I've only had the chance to play one Gibson from the earliest years--an A from 1904, I think. If I'm remembering correctly, the bridge was lower than I would have expected (and non-adjustable). I also remember the instrument sounding relatively quiet.
What phases did bridges and neck angles go through in the first few decades? Any comments on what this did to the sound (for better or worse)? Thanks.
They pretty much made one change: before about 1908, the neck angle and bridge were low, then it changed to what's been the situation ever since. I have had a occasion to reset necks on a number of the early ones and I tilted them a bit farther back to take higher bridges with only good results. IOW, the old tops were fairly robust and while I think the matter of string break over the bridge and concommitant top pressure is way overestimated, one could say they were not being used fully. Actually, I think the taller bridge facilitates picking better. That was my primary impetus to change the neck angle when the occasion arose.
The earlier mandolins were altogether larger than the later ones, too. More surface area.