In 1935 Epiphone introduced the 18½ inch Emperor as a direct competitor of Gibsons Super 400 at the same price. According to Fisch & Fred it was the most finest and most elaborate instrument Epiphone ever produced and it remained at the top of their product line until the mid 1950’s when Epiphone was taken over by CMI/Gibson. The 1936 catalog states: catalog 1936
Frank Vinola about a 1936 Emperor: video
“Since its introduction in 1935, the Emperor model underwent several cosmetic changes. The earliest version had very long (7.5″) f-holes which ran almost parallel to the strings, while by c. 1938 they were about 1/2″ shorter and placed more angled. The headstock inlays became more and more simplified over the years. The blossom branch lost two of its leaves, but the leaves still show delicately engraved veins, a detail missing on all post-war examples. Most pre-war Emperors have a pearl triangle inlaid above the nut, except examples from the last pre-WW2 batch. (see: headstocks) Until 1940 Emperors had a rosewood veneer on the back of the headstock, while later examples display the 7-ply laminated neck construction.
Another detail that changed during those years is the body shape. The “square shoulder” design, with the upper bouts meeting in a straight line at the neck, replaced the earlier “slope-shoulder” design in 1940. The reason for this change is not known; possibly it was related to the change in the manufacturing of the rims: In 1940 Epiphone generally switched from hand bent solid sheet rims to machine pressed laminated rims.
From what we know today, Epiphone halted production of their high-end Emperor and De Luxe models (and electric instruments) during the war years. The next following batch of Emperors was started after the war in 1945, the first documented SN is 52831.“ (Wiedler : Emperor s/n 18233)
According to Wiedler Epiphone produced from 1935-’55 around 1000 Emperors. Until now 281 examples (included 47 Regents/Cutaways) have been registered.
Although Epiphone started to produce cutaway models as late as 1949, a few cutaway models called “Soloist” were produced in 1940. There are 4 Soloists documented: 3 Soloist Emperors and 1 Soloist De Luxe (see pictures). See also Fisch & Fred, pp. 69, 87, 88, 264.