CHAPTER 2: Fleeing Restrictive Guilds
While records of the period were sketchy, it would appear that the young Martin was a gifted apprentice, as he was named foreman of Stauffer's shop shortly after his arrival. After marrying and bearing a son, he returned to his homeland to set up his own shop. Shortly after launching his business in Markneukirchen, Martin found himself caught in an acrimonious dispute between the Cabinet Makers Guild and the Violin Makers Guild.
Martin and his family had long been members of the Cabinet Makers Guild, as had numerous other guitar makers in the area. Looking to limit competition, the Violin Makers Guild sought to prohibit the cabinet makers from producing musical instruments. Attempting to receive an injunction against the cabinet makers, the Violin Guild launched an abusive rhetorical campaign, declaring: "The violin makers belong to a class of musical instrument makers and therefore to the class of artists whose work not only shows finish, but gives evidence of a certain understanding of cultured taste. The cabinet makers, by contrast, are nothing more than mechanics whose products consist of all kinds of articles known as furniture." Slandering the work of the cabinet makers, the Violin Guild added: "Who is so stupid that he cannot see at a glance that an armchair or a stool is no guitar and such an article appearing among our instruments must look like Saul among the prophets."
In defending their right to manufacture guitars, members of the Cabinet Makers Guild asserted that "violin makers had no vested right in making guitars" and that "the discovery of the guitar" had been brought about 35 years ago and had been completed by the cabinet maker George Martin, father of Christian Frederick Martin. In supporting their claim before local magistrates, the cabinet makers submitted testimony from a noted wholesaler, who declared, "Christian Frederick Martin, who has studied with the noted violin and guitar maker Stauffer, has produced guitars which in point of quality and appearance leave nothing to be desired and which mark him as a distinguished craftsman."
While the cabinet makers successfully defended their right to manufacture guitars, the drawn battle took its toll on C. F. Martin. Concluding that the guild system severely limited opportunities in Germany, he made the decision to emigrate to the United States, and on September 9, 1833, he left his homeland for New York City.
On arriving in New York, he quickly set up shop at 196 Hudson Street on the Lower West Side. Martin's first establishment on these shores was a far cry from the company's current 84,000-square-foot factory staffed by nearly 500 employees. His modest storefront housed a limited guitar production set-up in the back room, as well as a retail store selling everything from cornets to sheet music.
Given the limited output of guitars and the immaturity of the music market in 1833, distribution of Martin guitars was a haphazard affair in the early years. To augment the sales of his retail store, C. F. Martin entered into distribution agreements with a variety of teachers, importers, and wholesalers, including C. Bruno and Company (operating today as a subsidiary of Kaman), Henry Schatz, and John Coupa. Consequently, a number of Martin guitars manufactured prior to 1840 are labeled "Martin and Schatz" and "Martin and Coupa."