Gibson introduced the L-Century (Century Of Progress) model in 1933. The model was named after the Century of Progress International Exposition World’s Fair held in Chicago to celebrate the city’s centennial.
Gibson had been making L-series flat top acoustics since 1926 and already had a range of models by this time. However, for this Century of Progress Model Gibson decided to showcase the use of plastics like pearloid and celluloid which cover the fingerboard and headstock, as well as the bindings, tuner buttons, pickguard and bridge pins.
The Gibson L-Century is one of the few guitars with rosewood inlays on a pearloid fingerboard – it’s usually the other way around! Gibson also used eye-catching figured maple for the back and sides, instead of the standard mahogany. Otherwise the Gibson L-Century has the same dimensions as standard L-Series models from this era.
L-style small body
Curly maple back and sides
Round soundhole with two ring rosette
Three-ply (1933-38) or single-ply (1938-1941) body binding
19-fret three-ply bound pearloid fingerboard
Notched pearl diamonds inlaid in rosewood block fingerboard inlays
Black-bound headstock with pearloid veneer with rosewood wedge
Pearl slotted diamond/gibson logo inlay (1933-38)
Three-per-side tuners with plastic buttons
Rosewood straight bridge with white pins
Tortoise / striped pickguard
14 ¾ in. Body width
19 ¼ in. Body length
We believe this lovely instrument dates to 1936 or 1937. It was bought in USA by its current owner, a pro musician who toured the US regularly for many years. For him, it has been a go-to home guitar and songwriting tool for decades, besides being a work of luthiery art. They sure don’t make ‘em like this any more.
If you think you may have seen one of these somewhere before, it was probably in the possession of Elvis Costello, who is regularly seen playing his in concert and on TV appearances. In 2008 Gibson made a limited edition Elvis Costello Century of Progress Signature acoustic guitar fashioned after Costello’s beloved 1936 model.
The original rectangular bridge has been replaced at some point with a curved rosewood unit, similar to those found on some other early Gibsons. There are 3 small screw holes in the base on the body, indicating it may have had a trapeze tailpiece at some point. Apart from that we can see no evidence of any other changes or repairs. There is an area on the back upper bout where the lacquer has worn away, but there are no splits or cracks in the wood, and it is structurally sound.
This guitar presents in excellent condition considering it is at least 80 years old. It has the original bone saddle, and the truss rod actually works. The pearloid and plastics are in great shape – not lifting or shrinking. And the rosewood neck inlays are just gorgeous. The original lacquer is in great shape, with some lovely crazing and striations that can only come with age.
Most importantly, it plays beautifully and sounds great. At 3.6 lbs, this L Century is flyaway light, and it delivers a clear, tight sound – nice and balanced with excellent projection. And great for recording.
Comes in a later quality hard case in good condition.