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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Sears & Roebuck Catalogue sold what type banjos?


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banjo_on_the_lump - Posted - 08/18/2008:  19:11:56


Is it possible that a lot of olí timers bought the type of banjos that the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue sold? If I'm not mistaken, the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue was the biggest retailer (mail order) in the country back in 1890 - 1940. Anyone with service by the US Post Office could purchase Sears' merchandise (banjos). Seems to me, many musicians back in the early part of the 19th Century were probably playing Sears brands. What were some of the brand(s) of banjos Sears & Roebuck sold? Any ideas welcomed.

Banjo


"Ya got time to breath, ya got time for music" Brisco Darlin


Edited by - banjo_on_the_lump on 08/18/2008 19:15:50

bigfeller - Posted - 08/18/2008:  19:24:42


I believe one of the brands Sears & Roebuck sold were Kel Kroydon. Gibson made them and were sold at Sears under that name in the 30's


Edited by - bigfeller on 08/18/2008 20:07:32

Banjopkr - Posted - 08/18/2008:  19:52:38


Sears was known for selling the Silvertone line of banjos and guitars.
I think that they were primarily an inexpensive line of non-professional instruments, that the common person could afford.
Here are some links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvertone_(instruments)
http://www.searsarchives.com/brands/silvertone.htm

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 08/18/2008:  20:03:43


The general run of Sears banjos were Chicago made - Lyon and Healy, Harmony, and even some Kay banjos. Over the years they did buy occasional lots from other companies and of course eventually went to Asian made instruments

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost the price of an email. Write me at:
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put RSB in the subject line.
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You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdRuf4X0X7g
Banjo Brad is hosting How To Mold A Mighty Pinky adn other material at
http://home.thegrid.net/~fjbrad/id20.html



Bill Rogers - Posted - 08/18/2008:  20:12:41


Early on (turn of the 20th c., Sears sold first "Acme" banjos, most made by S.S. Stewart. Some were very good indeed, the equal of anything SSS put its own name on, and indeed the acme of all Sears banjos. Later they marketed "Supertone" banjos, likely made by Lange. The lesser marks came later. I think the Chicago-made banjos were simultaneous with the earlier ones--at least until the Kay/Harmony era. But if you look in some of the old Sears catalogs, they had a good number of banjos available. Either Sears or Wards (I forget) sold Gretsch-made Bacon banjos in the late 50s and into the 60s.

Bill

brokenstrings - Posted - 08/18/2008:  20:45:08


Acme's the brand Wile E. Coyote had so much trouble with!

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

gailg64 - Posted - 08/18/2008:  20:52:22


Some of those '20s Lange-made Supertones Sears sold were quite decent instruments with good strong stringband-worthy sound. This is especially true of the totally spun-over models such as the banjo Pete Peterson plays.
g


quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Early on (turn of the 20th c., Sears sold first "Acme" banjos, most made by S.S. Stewart. Some were very good indeed, the equal of anything SSS put its own name on, and indeed the acme of all Sears banjos. Later they marketed "Supertone" banjos, likely made by Lange. The lesser marks came later. I think the Chicago-made banjos were simultaneous with the earlier ones--at least until the Kay/Harmony era. But if you look in some of the old Sears catalogs, they had a good number of banjos available. Either Sears or Wards (I forget) sold Gretsch-made Bacon banjos in the late 50s and into the 60s.

Bill



"Time is music" - Paul Sutphiin

deuceswilde - Posted - 08/18/2008:  21:06:19


The 1897 (available in reprint) was possibly the first full catalog put out by S&R. Sears was not the first to think of it. Mail order was around before the American Civil War. Most of the "department store" catalogs I have from the late 19th century feature banjos of varying quality. My 1886 Peck & Snyder (reprint) has "tackheads" with a cut showing a fretless along with other "tubs" we associate today with the "cork opera" (this raises my suspicions about some so-called "civil war" Banjos that are floating around, perhaps they were made 30 years after the war). Turn a few pages and you will find finer makes with raised G.S. frets and double wired rims, and larger prices as well. The better grade Banjos in the '97 S&R are almost dead ringers for Stewart's but unnamed. If he did not make them, they were copies. I'm sure that you already know that the Banjos sold from the early 1880's to around 1910 were mostly intended for what we call "classic" guitar or finger style with a little thimble playing tossed in. Also, strung with gut. The ol' timers at that time were playing rags, marches, schottisches, mazurkas, polkas, etc.

-Joel

Success always comes to those who have the money to buy it.

-The Adventures of a Banjo Player, 1884 p.26

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 08/19/2008:  01:55:31


quote:
Originally posted by banjo_on_the_lump
Is it possible that a lot of olí timers bought the type of banjos that the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue sold?



My Dad mail-ordered his banjo from Sears and Roebuck around 1927.

In Missouri I saw a number of Silvertones that had belonged to the preceding generations of some of the musicians I knew there.

R.D. Lunceford- "Missourian in Exile"
Model 1865 Bowlin Fretless Banjo
****************************************************
"Drink from the Musselfork once, and you''ll
always come back." -Dr. Bondurant Hughes, 1917

LyleK - Posted - 08/19/2008:  06:32:07


quote:
Originally posted by deuceswilde
The better grade Banjos in the '97 S&R are almost dead ringers for Stewart's but unnamed.
By the 1900 S&R catalog they are named as such. There is one page of "Great Banjo Values" ( ranging all the way from $1.75 to $7.85) that is unattributed (though with one exception they all seem to have Lyon and Healy tailpieces). Then there is a page of "Our Acme Professional Banjos" and the statement that "we are enabled to furnish our customers a genuine Stewart Banjo, of the same quality that the manufacturer sells under his own name at a much higher price." Those prices from Sears? Starting at $9.75 for "The Empress" and maxing out at $25.00 for "The Imperial."

LyleK
tabs at: http://lylewk.home.comcast.net

caricc - Posted - 08/19/2008:  06:37:46


If only we could have those prices today.

I was walking down the street in NYC. I stopped this old man and asked if he knew the way to Carnegie Hall.
His reply "Practice, practice, practice".

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 08/20/2008:  02:08:37


25 cent a gallon gas would be nice too!

R.D. Lunceford- "Missourian in Exile"
Model 1865 Bowlin Fretless Banjo
****************************************************
"Drink from the Musselfork once, and you''ll
always come back." -Dr. Bondurant Hughes, 1917

Pete Peterson - Posted - 08/20/2008:  08:33:37


I love my Supertone. (I've had it since 1978, and it's the only banjo I play regularly)The only way that I know it's a Supertone is that there's a little paper sticker on the inside that says so. I take the word of other people (mostly Jim Bollman, who ought to know) that it's mostly made by Rettburg and Lange, but that parts were made by other banjo manufacturers in & around Boston in the early 1900s, and that the banjo is about 100 years old.

About 2 mos ago I was directed to an Ebay auction where I saw my banjo's twin offered for about $1000, which surprised me because it seemed so low! For me, mine is priceless. . . there are others out there!

Pete Peterson

Bill Rogers - Posted - 08/20/2008:  08:54:22


One sold last week on the Bay for less than $400. I would have bid on it but the inevitable spousal considerations came into play. And I simply don't need it.

Bill

BConk - Posted - 08/20/2008:  18:58:57


Some of those "Supertones" were nice but some others were dogs with cheap hardware and poplar necks.


http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists...4644&alid=-1

Bill Rogers - Posted - 08/20/2008:  20:53:31


Yep. To me the only ones really worth going after are those (apparently) Lange-made double-spun ones.

Bill

jimkdaadtman - Posted - 09/20/2008:  22:14:56


Gibson was also making some of the Banjos for Sears, as well as Slingerland... Slingerland made the 5 string open back banjos sold by them from 1918 to 1925.. in 1918, my Great Grandfather was one of the first to order a Slingerland special from Sears... I have it now.. and am restoring it... Anyway, it's a metal wrapped wood pot, with wood dowel, and no name headstock, with a MOP inlay that resembles a Fleur de lis.. It's a great banjo... well made, and sounds AWESOME... I just wish I could play the dang thing.. I do it NO justice at all..

JimK


You can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your friends banjo.


Edited by - jimkdaadtman on 09/21/2008 14:14:05

timmo_1949 - Posted - 09/21/2008:  09:11:51


I have on my website a scan of a page from the 1900 catalog showing the line of Acme banjos. These were S. S. Stewart built and very much the same quality as the Stewart line. The main difference is a celluloid "Acme" button on the back of the peghead.


Timmo
"Bother Yum-Yum!"
http://savethebanjos.com

jimkdaadtman - Posted - 09/21/2008:  14:17:22


quote:
Originally posted by R.D. Lunceford

quote:
Originally posted by banjo_on_the_lump
Is it possible that a lot of olí timers bought the type of banjos that the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue sold?



My Dad mail-ordered his banjo from Sears and Roebuck around 1927.

In Missouri I saw a number of Silvertones that had belonged to the preceding generations of some of the musicians I knew there.

R.D. Lunceford- "Missourian in Exile"
Model 1865 Bowlin Fretless Banjo
****************************************************
"Drink from the Musselfork once, and you''ll
always come back." -Dr. Bondurant Hughes, 1917




Holy crap, when was your dad born? And how old was he when you were born.. If he was BORN in 1927, he would have been 30 when you were born.. So, for him to order one in 1927, he would have had to be like in his 50's when you were born... Holy crap...

JimK


You can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can''t pick your friends banjo.

Loo P. - Posted - 09/21/2008:  16:00:15


quote:
Originally posted by timmo_1949

I have on my website a scan of a page from the 1900 catalog showing the line of Acme banjos. These were S. S. Stewart built and very much the same quality as the Stewart line. The main difference is a celluloid "Acme" button on the back of the peghead.


Timmo
"Bother Yum-Yum!"
http://savethebanjos.com




....OUR LIBERAL TERMS....
"Send $1.00 with order and we will send any Banjo, C.O.D., subject to examination and approval."

Wouldn't that be nice....

fretlessinfortwayne - Posted - 09/22/2008:  05:34:35


These "catalog banjos" were the type often played by southerners, who could not afford the more expensive Boston-made instruments. I think the Fairbanks No. 7 Whyte Laydie sold for about $300 new, which would have been the cost of many houses at the time.

Dean

"Hooray Jake, Hooray John, Breakin'' up Christmas all night long."

supah_g - Posted - 09/24/2008:  13:33:46


quote:
Originally posted by timmo_1949

I have on my website a scan of a page from the 1900 catalog showing the line of Acme banjos. These were S. S. Stewart built and very much the same quality as the Stewart line. The main difference is a celluloid "Acme" button on the back of the peghead.


Timmo
"Bother Yum-Yum!"
http://savethebanjos.com



Hi Tim,

I was just perusing your website for the last hour or so, while I's sposed to be workin'. It is very interesting & informative. Great job! I always thot those Goodtimes pegheads were just ridiculous looking, - never thot of turning one into a something you might actually be able to look at without wincing. That could be just the starter project for luthier wannabe! (Sorry no offence to Goodtime folks, just MHO, but before any offendee hurls darts at me, look at some of the "improved" Goodtimes on Tim's site.)

Anyway, the main reason for my post is in regard to the Harmony Resotone banjo and I see from your profile that you own one. I have one that belongs to a friend. It was given to him by his father. I am trying to make it somewhat playable. It appears to be made from fairly cheap materials in general, but actually doesn't sound too bad so far. My main question is about the pot. This one has a small chunk out of it on the back side under the tail piece area, from some previous gravity related incident. The fracture is very curious looking. The rim appears to be some sort of molded material, like pressed wood fibers mixed with ??? What is it? Also do you have any idea what age these banjos might be, and curious what they might have sold for new.

Thank you,
Cheers,
g.



timmo_1949 - Posted - 09/24/2008:  17:03:31


Glad you enjoyed the website. I hope to post more Sears pages some day.

The Harmony Reso-tone rim is made of Bakelite, an early form of plastic. For a while, it was popular for knife handles, radio cases, jewelry trays, etc., etc. It is somewhat brittle, hence the breakage you see. If you have the missing bit, epoxy will stick it back together fairly well. They were made in the late 1960s - early 1970s and perhaps longer. I bought mine retail in 1972 or 1973 for $70.

Timmo
"Bother Yum-Yum!"
http://savethebanjos.com



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