John Church Imperial ca 1880-1890

The John Church Company was a Ditson-related guitar manufacturer and distributor. DitsonÕs Cincinnati branch, launched in 1860, was sold to its founder, John Church, in 1871 and renamed.  ChurchÕs small instrument manufacturing arm built guitars that were sold under the Imperial brand. In 1891, Church introduced a new model of Imperial guitar incorporating a bridge and tailpiece combination intended for steel strings, patented by one Charles F. Geiger, which may be the first guitar to be advertised as built specifically for steel strings.


This guitar predates this innovation. Pre 1891 versions usually had a serial number stamped on the headstock. This model does not, which may indicate the early days of ChurchÕs parlor guitars. It has the trademark circular logo embedded on the back of the headstock and a complete inner label, and a canvas bottom opening case.


When acquired the soundboard was caved in with two extensive cracks and bowed neck. Extensive repair work includes splicing in mahogany on sides and lower end, adding heat, pressure and time corrected the neck but action is still a bit high, though not unplayable, Added a missing strap button, layering in missing spruce on soundboard. Cleaned tuning machines and looks like ivory buttons. New  bridge pins with abalone dot.  Cosmetic touch ups on added wood. Cleaned thoroughly and lemon oiled the fretboard. Original T-frets are serviceable, no buzzing and intonation is surprisingly good.. Added silk and steel strings and tuned down one note.



Lower bout - 12.75 inch

Top bout - 9 inch

Body - 18 inches

Total length - 37.5 inch

Sides - 3.375 to 3 inch

Scale - 24.5 inch

12th fret - low E - 3mm

12th fret - high E - 2mm


Solid spruce top


Light mahogany body and sides. The V neck also looks to be mahogany.


Has Martin silk and steel strings.