This probably belongs in the Great Ongoing Guitar Thread, but I was in the mood to start a new thread on this beauty
Acoustic guitars came of age in the 1920’s - the designs and features established them largely remain the templates for today’s guitars. For Martin, that meant flattops built for steel strings, an option until 1928 until it became their default.
For Gibson, their huge contribution to modern guitar design was the archtop guitar (they copied Martin’s flattop features a few years later in their own guitars). Lloyd Loar was their chief product and marketing guy, and he revamped Gibson’s line, taking f-hole designs used on violins, etc. and adapting them to mandolins and guitars.
The first archtop guitar was the L-5: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_L-5
It was a big success. Archtops can be very loud - one plays them with tight jazzy chords and a rhythmic “chop” and they cut through the mix and fit into the jazz rhythm sections of the day. Also, the first solo jazz guitar virtuosos emerged in the 20’s - Eddie Lang, Dick McDonough, Carl Kress - and they all played L-5s.
This Wiki entry and to my knowledge, the first L-5’s were produced in 1922. But check this out:
This one is signed and dated by Lloyd Loar in July 1923 and they claim it is the first L-5 ever produced. Carter Vintage is a deeply respected dealer in Nashville - he was at Gruhn Guitars (ground zero for vintage guitars) for decades.
It is listed for $125,000 but if it is what they claim, I would’ve expected it to be priced higher.
To me, the first generation L-5 with minimal bling and a simple dot fingerboard is the most beautiful, sensuous guitar design of all time. Yes, I respect the distilled modern perfection of a Stratocaster’s timeless curves. But an L-5 - so elegant. I wish I could do an L-5 justice - hearing one being played well just blows me away.
I will leave you with an example - Julian Lage playing 233 Butler, solo on his later-20’s L-5 (notice the block inlays on the fboard): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yJYLfBMPuic