The Epiphone guitar officially got its name for the first time when it was registered in 1924. The actual company got its start many years earlier, so let’s go back a bit further to see how it began banjos food.
A man by the name of Anastasios Stathopoulo began making his first musical instruments in 1873. In 1877, Anastasios and his family moved to Turkey to start a new life. By 1890 he had opened a factory, which made violins, mandolins, lutes and traditional Greek lioutos. In 1893, Anastasios’ wife Marianthe, gave birth to their first child Epimanondas. By 1903, the Stathopoulo family was on the move once again. This time they moved overseas to the U.S. in a lower Manhattan neighborhood of New York
In New York, Anastasios bought a place where he made and sold his instruments on the ground floor while his family lived on the floor above. Business was great for him at that time because it was at the height of the mandolin craze. Anastasios began marking his instruments with an “A. Stathopoulo, manufacturer-repairer of all kinds of musical instruments” and built his company a warehouse.
In 1915, Anastasios Stathopoulo died, leaving his son Epimanondas in charge. Epimanondas, whose nickname was Epi, was 22 years old when he took over the business. Epi turned out to be a great luthier and businessman.
In 1917, Epi changed the name of the company to the House Of Stathopoulo and began to change the product line as well. The mandolins that they were making weren’t as popular as they once were, so Epi concentrated on an instrument that was… banjos. He also got his first ever patent for banjo construction at this time.
In 1923, the House Of Stathopoulo was very successful and Epi named himself the president and general manager of the company. The following year, Epi changed the company’s name once again to reflect the major changing of his company. Epimanondas decided to combine his nickname “Epi” with the Greek word for sound “phone” and created the name Epiphone.
With the success of Epiphone’s Recording Series banjos, Epiphone bought out the Favoran banjo company in 1925, to keep up with the demand. The sales of these banjos were so great and Epiphone’s name was known so much for them, Epi changed the name of the company to the Epiphone Banjo Company in 1928.
Finally in 1928, Epi introduced a Recording line of guitars, mostly made of carved tops and a combination of spruce and laminated maple. The following year was the stock market crash of 1929 and the banjos that once sold so well were now rapidly going downhill. Epi decided that the company should focus more on selling its guitars and the Gibson Company was their main competitor.
The competition between Epiphone and Gibson in the 30’s was very intense. In 1934 Gibson increased the body width of one of their existing models to compete directly with the Epiphone Masterbuilt guitar. The next year Epiphone returned the favor by releasing their Emperor model, which had an even wider body. They also created quite the buzz by advertising the new Emperor with posters of a half naked model playing the guitar.
The size war didn’t stop there because in 1936 Epiphone produced wider versions of their Broadway, De Luxe and Triumph models by a whole inch to make them 3/8″ wider than the Gibson’s.
Around this time, Epiphone was one of the top guitars in the world and some of the best musicians in the world were playing them. In fact Epi would open up his display cases on Saturday afternoons and let these famous musicians play the guitars.
Epiphone continued to grow and wanted even more of the market share. In 1935, Epiphone introduced the Electar Series to compete with Rickenbacker’s electric guitars. By the time 1937 arrived, Epiphone’s sales had doubled. The rest of the 30’s continued with Epiphone and Gibson competing against each other and both companies introduced similar types of Hawaiian guitars.
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