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circa 1900 Ditson Empire Parlor

Best I’ve been able to determine is this is “The Empire Guitar” from the Stringed Instrument Division of the Ditson Company Boston-New York-Philadelphia.  These guitars were made for Ditson by several companies, two were Martin and Lyon & Healy. There is no provenance as to the actual maker of this one.  My example is missing its label but I’ve shown 2 photos of a comparable example with intact label.

The top is Adirondack spruce and the back and sides are laminated Brazilian rosewood with a basic 3 brace configuration on the back and a ladder braced top. The neck is Spanish cedar with a distinct yet quite comfortable V shape. There is a stamped serial number on a top brace next to the sound hole which is 9846 (or 40).  The letters “con” are faintly stamped on the neck block.  The fingerboard is an ebonized light colored hard wood.  The tuners are not likely original but came on the guitar and have period correct upper reverse turning gears, but the ebony bridge, ivory bridge pins and ivory saddle and nut appear original.

Every year I try my best to have a restoration performed on a particular guitar I consider significant and worthy which I then keep and play for myself. I find wrecks and bring them back to life with the help of the skilled luthiers I’ve been fortunate to associate with . I acquired this one from a violin collector-trader I know in Chicago and he actually brought it to me to New Hampshire about six years ago. My friend and luthier, Pat DiBurro of Exeter New Hampshire lovingly restored this beauty soon after. Performing a neck reset to align with the original low saddle indicative of the period while retaining its accurate intonation. Other elements of the restoration included a fine repair of a cracked heel, freshen up the French polish on the back and sides, restore some marquetry around the rosette and a perform a fabulous set up suitable for even the most accomplished player. This guitar has been played at least weekly since and for about 4 years was my main couch potato and travel guitar. It’s a true joy to play! I will miss it.

Of course this guitar has authentic Mojo … you can feel it. Hell, it is at least 100 years old. Can you imagine? I do love parlors and this is a fine example from back when musical instruments was your only source for music at home, you played them!

Responds well to all sorts of tunings …. strung with John Pearce Phosphor Bronze Wound Slightly Light Gauge .011 – .050 low tension strings.


Width at the nut = 1 3/4″
Scale 25 inches with string spacing at 2 3/8 inches
12 frets to the body with ~ 4-3 action at the 12th fret
Top Bout 9 1/2 inches
Waist  7 1/2 inches
Lower Bout 13 1/4 inches
Sound Hole 3 3/4 inches
Top Side Depth 3 1/4 inches
Lower Side Depth 3 3/4 inches

With proper fitting hard case.

Enjoy the videos!!

  • Year: ~ 1900 or earlier
  • Manufacturer: Ditson
  • Model: Empire – Parlor
  • Case: Modern well fitting hard
  • Color: Natural
  • Condition: Adorable Relic

  Not Currently Available