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As I researched, I found that Washburn was actually the middle name of the founder, and that he co-owned another company that published music. It's interesting that even Washburn Guitars doesn't seem to have all the information regarding the company history, as evidenced by Earl's letter.George Washburn Lyons was not a guitar maker - he was a businessman. Worth a read if you're interested in this type of thing.See below for the formula used to tell the year of manufacture.View Pro Series Guitars Japanese-made Takamine models distributed in Japan have their own serial-numbering scheme that can be used to reliably date them.
There's an OK Frequently Asked Questions page with links out to some sites that can help with determining the age of a Washburn instrument as well as other resources.
There's also a 'Guitar Archives' page for instruments as far back as 1988.
They recommend Gruhn Guitars and Elderly Instruments as good resources for dating vintage instruments.
Washburn's factory was located near Maxwell Street, where many musicians congregated to jam and hang out.
This close proximity allowed Washburn Guitars to really grow, as the company's luthiers could take guitars to the street and see them in action.