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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: When is a Dobson not a Dobson?


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/375152

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/20/2021:  10:34:24


Bob Smakula, responding to a recent post, said,
‘ As Buckbee made most Dobson branded banjos, it is generally accepted that for a banjo to be a "Dobson", it needs to be stamped as such from the factory.’

This brings up something I’ve wondered about…if it looks like an early H.C. Dobson, but has no markings, is it a Dobson? As the saying goes, ‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck..’
I have 3 in my collection, (I think) but only one is stamped.
The one on the left has the stamp on the heel. The other two are unmarked. The stamped one is the earliest patent (1867) and I believe the metal one on the right is one of Dobson’s later patents.
The one in the middle is a mystery. It appears to be a heavier version of the stamped one, but the neck is not the typical H.C. Dobson neck, nor does it have the typical peghead shape.
Anyway, Bob’s interesting comment got me wondering what the consensus is…or IS there a consensus?




IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/20/2021:  10:38:13


And another photo:



 

Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/20/2021:  12:15:56


Does the metal rim banjo conform to one of the Dobson family's patents? If so, what is the patent number?

I've never kept up with all the various Dobson family patents. I thought the gimmick on these was the closed back.

My problem is the use of "Dobson". Each Dobson was an individual person with their own private label banjos. We should put the correct name to the design.

Some time after Adam Hurt made "Dobson" banjos popular again-- everything became a "Dobson", even heel shapes for some reason.

"What is my banjo"-- "That is a Dobson".

I suppose it is better than calling everything with a star inlay "Vega".

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/20/2021:  12:50:34


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Does the metal rim banjo conform to one of the Dobson family's patents? If so, what is the patent number?



I've never kept up with all the various Dobson family patents. I thought the gimmick on these was the closed back.



My problem is the use of "Dobson". Each Dobson was an individual person with their own private label banjos. We should put the correct name to the design.



Some time after Adam Hurt made "Dobson" banjos popular again-- everything became a "Dobson", even heel shapes for some reason.



"What is my banjo"-- "That is a Dobson".



I suppose it is better than calling everything with a star inlay "Vega".






Joel. I am referring specifically to H.C. Dobson, when I say Dobson. The first patent given to H.C. Dobson was July 13 of 1867, for his closed back banjo. Additional patents were in 1871 and 1878, (if memory serves), but there seems to have been variations, which is where my confusion gets added to the picture. And around 1878, he turned those patents over to Martin Bro. and turned his attention to the Silver Bell, with the tone ring. It is the tone ring model that Adam Hurt has popularized. 



If memory serves, H.C. Dobson patents in regard to his closed back banjos were in 1867, '71, and '78

trapdoor2 - Posted - 05/20/2021:  12:55:36


I wouldn't expect concensus. Collectors have their own language...and are stubborn in the extreme.

To me, the actual manufacturer isn't relevant...but it is interesting trivia.

jbalch - Posted - 05/20/2021:  13:34:41


I don't claim expertise ... But I think the perception that H.C. Dobson banjos must be marked to be considered real is probably based on a few common observations:



1. H.C. Dobson marked many (perhaps most) of his banjos multiple times. The only H.C. Dobson I ever had was marked in at least 4 places. Each major component bore his clear stamp.

2. H.C. Dobson defended his brand and patents ferociously. He sued E, J. Cubley for alleged patent infringement in a case that went to the US Supreme court. (Dobson lost).

3. Since Buckbee produced banjos for Dobson (and lots of others), many instruments with similar style features are often mistakenly called "Dobsons". (I have been guilty of this myself in the past)



Personally I think H.C Dobson was probably one of the most important innovators in the history of the instrument.  I also think that fact makes demonstratable originality and provenance of his instruments interesting to collectors. 


Edited by - jbalch on 05/20/2021 13:49:14

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/20/2021:  14:04:24


quote:

Originally posted by trapdoor2

I wouldn't expect concensus. Collectors have their own language...and are stubborn in the extreme.



 






I don't know whether to laugh, or cry...

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 05/21/2021:  05:39:10


The one with the metal rim is actually an Asian copy, a "Dobsclone."  devil

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/21/2021:  07:03:00


I suppose one way to look at it is that if it isn’t marked FORD, it’s not a FORD.
But banjos are not that logical, and banjo collectors are WAY not that logical…lol.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/21/2021:  07:49:37


Was the Geo Metro a Geo or Suzuki?

Or were Suzukis really Geos?

Japanese, Korean and Chinese banjos are sold under various names, sometimes with brand specific designs (with those brands also offering the generic designs).

If a Washburn and a Epiphone banjo come from the same factory does that make the unbranded banjos from the same factory "Washburn" or "Epiphone"?

RE: you metal rim banjo, the reason I ask is that it does not look to be a closed back banjo, but rather a different design for a smoother outer rim. Did one of the Dobson's patent that open back/smooth rim design?

RE: your other closed back banjo. Patents expire. During that era that term was 17 years from the grant date. Unmarked could mean that it was produced after expiration.

Today there are many makers of Gibson pattern banjos that are virtually identical to each other (excluding magical woods and supernatural metal) all using the same type of wood and parts sources. One might think that they were all made by the same "factory" and inlayed with different names on the peg head. So it is likely that many people were making identical banjos in the late 19th century too.

I say that unless it passed through the hands, or was sold under name license, and stamped with one of the "Dobson" names/brands, it is not a "Dobson."


I am a huge fan of the Dobson family of con artists. These guys were the original "learn to play with no effort in seconds" scam sellers. They set the stage for all the worthless apps sold today that promise to teach you guitar, piano, violin, etc. with little effort on your part... and no notes! I am bombarded with ads for these with professional level musician pretending that they learned if a couple months.

The best part of their con was that they could teach you properly, but they had to get you in the door with fantastic promises. Once they extract some money from you, they explain that in order to really learn to play (other than Juba Jig) that you need to buy a better banjo and more books.

Yet they already claimed that you could learn to play everything with no effort or notes!

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/21/2021:  09:08:15


Joel…interesting that you should ask…Having just sold my Geo Metro, after 26 years, I can actually tell you that the Geo Metro and the Suzuki (Sprint?) were the exact same car. The Geo used the Suzuki engine, and at least with the ‘95/‘96 model, had the exact same body design. And I know that one time when I wanted a new key, the locksmith gave me a Suzuki key, which worked perfectly.
Your question about the metal body top tension banjo is the same question I have—does one of the 1870’s H.C. Dobson patents have an open back metal body? I don’t know, and was hoping someone could clarify that. We can probably assume Buckbee made it, though.

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 05/21/2021:  11:25:22


I wouldn't be too sure that the metal rim model was made by Buckbee. With no date, it could very well have been built after the Dobson Patent had expired, as Joel spculates, and was made by someone else. It does appear that some parts came from Buckbee, but it's possible that some of it was made by another company using some, but not all, Buckbee parts.

Nowadays, it is definitely hard to tell just where products are made, and by whom. My son owns a Pontiac Vibhe, which is really a Toyota Matrix with a couple of small design features that were screwed up by GM. When the airbags were recalled, he had to take it to a Buick dealer to have them replaced. I also had an acquantance who worked in a Honda plant in Ohio, and I once owned a Volvo with a body made in England.

I'm pretty certain that this process was not confined to the 20th and 21st centuries, though. Dobson designs were built by Buckbee, as were other maker's banjos, and even with cars, Steinway Piano had a Mercedes assembly operation in the early 1900's, until the place was damaged in a fire.

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