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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: (Henry) H C Tallmadge - Cincinnati 19th c maker

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/382655

BradKlein - Posted - 04/15/2022:  12:52:28

I'm interested in restoring this HC Tallmadge banjo. The neck and spun-over rim and original metal rod are in good shape, and I think with some work it should make a fine playable instrument. Missing are the unique Tallmadge hooks and brackets, as well as the head, tension hoop, tailpiece, bridge, friction pegs.

I've found only three others online. One at Bill's Banjos, one at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and one recently auctioned at Guernsey's. All four examples use or used the innovative Tallmadge brackets that don't require drilling the rim. But this one differs from the other three in having a 'flange' with rectangular notches along its back side - presumably to anchor some bracket whose design I can only guess at. 

The profile of the neck heel, patina, and the maker's established preference for a 'no-hole' rim, convince me that the rim and flange are original to this banjo. It is too much to hope that anyone has the hooks and brackets in their parts bin. But even a good photo or a single example would help determine whether machining new brackets can be done. 

To complete the description for posterity: Scale is 27", nut width is 1 7/16", head is 12" diameter, 30 hooks, neck appears to be walnut or mahogany, rim is some unknown, but figured wood with spun-over metal.

Any help  or advice - on the where, who, and how of restoring this instrument to a good playing, nylon string, hide top banjo - gratefully accepted!

REALLYoldbanjos - Posted - 04/15/2022:  19:13:05

Welcome to the club of owners of Talmadge banjos with missing parts!
I’ve owned four over the years and only one had all its parts. I saw yours on eBay and cringed when I saw it was missing parts.
I suspect many Talmadge banjos with missing hardware have been purchased by folks who needed it as a parts banjo to complete one of their own.
There are two versions of Talmadge patent hardware banjos. One version has the hardware on the “Bill’s Banjos” website.
The other version is like yours. It is a double hook model. An upper hook goes over an upper tension hoop that holds the head tight. A lower hook goes into the lower notched hoop that you see on yours. I think you are missing the upper hoop.
Now here is the kicker.
Both hooks have a threaded end that screws into a small vertical tube between the two hooks. The tube has opposite threading on each end so that when each hook end is threaded into the tube, you turn the tube and the two hooks tighten the arrangement which brings down the upper tension hoop to tighten the head.
As I recall, there is either a hole in the tube where you can insert a nail or something like it to turn the tube or the tube was shaped to allow a wrench to do the turning. It has been awhile since I have seen that version.
Some time back, I traded banjos with a friend of mine as we both had the parts the other guy needed. I suspect he may chime in on this conversation.
I’m sorry I do not have a photo of the parts you need, nor do I know where you might find them.
They are interesting banjos, although you may well conclude like others have: Talmadge, what the heck were you thinking?

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 04/16/2022:  01:52:24

The hardware you are missing functions like a turnbuckle. A hook on either end engages the rim band and the tension hoop, and they are drawn together when the center element is turned using an open-end wrench. I can get photos of the ones on my Tallmadge next week. I'm not sure if the turnbuckle style hardware predates the other (patented) style, or if it was a later idea that he had.

All told, I've seen maybe a dozen Tallmadge banjos over the years. They are an interesting exercise in using the most complex method possible to solve a problem that nobody was really having.


BradKlein - Posted - 04/16/2022:  05:39:20

Thanks so much, Norm and Andy. No real surprises in these first two posts, but some super helpful information. Also, I can hear the frustration of trying to crack the Tallmadge (two Ls) nut. A photo or a single example of the two hook / turnbuckle system will be invaluable. And I don't think it's pictured anywhere online that I've seen. So a very worthwhile post, especially with measurements!

In one respect, the two hook, turnbuckle design that I have might be considerably easier to fabricate, since small turnbuckles are easily available, and I may we able to use two standard hooks. Might need cutting to length and tapping, but still much easier than fabricating anything close to the design on the Bill's Banjo or Cinti Art Museum examples.

The rim band, that I was calling a flange, certainly means that even if I was willing to drill holes for standard shoes, it probably would not work well.

PS I think the craftsmanship of the neck overall is pretty high, and I can imagine replacing the rim entirely, but that just would not be the same at all. I wonder how the threaded rod is attached at the neck?

Edited by - BradKlein on 04/16/2022 05:42:48

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 04/16/2022:  06:34:03

The biggest annoyance in replicating the turnbuckle-style hardware is that one side is left hand thread. Requires an investment in a tap and die you'll probably never use again.

As I recall, there is a threaded insert (steel or brass) buried in the neck heel that the rim rod threads into. The few I've disassembled were that way, anyway.


BradKlein - Posted - 04/16/2022:  10:05:16

The attachment bolt must be morticed in from the fingerboard side of the neck since this particular example does not have a heel cap.

jun3machina - Posted - 04/16/2022:  18:28:39

I bid on this too but had no idea how hard those pieces would be to find. I hope you're successful in a restoration! The pieces of the whole are beautiful!

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 04/17/2022:  10:13:08


Originally posted by BradKlein

The attachment bolt must be morticed in from the fingerboard side of the neck since this particular example does not have a heel cap.

All I've disassembled have the insert put in from the face of the heel, with the hole subsequently doweled. Not sure how the inserts are anchored.

Slingerland - Posted - 04/19/2022:  13:17:45

I’ve seen several over the years and had a complete one in this style I traded about 10 years ago.

I’ve actually spoke with a grandchild of H.C. several years ago and have done a lot of research I'll have to dig up about him.

I was having internet issues at the time of the auction closed and sadly missed bidding. If you decide not to keep it, let me know!

Edited by - Slingerland on 04/19/2022 13:19:39

Slingerland - Posted - 04/19/2022:  13:34:28

I have photos that I can email. I can't seem to upload here to the thread.

Edited by - Slingerland on 04/19/2022 13:36:18

BradKlein - Posted - 04/19/2022:  16:10:06

Thanks so much Paul. I sent you my email directly, and I would be grateful to see photos of this style. I'm happy to share one or two with this thread as well just so there's a nice record online.

Slingerland - Posted - 04/19/2022:  17:09:50

Sounds good. I sent them over.

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 04/20/2022:  06:19:44

Here are a couple photos of Tallmadge's turnbuckle-style tensioning system. It is very similar to that patented by Richard Kuenstler in 1900, which was used on some banjos made by the Regal Co. Tallmadge was out of the banjo business by then, as I recall. No telling whether Kuenstler saw one of his banjos, or came up with the idea independently.

The system is fussy to make, fussy to keep tight, and pieces are easily lost if they loosen, so it's no surprise that it didn't catch on.

BradKlein - Posted - 04/20/2022:  11:14:18


Originally posted by Andy FitzGibbon

Here are a couple photos of Tallmadge's turnbuckle-style tensioning system. 

Andy, That's a great illustration of the turnbuckle system. Thanks so much for sharing. I nothing else, it's nice to have an online roundup of this unique moment in banjology. It will be a challenge to get this instrument up and running, but it's a wonderful neck, rim, and headstock. If I make some progress, I'll be sure to post an update.


Slingerland - Posted - 05/10/2022:  14:04:21

I picked up this Tallmadge today. Looks like a nice example.


BradKlein - Posted - 05/10/2022:  14:50:05

That looks like a fantastic example. Yet another variation in terms of rim and hooks. When you have it in hand perhaps you can include some measurements and photos for the good of this thread.

Slingerland - Posted - 05/10/2022:  14:58:02

Yes, will do!

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 05/10/2022:  18:12:00

That one has the patented tensioning system. A bit more refined than the turnbuckle, and also much less prone to loss. It's one of the plainest I've seen, in terms of decoration.

Here are a couple photos of the one on display at the Cincinnati art museum.


Slingerland - Posted - 05/10/2022:  19:25:01

Thanks, Andy.

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