Master luthier John D’Angelico is universally regarded as the finest archtop guitar builder that ever lived. In his Kenmare Street workshop, on New York City’s Lower East Side, he created the first of what would become the standard to which all other guitars would be compared. D’Angelico adapted techniques that had been used for centuries, and then improved these delicate manual processes in order to build the modern instruments demanded by his musician clients. These guitarists often requested special size and structural variations, in the body depth or scale of the neck for example, and that additional features and stylish embellishments are incorporated in the finished design. The marvelous reputation of “D’Angelico-built” guitars quickly spread throughout the musical community, and soon John D’Angelico’s small New York workshop was attracting professional musicians from all over the United States.
During 32 years of production and innovation, the D’Angelico Workshop built 1,164 guitars of exceptional beauty, precision and performance. Although these superb hand-crafted instruments originally sold for prices similar to those of factory-built models, today they are highly collectible, worth many thousands of dollars, and are regularly included in museum and gallery shows as the guitar representative of the high art and design of the Art Deco style.
John D’Angelico was a native New Yorker, and his foremost guitar designs included features in the geometric Art Deco style that was enormously popular in New York at the time, and was widely used for architectural and industrial applications. The signature ziggurat inlay, which appeared on the first New Yorker model headstock, became D’Angelico’s iconic trademark. This “stair-step” motif is actually an Art Deco rendering of the famous New Yorker Hotel. D’Angelico named another of his early models, the Excel, from the New York State slogan, “Excelsior!”