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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: S. S. Stewart Orchestra Serial #2021


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/377726

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/12/2021:  19:38:44


Posting for joe28675 and general interest.



This was the first “period” banjo I bought which I used for reenacting the “old west” (confusing other reenactors as I played correct period classic banjo pieces, something they has not heard before).



It is strange as it has a mix of different SSS eras. Eli Kaufman speculated that it was sent back to Stewart for repairs in the 1890s which is where it got the later heel “carving” clovers. IDK.



The neck and heel shape does match the serial number era.



The scale is rather short.



Rim size: 13”

Neck Length: 18”

Scale: 27 3/8”

Nut width: 1.176”

Fingerboard width at 12th fret: 1.854”

Fingerboard width at 18th fret (highest): 1.931”

Rim depth: 2 1/4”



It came with an Asian no knot (as tailpieces seem to be the first casualty of wire strings). I had a English bone tailpiece on it for years and eventually put on one of Mark Ralston’s common sense replicas.



There are three replacement hooks (either side of the heel) that I put on.



If I did not know better I would think that the rim was nickel plated brass as where the plating has been polished off shows yellow/orange.



I welcome comments or thoughts and am interested in what Joe has to say.


Edited by - Joel Hooks on 09/12/2021 19:40:57


























trapdoor2 - Posted - 09/12/2021:  20:15:56


That heel cap looks oddly thick. Maybe replaced?

My 1889 Orchestra is nickel-plated brass. Very obvious. It was green in many places, peeling plating in others.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/12/2021:  20:36:08


quote:

Originally posted by trapdoor2

That heel cap looks oddly thick. Maybe replaced?



My 1889 Orchestra is nickel-plated brass. Very obvious. It was green in many places, peeling plating in others.






Same thickness as the fingerboard.

trapdoor2 - Posted - 09/12/2021:  21:05:19


Ok, both are abnormally thick and your heel-cap protrudes beyond the edge of the rim. The carving is from the Bauer era...as is the neck stain/finish.

I think (just guessing out loud, mind you) you have a Bauer era neck adapted to an older rim. Fairly easy to do, pull the dowelstick and fix it to a new neck...that is 1" shorter giving a more playable scale.

That way you get a matching S/N too.

An early S/N would have darker finish, almost certainly veneer under the fretboard and maybe was fretless. Send it back in 1901 and have them update it to your needs.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/12/2021:  21:11:27


Could be. One sees the clover carving thing by 1897. It shows up about the time of the heel cracker.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/12/2021:  21:14:16


Sorry, make that November of 96, shown on the cut introducing the heel cracker.

dbrooks - Posted - 09/13/2021:  06:18:37


Very informative. Thanks, Joel.



David

joe28675 - Posted - 09/13/2021:  18:22:47


Joel, I have two banjos in my early S.S.Stewart data base that is stamped with the serial number 2021. One is your banjo that you have posted pictures of on this post and the other belongs to another friend. Actually, the other one is missing the original pot but apparently was a cello banjo. The neck is walnut with rosewood fretboard and peghead overlay. It has a 29 1/4 inch scale, wood flush frets and a metal heel cap. I don't know the length of the fret board but have asked the owner to measure it for me.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/13/2021:  18:59:45


The "Bass" (later called "or Cello") banjo seems to have been introduced in 1888 with Thomas Armstrong's banjo club.

It is mentioned as being "recently gotten up to furnish deeper tones" in "The Banjo" on page 52. SSS then goes on to write...

"Indeed, I had the honor of being the recipient of a vote of thanks, tendered by Mr. Armstrong's Banjo Orchestra of some sixteen members, only a few months ago, for an instrument of this description, manufactured for the use of said orchestra. Since SSS mentions working on "The Banjo", a deeper dive could figure out when "a few months ago" would have been giving us a month (more or less) of introduction.

In issue #50 (Feb & March 1889) of the Journal the Bass Banjo is introduced as having a maple wood rim with rosewood veneer and raised frets with an 18" neck and guitar machine pegs. "As very few of such banjos are manufactured, the price has been placed at a very low figure to accommodate clubs--$20 net."

I am well aware that there are no hard and fast rules with SSS but it seems that the other 2021 is unlikely to be a "cello" banjo by description.

I'd love to see photos of the other 2021. joe28675 , I saw your comment on the other discussion which prompted me to start this one.

joe28675 - Posted - 09/15/2021:  09:43:43


Norn Peterson is the owner of the other S.S.Stewart #2021 (neck only).
The following are his thoughts about the banjo:


Here are my #2021 neck measurements and some comparisons to my SSS “bass or cello” banjo and my 13” Orchestra banjo.

I suspect that my 2021 could well have been mated at one time to Joel’s 2021 rim, but given the measurements I can see why they may have been separated as a bad fit.
As you will see my 2021 is more closely related to the bass/cello than the 13” Orchestra.

My 2021 neck is clearly an original SSS with it’s characteristic peghead shape, neck shape and heel shape (I’ve owned more than 75 SSS banjos over the years).
It has a cherry or walnut neck (SSS used several wood types in his early necks) with a rosewood fingerboard and flush wood frets. The peghead overlay is rosewood. The heel cap is metal as is common for the era. Five piece star in peghead, star at second and tenth fret. Single dot at fifth and fourteenth, two dots at seventh and seventeenth fret spaces.
Usual markings on the dowel stick for that era.
When I received it the dowel length had been obviously slightly shortened by an unknown amount.

The neck measures 19” from nut to tension hoop. Nut to 12th fret is 14 5/8”, so a scale length of 29 1/4”, which is longer than the scale length of a standard SSS cello/bass banjo.

Given the scale length and neck length I decided it would not be a real good fit for a SSS 13” rim. The bridge would be much closer to the tailpiece than any Stewart I had seen or heard of.

As an experiment I mated it (with no alteration) to a 14” spun rim; an orphan from a L&H guitar banjo. It fit decently well, but the bridge is still located only 4 1/8” from the tension hoop at the tailpiece end. Given the size of the rim, the neck would fit rather nicely with an even larger rim.

For comparison, my standard SSS bass/cell banjo has a 29” scale length, and measures 18” from nut to tension hoop. It has a 16” rim and the bridge sits approximately 5” up from the tension hoop at the tailpiece end. Standard catalog spec’s.

My 13” rim SSS Orchestra banjo, which also confirms to catalog spec’s, measures 19” from nut to tension hoop, but has only a 28 1/4” scale length. And the bridge sits about 4” from the tension hoop at the tailpiece end.

So, a 1” scale length difference between the #2021 neck and the 13” Orchestra banjo neck.
And the scale length of the #2021 is longer by 1/4” than the scale length of a standard SSS bass/cello banjo.

SSS was known to experiment with his early banjos. Just guessing, but This may have been one of his early attempts at making a long scale deep sounding banjo, such as a cello or bass.
Or maybe somebody just wanted, for some reason, a 13” rim flush fret banjo with the bridge very close to the tailpiece.
Or there is a 14” or 15” lurking somewhere.
Or it was a bad experiment and that’s why there is a #2021 neck now separated from a #2021 rim; the latter now sporting a later neck.

Interesting to Stewart folk; maybe not so much to others.


Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/15/2021:  19:55:53


Ah, so we are thinking I have a old rim and late 1890s neck. The weird part is that the neck is such a different shape compared to other late 90s SSSs. Not to mention the oddly thick fingerboard (particularly for the late era as SSS claimed this caused warping problems when the wood shrank at different rates).

joe28675 - Posted - 09/16/2021:  09:39:30


I currently have 34 S.S.Stewart banjos with serial numbers below 3000 or made before March 1883, when Stewart started using serial numbers, and the thickest fretboard on any of them is 5/32 of an inch. Most are much thinner.
Also, the earliest Stewart that I have with the faux wood grain paint on the inside of the pot is #4710, not so significant since most of mine are older. But none of the Stewart banjo with serial numbers below 3000 have the faux wood grain paint on the inside diameter of the pot.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/16/2021:  13:10:26


Sounds like SSS was the Gibson of its day in terms of mix-and-match and parts migration.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/17/2021:  11:48:29


Thinking a little more about this (because I am one of those interested parties), SSS wrote that he stopped using the brass angle support at the tailpiece end of the dowel rod about 1885 when he changed over to the screw in style that screws through the rim. My rim has that later screw in style end pin that screws through the rim (earlier banjos had the dowel extend through a square hole supported by a brass angle piece).

If my rim is early and original to the 2021 neck, I suppose it could have been painted rosewood at the time of the remodel. So I am going to take a very close photo of the rim number and see if it was re-stamped (perhaps after painting) this weekend.

But don't read this wrong, I am not trying to make my banjo fit with the earlier timeline, just curious.


Now some timeline points in the establishment of ensemble banjo groups or "Clubs"/"Orchestras" and why I think #2021 neck is not a "cello banjo" but just a weirdly long Orchestra neck.

SSS announced the piccolo banjo as being manufactured and ready for sale in the April and May, 1884 issue of the Journal. In "The Banjo" (1888) he states that they have been known for some time for use in ensemble playing. We know of early half size banjos so it is not a leap to think that they were used together with regular banjos from early on. A concept that was not new, but only first offered by SSS in spring of 1884.

In the fall of 1885 SSS developed the concept of the Banjeaurine and offered it for sale in 1886. Several professionals that were associated (friendly) with SSS quickly took them up including Thomas Armstrong. Armstrong might have been the first to organize what we now call a "Banjo Club" or "Banjo Orchestra".

In 1888, likely due to prodding from Armstrong but that is just a guess, SSS builds the official "bass banjo" or later cello banjo, pitched one octave below the regular banjo. He gives this to Armstrong who makes a hit with it. So SSS starts to build them to sell.

This all happened in a short time, a matter of 3 or 4 years when the banjo was starting to explode in popularity as a true fad.

My best guess is that 2021 would have been built 1884/1885 so while I suppose it could have been an early prototype bass banjo, that is extremely unlikely. Most likely it was a stroke style banjo with a long scale.

Frank Converse, when describing Horace Weston's playing wrote "His bridge, very narrow and low—much narrower than the ordinary violin bridge— he placed quite near to the tail-piece in order to obtain a nasal quality of tone, which he fancied."

This was a short lived trend with stroke style players that can be seen on banjos from the mid 1880s.

And while 29.25" seems long for a regular banjo, I'll point out that I play banjos built by Fred Van Eps that are 28.5" long and they work just fine.

Oh, and 19" necks were the catalog standard for orchestras.

Bill Rogers , not really in my opinion. SSS would build what people wanted. He had his personal recommendations, and stock styles, but if you showed up or wrote him with your requirements, he'd build to it. SSS has been made out to be some huge company akin to Big Tobacco with ultimate control over the banjo fad, yet his entire factory, at the largest, compromised only 5345 square feet. Considering the output that is pretty small.

His designs also changed with demand, when music tastes or technical demands changed, so did his product. The results of this can be seen by surveying his musical publications along side of examples from each era. Banjo design followed the needs of the players.

Had he not stroked out and died, I have no doubt he would have offered laminated wood rims with resonators and even tenor and plectrum banjos when that came into fashion.



 

joe28675 - Posted - 09/25/2021:  21:22:10


Joel, How thick is the fret board on your Stewart # 2021? The thickest board on any Stewart banjo that I have is 0.2270 inch on serial number 6362, 9 inch rim, 16 inch neck, 22 1/2 inch scale.
I have seven No 2 Stewarts in the 2000 serial number range and all have an inlay at the second fret.
Also, I don't think the peghead trademark stamp was used until about 1889 ( the earliest that I have is serial # 5541).

I'm thinking maybe your banjo is one of those which the serial number was reissued, for whatever reason. I could be wrong, who knows?

tbchappe - Posted - 09/26/2021:  05:29:28


quote:

Originally posted by joe28675

Joel, How thick is the fret board on your Stewart # 2021? The thickest board on any Stewart banjo that I have is 0.2270 inch on serial number 6362, 9 inch rim, 16 inch neck, 22 1/2 inch scale.

I have seven No 2 Stewarts in the 2000 serial number range and all have an inlay at the second fret.

Also, I don't think the peghead trademark stamp was used until about 1889 ( the earliest that I have is serial # 5541).



I'm thinking maybe your banjo is one of those which the serial number was reissued, for whatever reason. I could be wrong, who knows?






I was wondering about that board thickness! I took a Lady Stewart apart to set the neck back to the original angle, and I thought the board was thick. I thought the inlay was weird, too, but someone showed me theirs and it was the same, so it makes me feel so much better about it. It's Serial 6704 I think. 



Blaine

Joel Hooks - Posted - 09/26/2021:  12:38:15


quote:

Originally posted by joe28675

Joel, How thick is the fret board on your Stewart # 2021? The thickest board on any Stewart banjo that I have is 0.2270 inch on serial number 6362, 9 inch rim, 16 inch neck, 22 1/2 inch scale.

I have seven No 2 Stewarts in the 2000 serial number range and all have an inlay at the second fret.

Also, I don't think the peghead trademark stamp was used until about 1889 ( the earliest that I have is serial # 5541).



I'm thinking maybe your banjo is one of those which the serial number was reissued, for whatever reason. I could be wrong, who knows?






Fingerboard is .258 to .26 as the best measurement I can get.  The peghead overlay is .20 and the heel cap is .334ish.  The heel cap is two pieces of wood laminated.  The fingerboard and peghead are solid one piece. 



SSS started using the trademark stamp February 1st 1889. 



 
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