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New London and Groton Bacons c1920-22

Posted by BrittDLD1 on Saturday, December 12, 2009

A lengthy answer to a short question, in The Bacon Banjo Co., Inc. topic.
Originally posted by carlb
I have pictures of #2097 (Special Grand Concert, Forest Dale) and others as
early as #427 which have notched tension hoops, as well as in later ones, like
mine #9610. That's why I thought that there wasn't any correlation. If I'm wrong
about this, I not sure what time frame I should be looking at. All the ones that
are listed on the data base, as notched or not, are from pictures that I have acquired
over the years.

My apologies for such a late reply. It took me a while to put the following in a
useful form.

With Bacons, always I think in terms of the "maker" periods (all approximate):

... o Vega-made c1905-10?
... o NY School-made /Lange-made c1910/12 -- 1915
... o NY School-made/Funky Forest Dale-made -- c1915? -- 1920 (New London)
... o NY School-made and Groton-made -- 1920-21
... o Groton-made -- 1921-1938

Trying to aptly describe the details and differentiating features of those makers
and sub -periods, would take a chapter in a book. There is maddeningly little hard
information about the NY School makers -- and who made what for whom. So
any differentiation is really based on personal observation and interpretation of
construction and finish details, and of the raw materials and hardware used.

The Vega-made models are relatively straight-forward. But due to my longterm
focus on the early-'20s Transitional Bacons, I tend to skip over the problematic
'teens models, and pay more attention to the Groton-made models. (And I was
dragged, kicking and screaming, into having to study the serial numbers formats
on the later Gretsch-made models...)

Vega came out with their notched hoop, in conjunction with the development
of the new Tubaphone, in 1909 (~#249xx). And I assume the hoops were actually
made by Waverly. So most of the early Vega-made Bacons do NOT have them,
but some of the late high-end ones DO have them. (#427 FF Spcl#2)

To my knowledge, no info exists on whether Waverly developed the notched
hoop on its own, and then Vega adopted it -- or, if Vega came up with the idea
for the notched hoop, and then had Waverly produce it. (That's a good little
research project for someone.)

Waverly also supplied many of the NY School makers (Lange among them) --
and notched hoops were used on some of the high-end Forest Dale banjos
The high-end Forest Dale banjos usually have serial numbers. The low-end end
"qwirky" Forest Dale banjos often don't have serial numbers

#2005 a Special Grand Concert, DOES have a notched hoop -- and notched
hoops are shown on both the GrC and SpGrC in the c1913 Forest Dale Catalog.

Note that the notched hoops were harder to produce than the grooved or
beveled hoops, and probably cost more. So they seemed to be used only on
higher-grade banjos early-on.

New London and Groton --

About 1915, Fred Bacon changed his base of operations. He moved his
teaching studio, and office, to New London, Connecticut.

In 1920 Fred Bacon joined forces with E. Oliver Winship, a local doctor, to
start a new banjo company. In July of 1920, Winship bought a parcel of
property close to his home, in Groton, CT -- just across the river from New
London. The property had a c.1810 house, with a small connected-barn, on it.

Fred also had a NEW line of premium banjos designed -- probably by one of
the NY School makers, most probably Lange. Lange had private-labeled some
FF Professional model tenors for Bacon, since the early-teens.

The impetus for creating this new line of banjos, was the need to provide a
standard OPENBACK 4-string TENOR banjo to the burgeoning Orchestra,
Dance-band, and Jazz market.

In late-1920 Bacon introduced his new line of "Orchestra" banjos, and his
newly updated Profesional models. The most distinctive features of these
NEW banjos were:
. . . o "Bacon" in script on the peghead.
. . . o Only TWO "f-holes" -- on the rear of the internal resonated
. . . . . . "Professional" models.

(See #6810 below)

Some initial assembly of banjos, probably took place in his studio/office, in New
London, during 1920. Probably using parts produced elsewhere -- by the NY
School makers.

The Bacon Banjo Company, Inc. was offically incorporated on April 20, 1921,
and Fred started his own production in earnest. For the first year-or-so, he used
BEVELED (not grooved) hoops and flat-hooks on ALL models -- from the lowest,
to the highest SpGC models. Serials for the Groton Period start at about #5000.

During late-1921 Fred began the development of the Bacon "Blue Ribbon" models.
The Blue Ribbons evolved from Bacon's "Orchestra" models. They had a new snap-in
resonator, and would be introduced as their top-of-the-line banjos, in April 1922.
The earliest Blue Ribbons are stamped "The Bacon Orchestra" on the dowel. The
introduction of the Blue Ribbons was the death-knell for the internal-resonator
"Professional" models.

Three New Features:

The following list of banjos shows the approximate introduction of three features,
during the early Groton Period:
. . . o The use of NOTCHED tension hoops on premium banjos,
. . . o The stamping of SERIALS on RIMS
. . . o the use of the Groton "MADE BY..." stamp on dowels

(NOTE: My primary interest for the last 10-12 years has been studying the
Blue Ribbon banjos. Since these features showed up on the Blue Ribbons first,
I haven't tracked the lower Bacon models of the period as carefully.)

#6810 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- beveled
. . . o Rim serial -- NO
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

This is a Bacon Professional #3, which still listed in the BHO Classifieds:

From the photos, it looks to be quite original. (The geared tuners would have
been added a few years after production, and it would have had a Bacon-
Winship tailpiece originally.)

But the use of the "Made by" stamp on such an early banjo is VERY anachron-
istic. It doesn't show up again, for over 600 instruments.

The stamp does appear to be correct... Perhaps the banjo (or neck) sat
around, in inventory, for a year -- before being stamped. Possibly it was sent
back for some repair, or a neck replacement -- and the stamp was added
then. ('Tis a puzzlement....)

#6895 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- beveled
. . . o Rim serial -- NO
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- NO

Holly 5-string, with Blue Ribbon peghead "Special" "A-1" (carved heel, nickel-
plated) -- almost certainly a prototype made for exhibit at the Introduction of
the Blue Ribbon models, in April 1922. It's the earliest Bacon banjo I've seen
(so far) with the Blue Ribbon peghead.

#6988 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- NOTCHED (gold)
. . . o Rim serial -- NO
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- NO

The earliest original Groton-made Bacon I've seen (so far), with a notched
hoop. Blue Ribbon peghead "Special" tenor, which is also the earliest DLX
(carved, gold dark stained curly maple) Blue Ribbon I've seen. Again,
almost certainly made for the Introduction in 1922.

(Note: The Special Grand Concerts of this time were cataloged showing
ONLY beveled hoops and flat hooks.)

#6998 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- beveled
. . . o Rim serial -- NO
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- NO

Blue Ribbon peghead, style A, maple.

#7096 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- N/A (non-original)
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- N/A (non-original neck)

Earliest Groton-made Bacon I've seen (so far) with its serial stamped into the

Unfortunately, this is a composite "parts banjo" made from a Blue Ribbon DLX
rim (gold tonering) and a later B&D neck (unmarked dowel) -- with a Bacon
after-market flat resonator (center-screw) added. All hardware, including
the beveled tension hoop, is mismatched and nickel-plated.

. . . o Tension Hoop -- beveled
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

Blue Ribbon peghead, Mandolin-Banjo, style A. Earliest BR MB I've seen (so
far) and earliest use of the "Made by... Groton..." stamp I've seen (so far).

#7510 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- beveled
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

Blue Ribbon peghead, style A tenor

#7514 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- NOTCHED (gold)
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

Blue Ribbon "Special" tenor (DLX dark stained curly maple(carved, gold DLX).

#7521 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- NOTCHED (gold)
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

Blue Ribbon "Special" 5-string (DLX dark stained curly maple(carved, gold DLX).

#7881 --
. . . o Tension Hoop -- NOTCHED (nickel)
. . . o Rim serial -- YES
. . . o "Made by" stamp -- YES

Blue Ribbon Style A 5-string -- slightly curly Maple, nickel-plated

The time elapsed from #6895 to #7881 is probably about 10-12 months --
from late-Fall 1921 to late-Fall 1922. The introduction of these features
corresponds to the increasing influence of David L. Day -- as he considered
a new career opportunity at Bacon -- and his subsequent arrival at Bacon,
in Sept 1922.

The lower-model Bacons, like the Style B, C, and Peerless, still used the beveled
tension hoops. The lower-models were upgraded to notched tension hoops
sometime between late-1923 and mid-1924 -- after the introduction of the
B&D Silver Bell.

Ed Britt
© 2009

2 comments on “New London and Groton Bacons c1920-22”

zeke_w15 Says:
Sunday, December 13, 2009 @1:24:06 AM


dspainters Says:
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 @1:00:24 PM

I am asking if you can tell me about my 1921 bacon orchestra thanks.... dave

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