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Identifying a mysterious guitar

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By Kirsten Laskey

It began as a simple transaction between friends but transformed into an intriguing mystery.

Tony Chan of Los Alamos purchased a guitar from a friend two or three years ago, and perhaps at first glance it appeared to be a beat-up Martin guitar, but a few clues revealed there was more to the musical instrument than what met the eye.

A label on the lid of the guitar case reveals the guitar dates back to the 1867 and on the peghead or the top of guitar, there is an elaborate silver “presentation plate,” which Chan believes may indicate the guitar was from the Civil War era.

The guitar’s origins make it special, he said. “You don’t see many 1800s Martins,” Chan said.

As a result, Chan said he feels a strong responsibility toward the guitar and decided to fulfill two objectives to it. First, have it restored, and second, research its history.

To get it restored, Chan sent the guitar to Frank Ford, a respected luthier bass at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, Calif.

“(I’m) fulfilling my sense of responsibility,” Chan said. “I feel responsible because there are not too many guitars of this vintage around and because it looks like a Civil War piece.”

Chan said he knew about Ford through a friend, Bill Richardson, who worked for him.


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