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"S. S. Stewart Patent Banjo Thimbles" on ebay are not what they claim.

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Nov 7, 2019 - 7:58:30 AM
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4817 posts since 9/21/2007
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Here is a PSA on this current auction as a little knowledge goes a long way.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1889-96-Original-S-S-STEWART-BANJO-THIMBLE-Pick-COLLECTABLE-Unique-RARE/184024054748?hash=item2ad8b03bdc:g:sy4AAOSwd0pdwcU8

This is an auction for what the seller claims to be SSS patent banjo thimbles based on the patent markings.

That is not correct.

When SSS died in 1898, his business partner George Bauer (who was supposed to hold his half until SSS' eldest son Fred could legally take it over) did all he could to ruin the company in order to seize total control.  In the process he sold off pieces of the company.   Most notably was the selling of all the music plates and sheet music stock (and copyrights) to Jos. W. Sterns in NYC.

Somehow the patent for SSS' banjo thimble was sold to a manufacturer of Autoharps (perhaps Zimmerman?).  The patent was adapted for use with Autpharps as picks.  Instead of two pieces soldered together with a piece of horn for the picking piece, they instead modified a standard banjo thimble to hold a piece of hard felt.

This modification is obviously easier/cheaper to produce.

Let this be a public service.  The pick in this auction is NOT a banjo thimble and was not made during the life of SSS.  It is likely early 20th century and made as picks for Autoharps.  The only connection is that the maker somehow got ownership of the patent.

In full transparency-- I am not bidding on this auction.  I have in my thimble collection one of these as well as a thumb pick version.  If I remember correctly I payed no more than $10 each, but it is possible that it was 10 for the pair-- I just don't remember.

Photos below of the two I have as well as a catalog image showing what they truly are.






Nov 7, 2019 - 10:06:51 AM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22531 posts since 6/25/2005

Thanks for the PSA, Joel. eBay for many years has refused to vet fraudulent listings of collectibles or remove them when notified. Kinda like Facebook and Twitter with fake news posts, except that buyers become monetary victims.

Nov 7, 2019 - 10:29:22 AM
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1464 posts since 6/2/2010

That spiral one on the index finger is pretty funky for sure. What was that one used for?

Nov 7, 2019 - 10:35:31 AM
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4817 posts since 9/21/2007
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To be fair, I don't think the seller is being fraudulent.  They are stamped with a patent date that ties back to the SSS patent.

And... I am likely the only living person who would know about this stuff!

Nov 7, 2019 - 10:36:06 AM

4817 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by maneckep

That spiral one on the index finger is pretty funky for sure. What was that one used for?


It is just a early version of a finger pick.  They were often sold for using with zithers.

Nov 7, 2019 - 10:42:53 AM
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590 posts since 5/19/2018

Joel, I wouldn’t say your the only one, but maybe one of...3 or 4... maybe...2...uhmmm...you might be right about that.

Nov 7, 2019 - 3:04:27 PM

9075 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

To be fair, I don't think the seller is being fraudulent.  They are stamped with a patent date that ties back to the SSS patent.

And... I am likely the only living person who would know about this stuff!

 


Agree .... don't think they are being fraudulent ..... they just don't know!

Nov 7, 2019 - 5:25:41 PM

Cleitus

New Zealand

362 posts since 6/10/2011

At least they are not modern forgeries, if not quite 'Ye oryginale and authentike' LOL. Many thanks to Joel for letting us know.

Nov 8, 2019 - 8:30:52 AM

ekvin

USA

60 posts since 3/22/2017

I'm still waiting for Joel Hooks to produce this style of banjo thimble as well!

Nov 8, 2019 - 10:26:21 AM

12339 posts since 10/30/2008

Do those photos show the origin of the commercial thumb pick? Or was the thumb pick already in existence, say, for guitars?

I just read a scholarly book on the history of the Hawaiian guitar, and it stated more or less categorically that THE GUY in Hawaii who developed the combination of raised nut, open tuning, metal slide and METAL PICKS for thumb and first finger, and also TAUGHT his technique and music to thousands, more or less invented and made metal finger picks. In the late 1880s. I wish I could remember this guy's name, but I'd have to open my Kindle and look it up if anyone's interested. All Hawaiian guitar players give this guy the honors. Now I wonder at least about the metal finger picks part.

Nov 8, 2019 - 10:27:04 AM
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12339 posts since 10/30/2008

Joel, can post photos of REAL banjo thimbles and how they were worn please? I've always wondered if thimble=pick.

Nov 8, 2019 - 11:05:13 AM

4817 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Do those photos show the origin of the commercial thumb pick? Or was the thumb pick already in existence, say, for guitars?

I just read a scholarly book on the history of the Hawaiian guitar, and it stated more or less categorically that THE GUY in Hawaii who developed the combination of raised nut, open tuning, metal slide and METAL PICKS for thumb and first finger, and also TAUGHT his technique and music to thousands, more or less invented and made metal finger picks. In the late 1880s. I wish I could remember this guy's name, but I'd have to open my Kindle and look it up if anyone's interested. All Hawaiian guitar players give this guy the honors. Now I wonder at least about the metal finger picks part.


Joseph Kekuku -- yep, he invented the fingerpicks in use today.  Was that "Kika Kila"?  Good book!

That book sort of cemented in my brain the unavoidable influence that Hawaiian music (and guitar) would have had on bluegrass (and all music).  The steel strings and fingerpicks used for "bluegrass banjo" hits too close to the Hawaiian steel guitar.

Thumb picks go back to the German Zither in both metal and tortoise shell.  The Autoharp was played on a table top or in the lap until the 1920s or so, after all it was patterned on the Zither.

I'll have to yeld to Spanish guitar experts on using picks but I think that did not become common until around 1900.

Nov 8, 2019 - 11:05:32 AM
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4817 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Joel, can post photos of REAL banjo thimbles and how they were worn please? I've always wondered if thimble=pick.


I'll do this tonight.

Nov 8, 2019 - 4:06:59 PM
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12339 posts since 10/30/2008

Yes, Kika Kila. I learned a lot. I didn't care for him hammering me over the head with his perception that all Hawaiian music was a reaction to the Hawaiian royalty being deposed. He could have done just fine mentioning it just 5 times instead of 50. Oh well, it's his book.

Nov 8, 2019 - 7:10:45 PM

1831 posts since 10/17/2013

quote:
Originally posted by maneckep

That spiral one on the index finger is pretty funky for sure. What was that one used for?


S.S. Stewart’s girl-cousin, Sara Sally Stewart.

Back in the day, spiral finger picks/thimbles were all the rage for girl Autoharp players, and Sara Sally Stewart had the best picks of that kind (diamond-inlaid, gold-plated, you name it, she had it.)

 It was also customary for a gentleman to offer one such pick (including the engagement ring) when proposing to his lady friend. 

You gotta admit, that spiral pick does look a bit girlish. Rumor has it that Mr. S. S. Stewart designed it while contemplating marriage to Barbara B (Banjo) Bacon. But she saw the light of Day too soon. 

Edited by - bluegrassbanjopicker on 11/08/2019 19:28:18

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