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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: SS Stewart Special Thoroughbred

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

Hatteraskman - Posted - 04/08/2020:  16:18:20

As a footnote to this topic, I met Eli Kaufman at an antebellum banjo symposium at UVA in Charlottesville in the mid-nineties. I had recently purchased a practically identical but unbranded banjo to the ST and was considering whether to restore it. I was sitting next to him [with not the faintest clue] and mentioned it since it was outside in my VW van, and he asked to see it so I brought it in during the program intermission. He examined it carefully and concluded that it was probably made by Fred Stewart, Samuel Stewart's son, who had joined with Jos. W. Stern & Co. around 1902 to produce banjos under the eponymous label, SS Stewart's Sons Improved 4S Banjos, which lasted until ~1914.

In the period between his father's death and the resolution of a 5 year lawsuit with Bauer over control of S&B company, Fred continued to both make banjos in house and contract with Rettberg & Lange to produce banjos under the SSSS 4S label. I've compared images of the latter R&L on Mugwumps, and the banjo I have [Eli's estimate ~1903] looks more like the ST, except for the neck carving pattern.

The banjos utilized some leftover [non-Acme] parts from when SS Stewart died in Philadelphia, but the carvings on the neck were different because the designs were patented and belonged to Stewart & Bauer.
Nonetheless, the basic motif is the same, even though the pattern is not.

In the end, Bauer won control of the S&B company, and Fred & kin went on to produce the 4S until ~1906, according to Eli. There's no mention of Fred making banjos again until he joined up with a 1920s manufacturer [Marks] to produce the Fred Stewart Musictone 4 string tenor.

Anyway, I can attest that there were 3 producers of the better quality instrument in the short period of 1897-04 as I also have a 1902 S&B ST and a 1897 SS Stewart Banjeaurine and they are all of consistent quality and tone.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 04/09/2020:  12:36:28

Thanks for your post! Would you be willing to posts photos to go along with it? I'd love to see your 4S banjo.

Fred eventually moved to Atlanta, GA to live out his final days. He was an early member of the American Banjo Fraternity and was in correspondence with the ABF even contributing to the newsletter.

Nasty business what the Bauers did to the Stewart family.

I would recommend against using Mugwumps for any research. it is beyond outdated and much of it has proven incorrect as more and more primary documentation becomes available.

Do a search in the archives for John Hoft's timeline on the SSS company. He has followed each version since Bauer all the way to B&J.

I've posted about the whole "Acme" thing-- most people have the timeline wrong on that.

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