Designed to be enjoyed in smaller intimate spaces, the parlor guitar was named after the room in large Victorian-era homes dedicated to the entertainment of guests. The thinner body and shorter scale length provide numerous advantages: Comfort, easier playability, as well as portability… which is probably why this style later became iconic as a musical friend to hitchhikers and freight train-hoppers.
As compared to more modern shapes, the parlor body is closer to that of the lutes, violins, and cellos that were the stock in trade of the European instrument builders who designed the first parlor guitars. The general progression of acoustic guitar body size has been from small to large. The parlor guitar was considered “normal-sized” for 70 years or so, only to be nudged aside by bigger body styles in the 1950s and 60s.
In a time where folks commonly socialized by playing music for one another, the Victorian-era parlor was furnished like an extravagant living room — its use, absolutely restricted to interaction with guests.