Orville Gibson (born August 21 1856) began selling Gibson guitars in 1894 in a single room workshop in Kalamazoo Michigan where he became known for making the humble arch top guitar.
In 1898 Orville patented a mandolin which was sturdier than your average mandolin. In 1902 Gibson only manufactured Orville's Designs. Orville died on his birthday August 21 1918 aged 72 years old. The following year, Gibson hired Lloyd Loar to design new guitar models, the new design was Gibson F5 mandolin, released in 1922. Lloyd Loar left Gibson in 1924.
Gibson only turned it's attention to electric guitars in the mid 1930's where Walt Fuller designed a pickup which went on their new guitar: the E-150, an aluminum-body lap guitar.
Early 1936, this pickup which Walt Fuller designed went on their new archtop "spanish" style guitar named the ES-150 (ES = Electric Spanish) which went on sale for $150 for the guitar and the amplifier set.
The pickup which went on the ES-150 and ES-250 is now known as the "Charlie Christian" pickup as this was the pickup which Charlie used to establish the new concept known as "jazz".
During WWII, instrument manufacturing at Gibson slowed due to shortages of wood and metal. After WWII, Gibson introduced the P-90 single coil pickup which is still in production today. In 1949, Gibson became the first company to offer a three pickup guitar with the ES-5.
In the early 1950's, the world's most famous guitarist at the time convinced Gibson to make a solid body guitar which came to be in 1952 which we all know as the Les Paul. In 1954, the popularity of the Gibson Les Paul prompted Gibson to make a new range of models. On the upper end of the market was the Gibson Les Paul Custom which had an Ebony finish and lower frets for faster action and on the lower end was the Gibson Les Paul Jr which had a flat "slab" top and a single pickup which became the best selling Les Paul of the 1950's
The year after, Gibson Introduced a two pickup version of the Jr which became known as the Les Paul Special. In 1957, Gibson upgraded the pickup on the Les Paul to the newly patented "Humbucker". In 1958, Ted McCarty designed 3 new guitars: the ES-335, the Flying-V and the Explorer.
The body of the Les Paul Jr got a double cutaway solid body and the finish was changed to cherry sunburst. The model name was changed to Les Paul Standard. However, Les Paul disliked the design of the new model so Gibson changed the name to the Gibson SG (SG = Solid Guitar, a handful of Gibson SGs still have a Les Paul logo on it which is now a valuble colectors item.
In the 1960's, Ray Deitrich designed the FireBird and ThunderBird Series.
1894: First archtop guitar
1922: First f-hole archtop
1947: P-90 single coi pickup
1949: ES-5, ES-175
1952: Les Paul
1957: Humbucker pickups
1958: Flying-V, Explorer, ES-335
1983: First solid body guitar - The Chet Atkins CE
2002: Gibson Digital guitars
2007: Gibson Robot Series
2013: Gibson J Series