The Guild X-175, or Guild Manhattan was a fine archtop electric acoustic guitar, and one of Guild's earliest models, with a production run spanning over three decades, but this example from 1953/54 is one of the very first. Early features include a longer 25 1/2" scale (this was reduced to 24 3/4" in 1956) and the pre-Chesterfield Guild headstock logo inlay. Like many early fifties jazz boxes, the Guild X-175 had a single Venetian cutaway and gorgeous sunburst finish.
Guild Guitars Inc. started producing guitars in April 1953. Serial numbers began at 1000 with just 500 instruments shipped in the rest of the year. The X-175 was launched in 1954, however the the serial number puts this at late 1953, but several other features also demonstrate the guitars early origins. The N.Y. 3 address, on the label in the soundhole refers to 220 Fourth Avenue, Guilds headquarters at the time, but vacated in late 1954. The guitar itself would have been built at 536 Pearl Street; this was before the move to Hoboken.
Although not the very finest guitar available from Guild, the X-175 was still very nicely appointed, with pearl block position inlays, bound body (front and back) and heel cap.
The pickups fitted to this guitar are early single coil units made by Franz, an electronics company in Astoria NY. Covers started out black for sunburst models, but were changed to white to match the blonde models (X-175B) around 1954, although this wasn't shown in catalogues.
Another fifties feature of these pickups is the positioning of the polepieces. They are spread more widely on the bridge pickup than on the neck pickup; an attempt to align them more precisely with the strings. As pickups improved this became less relevant, and with newer versions this idea was discontinued.
The headstock logo is simply one piece of pearl that has had the gaps between letters painted. Each letter of the word GUILD and the triangle on which they sit are all one. In 1954 this was changed so that each letter was inlaid separately. These early logos give a real impression of an Art Deco New York skyline!
Note that this guitar has just one volume and tone control and a three-way switch. This was standard until 1958, when the more familiar layout of two volume and two tone was employed.
The craftsmen who were with Guild from the very beginning were all ex-Epiphone employees, and their style can clearly be seen in early instruments like this one. The tapered neck heel is one very clear example.
The harp tailpiece and rosewood compensating bridge are two features of this guitar that are common to most X-175s.
Below left: 1953 X-175 with original case. Center: body detail. Right: three-piece neck detail. Notice the thin maple (lighter colour) stripe between the two mahogany pieces.
Images courtesy of justgreatguitars.com
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