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100+ year old banjo found floating down a river.

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Jan 23, 2020 - 10:49:59 AM
6 posts since 1/23/2020

Howdy- my grand auntie has been storing her dads banjo, which he apparently found floating down a river, possibly in the 1920s.

She gave the banjo to me a few days ago and I’m curious about identifying it. I suppose it’s had some work done and parts changed in its life...

Looking forward to your replies.

Edited by - amockalypsenow on 01/23/2020 10:51:34

Jan 23, 2020 - 10:55:31 AM

6 posts since 1/23/2020

Are the photos attached to this post?




Jan 23, 2020 - 11:14:29 AM
Players Union Member

OM45GE

USA

93558 posts since 11/7/2007

There are two photos attached. I'm afraid I am no help in identifying your banjo.

Good luck with your quest. There are a lot of knowledgeable folks on here.

Jan 23, 2020 - 11:17:58 AM

jwold

USA

1155 posts since 7/21/2004

Any other pics? Like of the back? Look for any markings, numbers on the dowel stick or inside the rim.

Jan 23, 2020 - 11:35:11 AM

12537 posts since 10/30/2008

It looks like it has all its pieces/parts, at least from the front. I'm sure someone here will recognize that "CHM" monogram on the peghead.

To me it looks like it has non-metallic tuners. The tailpiece is non metallic as far as I can see. That usually means you should NOT use metal strings on the banjo, which I see that it has. A banjo constructed like this is usually intended for gut strings. Nowadays you can get nylon strings which serve fine. One brand is called Nyl-gut.

If you are really lucky the hide head is intact and can be tightened appropriately, and hopefully the neck is not broken, cracked or coming unglued anywhere. This may be a pretty nice old banjo.

Jan 23, 2020 - 1:22:37 PM

4995 posts since 9/21/2007

The peghead and 5th string bump says Schall or Schall parts. We will need to see more to confirm.

The monogram would have been added for a past owner and would likely not be a brand/make.

Jan 23, 2020 - 6:36:16 PM

6 posts since 1/23/2020

Interesting stuff- thanks for the replies. What could a skilled luthier do to make this a good playing banjo again without changing its character too much? Would inlaying some fret markers be crazy? (there aren’t any, just painted dots).

The tuning pegs are the old fashioned kind with fetching inlays. The hide sounds quite good, so I’m optimistic it can be reused.

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:36:05 PM

6720 posts since 8/28/2013

Get those strings off at once! They'll ruin that rather nice looking tailpiece and those tuners.

I wouldn't desecrate this one with more fret markers.

Please add some more pictures. Inside the rim,the back of the banjo, the hardware holding the head in place, etc.

The peghead monogram is a player's initials and probably meaningless as to who made the banjo.

How this is set-up depends on what style of banjo you choose to learn. )That said, it's not the type of banjo used for bluegrass.) A good luthier would have to see the banjo to determine what it actually needs and the best way to do any repairs that might be needed. You should post your general location for names of reputable banjo luthiers in your area.

Jan 24, 2020 - 1:52:11 PM

6 posts since 1/23/2020

Thanks for the helpful advice.

I’m in San Diego. I have a buddy who builds banjos locally and he works with some great luthiers but is personally realitively new at it. He has kindly offered to help me refurbish this banjo, with some oversight from his peers. 

Edited by - amockalypsenow on 01/24/2020 13:54:05

Jan 24, 2020 - 5:52:04 PM

272 posts since 2/22/2015

Yes, more pics of back would help. But my first thought was Schall as well.

Jan 24, 2020 - 7:09:49 PM
like this

965 posts since 3/1/2012

Am I the only one who wants to know WHY the banjo was floating down the river?
There has got to be a great story there!

Jan 24, 2020 - 7:16:49 PM
like this

6 posts since 1/23/2020

I’ll speak to some relatives to find out more of the story.

Jan 25, 2020 - 8:15:25 AM
like this

1014 posts since 6/20/2014

The speaker in "Rose of Alabamy" lost his banjo in the river. Maybe it's turned up.

Charlie Noyes

Jan 25, 2020 - 11:19:15 AM

965 posts since 3/1/2012

My girlfriend sez maybe some guy was serenading his girl in a canoe when it tipped over...sounds plausible...

Jan 26, 2020 - 9:47:28 AM
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711 posts since 5/19/2018

Found Floating in a river?

In a canoe Serenading a beau?

A banjo?

Probably tossed in by the girlfriend....


....the old “Me or it” routine.

Jan 27, 2020 - 2:28:21 PM

965 posts since 3/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Found Floating in a river?

In a canoe Serenading a beau?

A banjo?

Probably tossed in by the girlfriend....


....the old “Me or it” routine.


Pretty much how I see it, too. The guy was too heavy--easier to toss the banjo in.

Jan 27, 2020 - 3:49:21 PM

darryl k.

Canada

710 posts since 1/12/2006

My musician friend thinks banjos make good boat anchors. Maybe a pretty little sloop dragged her anchor and had to cut it loose?

Jan 27, 2020 - 11:23:53 PM

6 posts since 1/23/2020

I like all of this forensic analysis; I think the boat anchor theory “holds the most water”.

I heard the river tale and thought that “I found it floating down the river” might have been what they said before “it fell off the back of a truck” became a common euphemism... but by all accounts great granpappy was a honest guy.

Apparently the river was in Arizona and he was working on a dam. I wonder what dams were built in Arizona in the 20s? Do we have any dam’ historians here?

Jan 28, 2020 - 12:30:23 PM
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Jbo1

USA

876 posts since 5/19/2007

Several were built in Arizona at that time. The Gillespie Dam (1921), Coolidge Dam (1924-1928), Hoover Dam started in 1931, Horse Mesa Dam (1928). Probably many others.

Any idea where your grandfather worked in Arizona?

I grew up here where rivers, unless they are very large (like the Colorado), tend to be dry except during storms. A number of dams were built in the Phoenix valley area to capture and control the water, and release it when needed by the citizens and farms. This started early in the 20th Century with Roosevelt Dam, and continued for much of the next 50 years.

The first time I drove through Colorado I nearly lost control of my car because they actually had WATER in their creeks and rivers. What a concept.

Jan 28, 2020 - 12:41:31 PM

1798 posts since 1/4/2009
Online Now

I have a Schall branded banjo that has been connected ro fairbanks and cole / just fairbanks or just cole, depending on what expert looks at it, this one has the fairbanks and cole tailpeice on it. So it would point to the two as the maker.

Jan 28, 2020 - 6:24:15 PM

1078 posts since 7/25/2006

quote: Your banjo is a HCM,,, Lion manufactored company Brand Name
Originally posted by The Old Timer

It looks like it has all its pieces/parts, at least from the front. I'm sure someone here will recognize that "CHM" monogram on the peghead.

To me it looks like it has non-metallic tuners. The tailpiece is non metallic as far as I can see. That usually means you should NOT use metal strings on the banjo, which I see that it has. A banjo constructed like this is usually intended for gut strings. Nowadays you can get nylon strings which serve fine. One brand is called Nyl-gut.

If you are really lucky the hide head is intact and can be tightened appropriately, and hopefully the neck is not broken, cracked or coming unglued anywhere. This may be a pretty nice old banjo.


Jan 28, 2020 - 6:38:19 PM

1078 posts since 7/25/2006

For anyone interested (Search) American Fretted Musical Instrument Makers ....From A To Z,,, Shows Lion in business in 1895

Jan 28, 2020 - 7:09:24 PM
like this

1570 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by kyleb

I have a Schall branded banjo that has been connected ro fairbanks and cole / just fairbanks or just cole, depending on what expert looks at it, this one has the fairbanks and cole tailpeice on it. So it would point to the two as the maker.


No, it doesn't, because A. tailpieces can be easily changed and B. the tailpiece on this banjo is not specific to any maker. They were available for sale and could be added to any banjo. Schall himself sold tailpieces like this one in his catalogs, along with other banjo parts and complete instruments.

Jan 28, 2020 - 7:13:32 PM

1570 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bob Rodgers
quote: Your banjo is a HCM,,, Lion manufactored company Brand Name

 


It is not a Lion banjo. They had several unique, patented features, including a tunneled 5th string and a neck that was suspended away fromthe rim by a large metal bracket.

I have seen a number of Lion banjos, and none were marked "HCM", though those do happen to be the initials of one member of the company.

This banjo was pretty clearly made by J. B. Schall, or assembled from parts that he manufactured.

Jan 28, 2020 - 7:46:04 PM

RevD

USA

68 posts since 4/8/2019

quote:
Originally posted by IMBanjoJim

Am I the only one who wants to know WHY the banjo was floating down the river?
There has got to be a great story there!


 Wondered the same, story is priceless. I wondered if that was code back then for GAS or BAS purchases. "This? Nah I've had this just was broken I fixed it" or "I gave 25 bucks for this thing.." (may have fudged the percentages slightly. ) "Found it floating on the river" was a explanation of sorts.. ;) Cool banjo though, great story!

Jan 28, 2020 - 11:31:16 PM
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965 posts since 3/1/2012

The old song, Cruising Down The River, but change it to Floating Down The River...

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