How Epiphone Became a Revered Guitar Brand

Anthony Freddura is a Massachusetts entrepreneur who serves as product owner and lead business systems analyst with Epsilon. Passionate about music, Anthony Freddura is interested in the various guitars that have defined the American musical tradition.

One of the oldest US instrument manufacturers, Epiphone was established in 1873 by the Stathopoulo family. Originally from Greece, the family made their home in the Turkish city of Izmir and maintained a violin, lute, and bouzouki repair shop. Upon emigrating to Manhattan, the business was continued by scion Anastasios, who focused on mandolins and filed a patent for a novel Italian-style model in 1909.

Epaminondas, or “Epi,” the eldest son of Anastasios, took over the business at just 22 years of age when his father died. He discontinued most of the mandolins that the House of Stathopoulo was known for, shifting to banjos, which were the era’s most popular instrument. Epi ultimately oversaw an expansion to a modern Long Island manufacturing facility, which was accompanied by a change of brand name to Epiphone.

It was not until 1928 that Epiphone introduced its first acoustic guitar line, in direct competition with Gibson. These were available in flat and archtop models made of a combination of laminated maple and spruce. The guitars, lacking endorsements and being smaller and quieter than Gibsons, failed to sell in any significant quantity. However, in 1931 the pioneering Masterbilt line was introduced. This combined a carved archtop with two distinctive f-holes. By the mid-1930s, many jazz musicians had adopted the instrument, which was considered to be of the highest quality, and at the same time an Electraphone steel electric guitar was introduced.