Inside The Martin Guitar Museum

Founded in 1833, Martin Guitars has been family-owned and operated for the past 183 years, and the pride they have in their American-made guitars is evident in the Martin Guitar Museum, located in Nazareth, Pa.

“Martin Guitar has achieved a beautiful blend of hands on craftsmanship with state of the art technology,” said Director of Community Relations Cynthia L. McAllister.  “The coolest things [about Martin Guitars] range from exquisite pearl inlay to the use of laser machines profiling guitar tops, backs and sides; robotic polishing of guitar bodies and necks; to the use of Plek® machines, which are used in guitar production to perform precise fret dressing and optimal string action.”

The museum has over 200 guitars on display, but there are two very unique, related guitars that are sure to catch the eyes of museum goers:

  • “Grandpa” D-18  - This guitar was coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain, and was gifted to the rocker by then girlfriend Mary Lou Lord in 1991.   It was used by Cobain while on tour for Nirvana’s album, Nevermind.  After Cobain’s death, the instrument was returned to Mary Lou Lord, who subsequently toured with the late Portland rock troubadour Elliott Smith.
  • D12-28 Destroyed by Courtney Love – This guitar was loaned to Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love of the band Hole for her MTV Unplugged performance in 1995.  She smashed the guitar during the closing credits, rendering the guitar worthless except as a piece of MTV video history.

Of course, Martin’s Signature Series has honored a number of artists with their own guitar model (which are on display), including the following: Jim Croce, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Dan Fogelberg, Dave Matthews, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Sett Avett and Johnny Cash.

While Martin Guitars has clearly worked with a wide variety of artists, one of the most high-profile Signature Series models was the 000-42 Eric Clapton Limited Edition acoustic guitar.

“Eric Clapton’s 1992 MTV Unplugged performance and subsequent multi-platinum album had given acoustic music a big boost,” said McAllister.  “In 1995, the 000-42 Eric Clapton Limited Edition with a limited run of only 461 (in conjunction with Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard album) was introduced.  It became the company’s most successful limited edition, and approximately $92,000 was raised for the Eric Clapton Charitable Trust for Children. More than ten exciting collaborations with Eric Clapton have transpired since the original 1995 edition.”

Martin Guitars aren’t just a favorite brand among guitar players; they’re also very popular for use in film and television. ABC’s Nashville, NBC’s The Voice, Fox’s American Idol, HBO’s Girls and Ted 2 are just some of the TV shows and movies that have featured Martin Guitars. Considering their quality, it’s no wonder they’re included on a number of music-based reality shows.

For more information on Martin Guitars and the Martin Guitars Museum, head over to

Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock reporter who never leaves home without her iPod, because to her, there’s something very comforting about carrying around every piece of music she’s ever owned in her life.