The Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded by Orville Gibson, who made mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the late 1890s. He invented archtop guitars by using the same type of carved, arched tops found on violins. By the 1930s, the company was also making flattop acoustic guitars, as well as one of the first commercially available hollow-body electric guitars, which were used and popularized by Charlie Christian. In the early 1950s, Gibson introduced its first solid-body electric guitar and its most popular guitar to date—the Les Paul. After being purchased by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson's quality and fortunes took a steep decline until early 1986, when the company was rescued by its present owners. Gibson Guitar is a privately held corporation (company stock is not publicly traded on a stock exchange), owned by chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and president David H. (Dave) Berryman.
Orville Gibson (born 1856, Chateaugay, New York) started making mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States. The mandolins were distinctive in that they featured a carved, arched solid wood top and back and bent wood sides. Prior to this, mandolins had a flat solid wood top and a bowl-like back similar to a lute. These bowl-back mandolins were very fragile and unstable. Disdainful of the shape, Orville Gibson characterized them as "potato bugs". Gibson's innovation made a distinctive, darker-sounding mandolin that was easier to manufacture in large numbers. Orville Gibson's mandolin design, with its single-pieced carved sides and a single-pieced neck, was patented in 1898; it would be the only innovation he patented. Orville Gibson died in 1918 of endocarditis (inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and valves).