A tour of Epiphone's Historic Collection
When Anastasios Stathopoulo moved his family, (including his oldest son Epaminodas nicknamed "Epi") to New York City from the Turkish coastal town of Smyrna in the early 1900s hoping for a better life and a chance to continue his modest instrument business, Anastasios certainly would never have imagined the Stathopoulo family name would live on into the 21st century--let alone become one of the largest and most respected instrument makers in the world.
Today, the modern Epiphone instrument company is based in Nashville, Tennessee and its state of the art headquarters serves as the hub for a vast network of distributors, artists, designers, retailers, and factories. At the center of this modern hub is the Epiphone Historic Collection, an ever-growing ensemble of the history of Epiphone instruments from the 1900s through 1957 when Epiphone was purchased by Gibson and moved from the east coast to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The entire Epiphone Historic Collection has been painstakingly photographed and can be seen in the scrapbook below. You will also find detailed descriptions of each instrument by Epiphone historian and luthier Scott Harrison. Scott helped restore and set up the Historic Collection into playing order and oversees the collection today, which is still growing. And as Scott noted, nearly all of our historic Epiphones are ready to play, just as Epi Stathoupoulo kept his street-level picking parlour open to the best players of the day. The craftsmanship of the House of Stathopoulo is readily evident in each photograph. These were made to be--and still are--serious instruments. Epiphone was, after all, a family business and the Stathopoulo family in many ways came to personify the American dream. We are inspired by these instruments everyday, and we hope you will be, too.
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Visitors to Epiphone's home in Nashville will see evidence of the company's history on display everywhere--in the lobby, in meeting rooms, but especially Epiphone's new showroom where most of the Historic Collection sits right along side an example of every modern Epiphone currently in production. Vintage De Luxe's, Broadways, Zephyrs, and Royal's live along side Casinos, Les Pauls, Jack Casady basses, and Texans. The Historic Collection serves as an everyday reminder of Epiphone's long history as both an innovator in guitar manufacturing and a canny provocateur, ever ready to challenge and befuddle other manufactures.
The Epiphone Historic Collection began with the purchase of renowned Epiphone collector Jim Fisch's priceless collection of Epiphone banjos, archtops, amps, advertisements, photographs, and business papers that traced the Stathopoulo's long journey from Greece to New York.
The heart of the Historic Collection centers on Epi's stewardship of Epiphone from the early 20s through the beginning of WWII, during the time of Epiphone's most heralded instruments including the original Masterbilt series and numerous flat tops and archtops that regularly battled Gibson guitars for supremacy (including the 18" wide Emperor).
As luthier Robert Benedetto wrote in the introduction to Jim Fisch and L.B. Fred's landmark book Epiphone, The House of Stathopoulo: "During the productive years of the New York Epiphone Company, the guitars were purchased by one type of individual: guitarists who judged the instruments on their own merit, as musical instruments and nothing else."
Epiphone purchased Jim Fisch's collection in 2007 and today, it remains a labor of love for Gibson President Dave Berryman who continues as its main curator and champion. But finding those vintage Epiphones is not always easy since Epiphone owners--both yesterday and today--are notoriously loyal both to the brand and to their own instruments. Enjoy the Tour!