Lap Steel Electric Guitar

Gibson American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684

This lap steel guitar is a very rare example of the first electric instrument produced by the Gibson Guitar Company. Known as the E-150 model, this instrument has a hollow cast aluminum body and was made to play Hawaiian style "slide" music. There were approximately 100 of these guitars made in late 1935 through early 1936, but far fewer survive, especially as many were donated to aluminum drives for the War effort in 1942. This example has the serial number 179 (serial numbers start at 100 for this series) stamped on the heel of the neck. The instrument is fitted with a bar magnet pickup, later nicknamed the "Charlie Christian" pickup. It was designed in 1935 by Walter Fuller and has an unbound plack plastic coil. The instrument has bakelite knobs for the volume and tone controls that are placed on either side of the bridge, a design requested by the performer Alvino Rey. The instrument has a rosewood fingerboard with learloid dot markers. There are twenty-nine frets marked on the fretboard, but unlike a guitar, a lap steel does not have raised frets in order to facilitate slide style playing. Stenciled in black across the top of the headstock: Gibson.

Lap Steel Electric Guitar, Gibson (American, founded Kalamazoo, Michigan 1902), Cast aluminum, Bakelite, plastic, American

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.