Dobro is a registered trademark, now owned by Gibson Guitar Corporation and used for a particular design of resonator guitar.
The name has a long and involved history, interwoven with that of the resonator guitar. Originally coined by the Dopyera brothers when they formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company, in time it came, in common language, to mean any resonator guitar, or specifically one with a single inverted resonator. This particular design was introduced by the Dopyeras' new company, in competition to the already patented tricone and biscuit designs owned and produced by the National String Instrument Corporation.
The Dobro brand later also appeared on other instruments, notably electric lap-steel guitars and solid-body electric guitars and on other resonator instruments such as Safari resonator mandolins.
When Gibson acquired the trademark in 1994, the company announced that it would defend its right to Dobro's exclusive use.
The name originated in 1928 when the Dopyera brothers formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company. "Dobro" is both a contraction of "Dopyera brothers" and a word meaning "goodness" in their native Slovak, and also in Czech and Polish. An early company motto was "Dobro means good in any language."
The Dobro was the third resonator guitar design by John Dopyera, the inventor of the resonator guitar, but the second to enter production. Unlike his earlier tricone design, the Dobro had a single resonator cone and it was inverted, with its concave surface facing up. The Dobro company described this as a bowl shaped resonator.
The Dobro was louder than the tricone and cheaper to produce. Cost of manufacture had, in Dopyera's opinion, priced the resonator guitar beyond the reach of many players, and his failure to convince his fellow directors at the National String Instrument Corporation to produce a single-cone version was part of his motivation for leaving.
Since National had applied for a patent on the single cone (US patent #1,808,756), Dopyera had to develop an alternative design, which he did by inverting the cone so that rather than having the strings rest on the apex of the cone as the National method did, they rested on a cast aluminum spider that had eight legs sitting on the perimeter of the downward-pointing cone (US patent #1,896,484).
In the following years both Dobro and National built a wide variety of metal- and wood-bodied single-cone guitars, while National also continued with the tricone for a time. Both companies sourced many components from National director Adolph Rickenbacher, and John Dopyera continued to be a major shareholder in National. By 1934 the Dopyera brothers had gained control of both National and Dobro and they merged the companies to form the National-Dobro Corporation.
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