The company was founded in 1931 as the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (ElectRo-Patent-Instruments) by Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp in order to sell electric Hawaiian guitars. These instruments had been designed by Beauchamp, assisted at the National String Instrument Corporation by Paul Barth and Harry Watson. They chose the brand name Rickenbacher (later changed to Rickenbacker), though early examples bear the brand name Electro.
Nicknamed "frying pans" because of their long necks and circular bodies, the instruments were the first solid-bodied electric guitars, though they were a lap-steel type. They had a single pickup with a steel cover that arched over the strings. By the time production ceased in 1939, several thousand "frying pans" had been produced.
Electro String also sold amplifiers to go with their electric guitars. A Los Angeles radio manufacturer named Van Nest designed the first Electro String production-model amplifier. Shortly thereafter, design engineer Ralph Robertson further developed the amplifiers, and by the 1940s at least four different Rickenbacker models were made available. James B. Lansing of the Lansing Manufacturing Company designed the speaker in the Rickenbacker professional model. During the early 1940s, Rickenbacker amps were sometimes repaired by Leo Fender, whose repair shop evolved into the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company.
Check out the Guitar Showcase collection of Rickenbacker Guitars below: