
early Martin parlor guitar, showing a mix of Viennese and Spanish
influenced features: Still with the Stauffer Style headstock and
Vienna gears, ebonized neck
and "ice cream cone" heel, combined with Spanish fan bracing, an early
precursor of Martin's faux Spanish foot, extending the width of the
upper bout, and an early version of
Martin's typical Spanish influenced body shape, with a smaller upper
bout than the Viennese influenced guitars, and a flatter base of the
lower bout than is found on later Martins.
This instrument has been noted in
several books as an early illustration of Martin's use of Hawaiian
koa wood, long before koa was first
thought to have been used during
the Hawaiian craze of the
testing has shown this wood to in fact be Goncalo Alves from
Eastern Brazil, commonly referred
to as "Tigerwood".
The back is
a Goncalo Alves veneer over
Formerly of the Chinery Collection.
This early example of an early Martin Koa wood guitar was thought to be a
one of a kind, until I discovered it's twin. Ever efficient, Martin
often made a second guitar, identical with the exception of varying the
marquetry designs, when he had a unique order.
This is a typical early Martin parlor guitar, still with the Stauffer
Style headstock and Vienna gears, ebonized neck and "ice cream cone" heel,
fan bracing, an early precursor of the Spanish foot, extending the width
of the upper bout, and an early version of Martin's typical body shape,
with a smaller upper bout than the Viennese influenced guitars, but a
flatter lower bout than found on later Martins.
This is one of many 1840's Martins affixed the "Martin & Coupa" label
and distributed by New York guitar teacher John Coupa.
Body width: 11 7/16"
Upper body width: 8 3/8"
Body length: 17.5"
Upper body depth: 3.25"
Lower body depth: 3 9/16"
Neck width at nut: 1 13/16"
Neck width at 12th fret: 2.5"
Soundhole: 3 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 5/16"
Top braces: fan bracing with three blades
Back braces: 3 wide round top braces
Large foot under beck block extending the entire width of the top
Martin & Coupa label with smaller John F. Nunns, Philadelphia store
This second example is clearly a near identical twin, made of the same
wood at the same time.
Martin tended to built two almost identical twins at a time, with minor
differences in the appointments, so I was not entirely surprised to find
the second one. This second example appears to be identical for the
exception of the pendant below the bridge with a single dot of pearl.
Carter, "Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments"p.
"Stuck over the Martin
& Coupa label is one indicating that the guitar was "Sold by John
F. Nunns". Martin & Coupa claimed the largest assortment of
guitars that can be found in the United States."
Illustrated in Washburn & Johnston,
"Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America's Premier
Guitarmaker", p. 43:
"You don't often find
Hawaiian koa on mid-nineteenth-century guitars; in fact, you don't
find much koa on anything at that early date. Around 1915,
when the Hawaiian music craze swept the nation, Martin began to make
lots of instruments from this beautiful wood, but one can only
why C.F. Sr. chose to try it on this Martin & Coupa from the
Illustrated in Gura: "C.F. Martin and his Guitars"
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