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beezaboy - Posted - 04/23/2021: 13:57:15
While assembling some Paramount banjo stuff I became a little concerned about the current BHO/banjotrader Paramount Serial Number/Date Chart found here: banjohangout.org/archive/370982
Wm. Lange first announced his Paramount Banjo in a Music Trades advertisement Aug. 6, 1921. (attached).
At the end of that first year and on Dec. 10, 1921 he took a full page ad in the Music Trade Review complete with images of the Paramount banjo. (attached) as though the banjo had been available for sale for the past 4 months.
In Jan. 28, 1922 The Music Trades published an article naming about 18 professional banjoists that had "come over" to the Paramount banjo plus a line up of banjo dealers selling the Paramount.
At the end of 1922 on Dec. 9, 1922 the Music Trade Review published a Wm. Lange ad where he claimed that nearly a thousand Paramount banjos had been sold at the close of the Paramount's first year on the market. (attached).
The Paramount Serial Number Date chart in question only goes up to serial number 600 for 1922.
I'm wondering if the Paramount date chart is off.
Edited by - beezaboy on 04/23/2021 13:58:37
The Old Timer - Posted - 04/23/2021: 14:01:11
Just out of curiosity, what would have been the leading banjo BEFORE the Paramount arrived? I wasn't aware that Vega was making factory-issue resonator models in 1921-22.
banjotrader - Posted - 04/23/2021: 14:02:43
I think its fair to say there is a bit of flex allowed. I'm however also wary of statements made by manufacturers. They tend to over exaggerate their accomplishments. Didn't Lange proclaim some wild volumes of banjos he and Rettburg had manufactured?
beezaboy - Posted - 04/23/2021: 16:15:47
The attachments did not attach.
G Edward Porgie - Posted - 04/23/2021: 19:28:36
"At the end of 1922 on Dec. 9, 1922 the Music Trade Review published a Wm. Lange ad where he claimed that nearly a thousand Paramount banjos had been sold at the close of the Paramount's first year on the market. (attached)."
"Nearly a thousand" is not a thousand. It could be defined differently by different people, and might even be as low as six hundred.
That said, six hundred seems like a suspiciously round number and is probably just that--rounded up or down from the exact figure. Unless factory records are available, I doubt the accuracy of any date chart. Sales receipts are helpful and ads and catalogs are helpful, but receipts get lost or discarded, ads are laced with hyperbole, and catalog descriptions don't always match the product by the time it reaches the market. In other words, there will be gaps without true factory records.
banjotrader - Posted - 04/24/2021: 03:51:42
Correct George! I built the model purposefully at rounded 100s. In the first years there were at least 600 + unserialized banjos as well. So close enough.
beezaboy - Posted - 04/24/2021: 08:24:28
The reason date charts are important to me is trying to pin down when the various types of equipment were introduced to the Paramount banjos. Most important is when the various Page tuners were applied. If date charts are correct then we can match an example with serial number and target the various Page tuners with dates. Also, the Page tailpieces from the adjustable "Belt Buckle" (two types) to the Page "latch" tailpieces.
Attached is an example of what I'm talking about. Paramount S/N 253 with Ist edition Page "Belt Buckle" tailpiece (knob adjuster) with friction pegs. Banjotrader chart says 1922. So, this banjo is example of early Paramount pre-Page geared tuners. Lange started distributing Page tuners and presumably began using them on newly built Paramount banjos in or about Oct. 1922 (see attached article 10-21-1922)). The attached article reports that Lange put these Page tuners on Michael Pingitore's banjos (Paramounts) which banjos previously had the friction patent pegs like the attached example.
This matching Paramount equipment with dates might be a difficult proposition.
Edited by - beezaboy on 04/24/2021 08:27:04
banjotrader - Posted - 04/24/2021: 10:11:49
I also dont put much weight on articles John. In the Bacon Banjo feature, the article was 5months after the interviews. The best I could do was try to find first SN ls and try to link it with Model intros.
The hardware didnt play a huge part in the model. These are always going to be estimates, the more educated the better
beezaboy - Posted - 04/24/2021: 10:54:53
Okay. I'll just go the "circa" route in my timeline. For example it appears that the first Paramount banjos were equipped with friction tuners and the Page geared peg with screws on one side of the brass housing replaced them "ca. October 1922". As for tailpieces the first Paramount banjos were equipped with the Page "Belt Buckle" tailpieces and they were replaced with the Page "latch" tailpieces "ca. late1923". I don't know when the "Paramount" stamped tailpieces came out or the pot metal geared pegs. That will just be for another day.
G Edward Porgie - Posted - 04/24/2021: 12:23:03
One problem I have with matching features to date charts is that they don't usually account for "freaks," banjos or other instruments which were put together from leftover parts or were experiments which somehow escaped the factory. Gibson, for example, has always been known for "floor sweeps" with features that just don't add up to the usual model configurations.
Although it's possible that Paramount kept things as close to spec as possible, there could still have been the rare early experiment that escaped the factory with Page tuners before they were standard equipment, or possibly a post-Page model that had friction tuners simply because a customer requested them. There could also have been "retro-fits," early examples that were returned to the factory for some of the later improvements and repairs.
beezaboy - Posted - 04/26/2021: 05:51:51
Here is something crazy or will drive a researcher crazy.
The first depiction of a Paramount banjo occurred in a Music Trade Review advertisement published Dec. 10, 1921. This is when Lange changed the name of the firm and was the start of the "new" Wm. L. Lange firm as successor to Rettberg & Lange.
The Music Trades Dec. 10, 1921 advertisement is attached.
Lange's first complete Paramount catalog came out in November 1923 (attached).
Lange's second complete Paramount catalog came out in November 1926 (attached).
The pictures of the Paramount banjo (a Style F) are all the same!!
Lange kept using the very same Paramount banjo picture in his advertisements and catalogs from 1921 through 1926 even though there had been some changes made to the banjos.( f. ex. Page tuners had replaced the patent pegs (friction types) in late 1922).
I guess this tells us something eg Lange was making and selling Paramount F banjos in 1921. How many were made in 1921 will be a mystery but banjotrader is probably close with the number of 50 serial numbered banjos.
Harry Reser purchased a Paramount Style F right from the New York Paramount factory in about October 1922 but that doesn't help much as we already knew Lange was building lots of Paramount banjos in 1922.
OldFrets - Posted - 04/26/2021: 07:32:48
Outdated catalog pictures was a very common occurrence all the way through the '60s for all sorts of instrument manufacturers. Vega was still showing 1930s banjos in its 1960s catalogs.
wuzapicker - Posted - 05/03/2021: 18:45:10
I've never seen a published Paramount serial number list that reflects the evidence of the many surviving units I've examined. They just don't add up. Lange's Paramount banjo design was the most advanced available when he "launched" the line in August 1921. (Henry Ford was still building Model T cars.) Lange's strategy was perfect. The Paramount banjo was introduced at the right time to create runaway demand. Serial number experts never seem to take that into consideration.
By mid to late 1922 demand for Paramount banjos had increased presenting Lange with production difficulties meeting orders. Style A production was much higher than more expensive models. Some banjos in the 14XX numbers were shipped without Paramount labels inside as evidenced by the lack of tack holes where one would have been affixed. Also some 14XX Style A banjos have narrow neck laminations like Orpheum #1 banjos instead of the wider Style A standard. This means Lange was outfitting and shipping and filling orders using things he had on hand.
Lange simplified the pearl inlay work on Style A banjos in 1926 allowing an observant person to judge the serial number dates. Also in 1926 Lange simplified the Style B banjos and switched them from Maple to Walnut. Knowing that allows one to judge serial number dates. Also in 1926 Window Latch Tailpieces were stamped, "Patent Pend'g".
1927 and 1928 were Lange's highest ever production years for Paramount banjos. This was the era of the self-detonating Page pot metal tuners. The majority of surviving Paramount banjos were shipped in seven years between late 1921 and late 1928. Expecting great things in mid 1929 Lange introduced the Super Paramount line. But it was all but over. In fact, Super Paramount banjos are nearly each one of a kind as they were assembled using things left over from previous models - floor sweep style.
Standard Paramount banjos made mid 1930's are quite rare and often give evidence of floor sweep production. For instance, Fancy Style F marquetry is has been observed on mid 1930's Style C banjos.
banjotrader - Posted - 05/03/2021: 19:04:46
I’d be very interested to see your stab at a model Michael. Based on the dates you propose, I take it you have one in mind. As for your statements about production, demand etc, I sense trade magazine rhetoric that was meant to mislead the competition. My work on other manufacturers has led me to believe it’s mostly all nonsense except when they proudly announce their newest models, to me thesr are hard lines, and with that finding the earliest “production” batch backs that up. One ofs can easily be prototypes. All food for thought, would enjoy getting your feedback on my work.
Edited by - banjotrader on 05/03/2021 19:06:54
beezaboy - Posted - 05/04/2021: 09:24:15
Mike Westfall (wuzapicker) has excellent grasp and knowledge of Paramount banjo details.
Peter Corfield (banjotrader) has excellent knack for organizing a serial number/date chart as we've seen with his work with Vega and Bacon.
I'm a time-line guy who scours period "literature" to document events pertinent to the marque being studied. But there are always holes. Always. For example the publications I've worked with don't really document when Lange actually began manufacturing Paramount banjos or what the Paramount banjo line encompassed in the very beginning. I can document that Lange made at least one Paramount Style F in 1921. He depicted a Style F in an ad published Dec. 10, 1921(attached above) and reported that Michael Pingitore was already playing a Paramount banjo in Paul Whiteman's orchestra at that time (1921).
So, attached is a mini-time line I've fashioned concerning the intro dates for the Paramount banjo "line" as it evolved over time gathered from sources that can be documented. (MTR = Music Trade Review)
Edited by - beezaboy on 05/04/2021 09:26:04
banjotrader - Posted - 05/04/2021: 09:43:13
Thank John. I have a few more lines in the sand to use, and have same or better First-SNs you mentioned. Seems most fit the model well:
1921: Unserialized - 100
1922: 101 - 600
1923: 601 - 2800
1924: 2801 - 5800
1925: 5801 - 8300
1926: 8301 - 9900
1927: 9901 - 11200
1928: 11201 - 12700
1929: 12701 - 13800
1930: 13801 - 14700
1931: 14701 - 15300
1932: 15301 - 15800
- Aug 1921 Paramount Line
- Mar 1923 Leader
- Nov 1924 Langstile
- Jan 1925 Aristocrat
- Feb 1927 Paramount Style no. 1
- Mar 1927 Challenger
- Jun 1928 Artcraft / Super-Paramount
- Sep 1928 Aristocrat Special
- 1929 Paramount Junior
- 1932 Trouper
Edited by - banjotrader on 05/04/2021 09:43:36
beezaboy - Posted - 05/04/2021: 11:54:07
Peter - Our Paramount benchmarks meet okay with a couple of exceptions.
The August 6, 1921 first Paramount advertisement in Music Trades magazine which I have attached as the first attachment in this thread does not say or even imply that there is a line of Paramount banjos for sale. To me it is Lange's launch of his business plan to circumvent jobbers and sell direct from factory to dealers. Hence the contact invitation. We don't know if Lange was actually building a line of Paramount banjos in August 1921or whether he had some Paramount banjo samples ready to show dealers to sign them up for an exclusive territorial agency. Lange building a line of dealers if you will.
The Paramount Style Leader appears June 10, 1922 (see attached) the earliest I could find.
I don't see the Paramount Junior in 1929 and see it first in the undated 3rd Paramount catalog ca. 1930 but I can document the Junior to Oct. 3, 1930 (see attached).
I have documented the start dates for Langstile, Challenger and Banner Blue but for me I am not counting them as they are not Paramounts. Also, at this point I am not looking at the Super-Paramounts. What I'd really like to see is the 1932 - 1935 Paramount Rhythm Special. Now there is a rare banjo. BTW - The Paramount Trooper is spelled "Trooper"
Hardwulf - Posted - 05/05/2021: 08:55:51
Dan Shingler (dsmoke) sent me the link to this thread.
I recently bought the early Paramount that he was selling (Paramount Style B, #147). Dan did a thread on this one a while back.
I had actually asked Dan in the past week or two if he could possibly find a cover for the belt buckle tailpiece, and also an original armrest, as both appeared to be missing. But looking at these ads from the period, it appears that neither were original to my banjo. You can see multiple pics (or artist renderings) in those ads of the open buckle style tailpiece and no armrest. I don’t know if that helps in trying to pin down production, model and options dates, but Dan pointed it out to me.
I’ve attached pics of my banjo with an open buckle and no armrest, and also another early Style B (it’s 5 string brother) that has them.
Hardwulf - Posted - 05/05/2021: 10:52:59
It's also interesting that the Style F shown in the Dec. 10, 1921 ad doesn't have an inlay at the 1st fret, while lower end models of the same year did. Here's some pics of various 1921/1922 and later models with and without a 1st fret inlay. Which models and years included a 1st fret inlay seemed to change. Typically, it would be reserved for the higher end models only. But here I see lower end models that had one when the top of the line Style F did not.
All the early 5 strings that I could find seemed to have a 1st fret inlay, when some of the tenors from the same year did not. Maybe that was a 5 vs 4 string model difference? Longer neck, so 1st fret was installed for looks?
Edited by - Hardwulf on 05/05/2021 10:56:31
banjowilly22 - Posted - 05/05/2021: 11:21:13
At the risk of sounding a bit Nerdy, I can’t recall any previous mention of changes to the
Rim skirt. The earliest examples featured a distinct chamfer, where it sits on the Bracket shoes. The next style had a flaired skirt, and the final style had the flour de lays cut outs.
beezaboy - Posted - 05/05/2021: 13:10:23
It may be difficult to compare Paramount Style banjos "from the same year" without knowing the serial number of each banjo being compared so that you will know conclusively that they are actually from the same year or at least within close proximity. Inaccuracies might result from a reliance on the estimated year from some seller or other owner who is estimating the year or just guessing. Case in point - there was no Style Leader in 1921. That was the original purpose for this thread - to examine the accuracy of the current BHO/Corfield serial number/date chart.
From a look at Tsumura 20's - 40's book the Style F tenor banjos did not have position inlay at first fret but the plectrum banjo did. Banjo World was consistent with this theme. The Style A seems to consistently have first fret inly. The Style B is not as clear. The Tsumura Style B S/N 164 has inlay at the first fret. Other examples do not and the 1923 and 1926 Paramount catalogs show the Style B without first fret inlay.
Edited by - beezaboy on 05/05/2021 13:17:08
beezaboy - Posted - 05/05/2021: 14:00:45
Hi Keith -
The guy who would have observed and documented Paramount skirt styles was Mike Westfall. Mike favored me with his data and after reviewing it just now I found that while Mike did not distinguish the form fitting vs. the flared skirts in his database he did document what he called a "Perforated tone chamber skirt" your fleur de lis (my filigree). Mike documented the start with a Harry Reser Style F S/N12884 then upwards with Leader 12919; Leader 12390; Style 1 12982; Style 1 13027 Style 1 13032; Artcraft 13115 etc. pretty consistently up to Paramount B 15066.
The first time I noticed it from catalog image it was depicted on a Paramount Junior in the 1930 Paramount catalog.
Hardwulf - Posted - 05/05/2021: 15:09:29
IMO, with banjos having parts that are often interchangeable between years/models, looking at the numbers on the stick alone might not even be accurate.
But we should be able to identify certain years for necks, rims or parts based on the model, style and number of inlays, marquetry, etc. That’s why I pointed out the 1st fret inlay differences.
If you see a Style B with a 1st fret inlay, you can almost guarantee that at least the neck is ‘21/‘22.
But if you see a Style F with a 1st fret inlay, it’s probably later, as the early ones didn’t have one.
This might help to hone in better on matching serial numbers with years and model styles a bit better.
I think it’s really cool that you’re looking deep into this. I’m just trying to help with a different perspective.
DSmoke - Posted - 05/05/2021: 16:56:26
Hardwulf , there is no guarantee with these banjos as to originality without a good close look in hand and looking for any signs of changes. Dowel sticks and inlays can be changed, rims can be swapped.
I like to follow along on these threads and will share info here when I feel like I have a good banjo in hand that people might be interested in. Your banjo is one them. I'm not into the research and dating aspect of it because it always seems new evidence is found to change what we thought was previously good research. People ask and I give a 10 year window. I just don't feel it necessary to give an exact year. But that is just me, and without people like Peter and John a lot of this info would not be known. I especially like seeing the old ads and stuff John shares with us here.
beezaboy , you mention there not being a Leader in 1921. If you look at the inlays on Hardwulfs banjo you will see they are the Leader inlays without the engraving. I'm certain that the engravings on the B were not engraved when it was built.
Edited by - DSmoke on 05/05/2021 16:57:08
wuzapicker - Posted - 05/05/2021: 19:02:38
When I was collecting Paramount banjos, buying and selling them I learned that original banjos hang together and look right despite condition. I sold my collection except from some fragments long before Banjo Hangout was contemplated.
Commonly swapped parts on Paramount banjos then to be limited to tailpieces and armrests. Paramount banjos weren't built like Gibson or Bacon banjos. They were rather more complex. Paramount banjos do not all have interchangeable parts. The patterns of parts changed over time. Early rim cuts forming the tone chamber were 90 degree with rectangular punched plates under the tone ring. Later rims were taper cut with angular plates.
The depth of tone skirts varied making some Paramount banjos thinner than others. Some banjo rims fit deeper below the flange meaning the resonator of one may not fit another. They are kind of all over the map with a tolerance of about 1/2". Lange called the resonator "Acousticon". Some banjos, particularly rosewood Leader and Style F banjos are flat inside the resonator, meaning a deep rim wont fit.
There was an evolution in the shape of the tone chamber skirt, which can be seen from the outside above the flange. Early ones were fluted kind of like a bell. Later ones were rolled with two angles forming clear breaks in the profile. Some have an rolled engraved "slant check" ring around the bottom, some do not - a feature independent of Style categories.
Late tone chamber skirts were punched with a floral pattern between the tension hooks. I think this was developed for the Style Jr. / Trouper models. Lange believed banjo tone required air to pass through the tone chamber. The Style Jr. has no bracket shoes with the tone chamber skirt resting flat against the flange. A different flange was used on the Style Jr. banjos.
Style F banjos came with two different engraving styles. The earliest were quite similar to the Style E. Later ones used deep straight cuts to reflect state lights.
Serial numbers were consistent regardless of the Style under consideration. Changes in the details show up at a certain serial and remain consistent until a new change is made. It isn't something that one cannot know. One has to love them enough to spend unreasonable amounts of money to own as many as possible and to seek them out wherever one travels.
Join a 4-String Banjo club. You will have opportunity to see and play a lot of banjos, and Paramount banjos are one of the favorite brands. 4-String players generally like to have their banjos correctly equipped in period. Frankenbanjos are not uncommon.
beezaboy - Posted - 05/06/2021: 10:22:31
Dan - the reason I say that there was no Paramount Style Leader in 1921 is attached. Lange's Paramount advertisement in the April 1922 Cadenza magazine lists the line A-F. No Leader. Then, two months later Lange's advertisement in June 10, 1922 Music Trade Review lists the Style Leader for the first time I can find. The lowest serial number in Mike Westfall's data sheet for Style Leader is 987. Just speculating here but I think when Lange decided to make a less expensive rosewood banjo he'd already used the names A to F (Style F was already rosewood) so he came up with a style name (Leader) that he could insert in the banjo line that he listed by price which was Lange's custom.
banjotrader - Posted - 05/06/2021: 10:26:13
Great Insight john, that should shift the 1922/1923 line on my end. Again, any timeline discrepancies you see, should be flagged.
- Aug 1921 Paramount Line
- Mar 1923 Leader (To be corrected)
- Nov 1924 Langstile
- Jan 1925 Aristocrat
- Feb 1927 Paramount Style no. 1
- Mar 1927 Challenger
- Jun 1928 Artcraft / Super-Paramount
- Sep 1928 Aristocrat Special
- 1929 Paramount Junior
- 1932 Trouper
banjowilly22 - Posted - 05/06/2021: 11:41:15
I have been a Paramount fan for many years, and currently have an Artcraft, Artist Supreme Tenors, 5 String style B and. C, and a Leader Melody. Banjo.
I also have 2 x Unique Paramounts, An Original 5 String Leader which was made for
Frank Wilbur Hill, who was a US.Vaudeville player. This has NO serial number.
And a unique Paramount custom ordered Plectrum. Now Wm. Lange really wasn’t a custom shop, but this is a really unusual combination, that I have NEVER encountered
In over 50 years. It was custom ordered by the Director of the UK Bolton BMG. Band.
It has a Leader Neck, unmarked, 20 Frets, 12” diameter head, Artist Supreme Resonator,
And seems to just fit in the original Paramount guitar banjo case '!!!
beezaboy - Posted - 05/06/2021: 14:06:27
Banjotrader's "hard lines" and banjowill22's "unique Paramounts" inspired me to attach some photos of a unique Paramount A which I captured from an ebay auction back in 2008. A serial number was not mentioned in the auction write-up. It is this banjo and a dearth of 1921 Paramount "literature" that has made me question whether Lange actually had a "line" of Paramount banjos ready and for sale in the months leading up to Dec. 1921. I interpret the attached Style A as an example of a 1921 prototype as Lange perfected the eventual complete Paramount line which I suggest reached substantial fruition in Dec. 1921 when Lange changed the firm name from Rettberg & Lange to the firm of Wm. L. Lange. I think Lange had perfected some Styles in 1921 especially the Style F which Style he sold to Mike Pingitore and other professional tenor banjoists by word of mouth in 1921 but the complete line was not completely ready in 1921. What do you think about this unique Paramount Style A?
beezaboy - Posted - 05/06/2021: 14:16:52
Attached are a few more photos of the unique Paramount Style A
wuzapicker - Posted - 05/06/2021: 18:19:29
Lange's Paramount patents were on the rim construction and resonator flange. A while back a BH member had an Orpheum with an original Paramount style tone chamber. No doubt a special prototype. And here John posts another prototype with clear Orpheum genes.
I've thought that the early Style A headstock inlay was too similar to R&L's Orpheum No. 3. Lange put the price point for the Style A just above the Orpheum No. 3. To an observer it looks like he was expanding on the Orpheum theme. I don't think any collector would deny the parentage.
The vast majority of surviving Paramount banjos are Style A tenors. The rarest of the original series is the Style D made of holly with silver plated metal. Perhaps 50 of those survive. I've only ever seen one. The Style D and E were both dropped from Lange's line around 1926 or 27. I've seen some Style E's with pot metal tuners which fit era. A Style E with a hotdog armrest is a user modification. I have one on my 1924/5 Leader tenor. Way more comfort than the original bar stock armrest.
The Style F was dropped in 31 or 32 being replaced by the Super Paramount Artist Supreme. I've held four of those in my hands with none of them identical. I'd be surprised if there were ever more than 50 Super Paramount Artist Supreme banjos made. Lange would make anything on confirmed special order.
Something thing I've never seen is a Paramount banjo with 14XXX series serial number. Plenty of 13XXX and 15XXX but never a 14XXX. I wonder if the 14XXX series was somehow skipped in Lange's reorganization reacting to the growing depression in 1930. It's a question, not a point a dogma, but in all my years dealing with Paramount banjos, I've never seen or heard of a 14XXX serial number. Those thousand numbers appear on every published list. But if they never existed, it only skews the numbers. Lange's production suffered really badly in the depression.
DSmoke - Posted - 05/06/2021: 19:31:15
The unique style A John posted peghead inlay looks very similar to my Orpheum No 3. It was clear that Lange was "transitioning" from the Opheum with the early Paramounts by the Purfling. The most beautiful work of the B I had you couldn't see, like the rim cap and inside the rim.
wuzapicker , glad to see your input here, very insightful and I believe the original source of the Paramount date chart.
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