The banner on Gibson’s wartime flat-tops appeared around June of 1942 and disappeared sometime in 1946. It is still a but unclear why but we may know more about the banner after this book comes out: Kalamazoo Gals
. Maybe it had something to do with national pride during the war years since the Martin guitar company was still family owned and the original CF Martin was in fact, a German immigrant. This is solely speculation though, It may have had nothing to do with Martin.
This guitar was probably made in 1944 but again, that is just a guess. It bears no visible factory order number and may have never received one which is common for the late war years. It was constructed of a two piece Spruce top and a solid, one piece flat-sawn Mahogany back. The one piece back is of note because it is evidence that wood stock piles were low so “lower quality” wood was used. The Mahogany should have been quarter sawn for appearance and strength however this process wastes more wood than the flat sawing method. Also of note, the Kalamazoo Gals that built this guitar were told to put “back strips” on the interior of the guitar to help the two joined quarter sawn pieces of Mahogany. Yet this guitar has a one piece back.
I mention this because the people that built this guitar were probably not men who had worked in the factory for many years. More than likely they were “Rosie the Riveters” that filled the empty positions of men who had gone to support the war effort. In John Thomas’ book, “Kalamazoo Gals,” an argument is made that these guitars were somewhat superior to other Gibsons because of the nature of the women who made them. These women had been working with their hands all of their lives. They may not have been making guitars but they were very skilled nonetheless. Since the book is not out yet I cannot say that this is the exact point or argument made. I am very excited about the book as you can imagine!
One thing that I have noticed as a pattern of the banner Gibsons is that they have a distinctive percussive “thump” that vibrates throughout the entire instrument when a string is struck. My experience is limited since I have played only as many banners as you can count on two hands but it is certainly a pattern. A friend once described the thump of this exact instrument to be akin to a “lapping”, as if from the tongue. I thought that was a great way to describe it since thump would indicate a bit bass heavy, which these guitars are not. I am worthless when it comes to describing tone with words so just bear with me.
I have three banner J-45s: one spruce and mahogany, one all mahogany and one in the mail that is spruce and flame maple. The maple banner is still in the mail and should arrive in a couple of days. I’ll be doing two more posts on the other two banners later this month. Do you have a banner Gibson? Send some pictures to my email at tvguit at gmail. I don’t want to post the actual email for fear of bots.