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Aug 9, 2020 - 4:07:13 PM
4 posts since 8/9/2020

I just found a treasure at a guitar shop. It is a B and D banjo but the serial number is gone. It says patented June 29 1920. The holes around the bottom are diamond shaped. Any idea how old it is?

Aug 9, 2020 - 4:25:48 PM

rcc56

USA

3172 posts since 2/20/2016

B & D made many banjo models in several different grades. The Bacon company used the B & D brand from circa 1920 until around 1940. The Bacon company changed hands in 1940, and continued to make banjos for many years, but I don't know if any of the later ones were branded B & D.

Give us a picture and the B & D people will be able to give you more information.

Aug 9, 2020 - 5:39:13 PM

4 posts since 8/9/2020

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

B & D made many banjo models in several different grades. The Bacon company used the B & D brand from circa 1920 until around 1940. The Bacon company changed hands in 1940, and continued to make banjos for many years, but I don't know if any of the later ones were branded B & D.

Give us a picture and the B & D people will be able to give you more information.


Aug 9, 2020 - 5:41:43 PM

4 posts since 8/9/2020

Here are a few pics.

Aug 9, 2020 - 5:43:12 PM

4 posts since 8/9/2020

Trying again




 

Aug 9, 2020 - 7:04:36 PM

rcc56

USA

3172 posts since 2/20/2016

I can't help with this one, except that the long 4 string neck with 24 frets indicates that this is a plectrum banjo.

It does not look like any Bacon model that I am familiar with.  Although I know a bit about early Bacon company [pre B & D] banjos, I'm not a B & D expert. Perhaps someone who knows more will help out.

Edited by - rcc56 on 08/09/2020 19:20:12

Aug 9, 2020 - 8:10:53 PM

3335 posts since 5/29/2011

The fingerboard looks to me like it has been replaced. I have never seen that inlay pattern on a Bacon banjo although they used numerous designs.
The peghead also looks a little suspicious, especially the two small inlays above the nut. Bacon used a number of peghead shapes so I am not sure if the neck is a replacement or an original that has been doctored. The peghead has a shape consistent with some Vega banjos and it is my understanding that Vega had some influence on early Bacon models but that was some years before banjos were marked B & D.

Aug 10, 2020 - 12:21:35 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5444 posts since 3/7/2006

 

This banjo isn´t in any way related to the B&D brand/models - and no other US builder used the initials BD:

http://www.mugwumps.com/AmerInstMkr.html

Aug 10, 2020 - 5:48:56 AM

4727 posts since 3/22/2008

"Any idea how old it is?"

Identifying the maker often helps to date a banjo but your BD banjo is going to be hard to identify by maker (BD brand is simply unknown around these parts) unless someone has one like it and some information about it.  Your banjo has individual characteristics consistent with a couple of different jazz age banjo manufacturers from the 1920's but not the complete entity..  It has a B&D (Bacon Banjo Co.) type stepped flange but the sound holes (diamonds) are unlike any Bacon Banjo Co. product.  The rim and archtop tone ring are reminiscent of Wm. Lange's Paramount banjos.  The banjo is a 4-string Plectrum banjo.  Plectrum banjos have 5-string banjos necks but without the short string.  Plectrum banjos were "invented" about 1915 and came into their own in the early 1920s as rhythm instruments in the dance band.  The resonator and flange on your banjo were "invented" by Wm. Lange in mid-1921 and by 1925 were common across the board by most 4-string banjo makers.  The armrest type was a Wm. Lange Paramount banjo feature ca. 1923 near as far as I know.  So, I'd guess that if your banjo is period original it is ca 1925.  Plectrum banjos were relatively popular in the 1920's, less so in the 1930s which was the case for all 4-string banjos and regained popularity in the mid 1960s Shakey's Pizza and Your Fathers' Mustache night club era.  So, if it was one-off fashioned from parts by "Mr. BD" a luthier in a luthier's shop then we'll be hard pressed to say how old it is.

Aug 10, 2020 - 7:14:39 AM

7734 posts since 8/28/2013

I'm guessing that this was put together from various parts by someone with the initials "B.D." The 1920 date is meaningless, and probably just refers to one of the parts used. The entire instrument could have been put together any time since; maybe even during the "Shakey's Pizza" epidemic.

That doesn't mean that this banjo is a piece of junk. It appears to have been put together with care, and may be quite nice.

Aug 10, 2020 - 7:33:48 AM

5602 posts since 9/21/2007
Online Now

I was thinking it might be a "Shakey's Special" but I am ignorant about plectrum banjos.

Hey beezaboy , do you know why it took so long for manufacturers to offer true "plectrum" banjos? It seems that pick playing on regular banjos was fairly common by the end of the oughts. I know Farland wrote that he started playing with a pick in 1909 (he worked up a way to switch back and forth from pick to fingers).

We also have accounts of banjoists using mandolin picks in the late 1890s.

Aug 10, 2020 - 8:52:45 AM
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4727 posts since 3/22/2008

do you know why it took so long for manufacturers to offer true "plectrum" banjos?

Yes.

In the late 1890s the vaudeville stage became the incubator for the manufactured true plectrum banjo.  I cannot say an exact date but in that time frame in order to increase volume and add pep Vaudeville banjoists began to play the 5-string banjo with a plectrum on wire strings.  The short string was eliminated and the 5-string was played with a pick only on the 4 melody strings.  The style became known as the "Plectrum style".  The entrenched finger style 5-string banjoists in those times were absolutely appalled at this development.  In the magazines we love to read the old finger style banjoists called the plectrum style a "monstrosity" and those who employed it were termed "freaks".  This negative outburst from the vast majority of 5-string banjoists cast the 5-string banjo played "Plectrum Style" in an unfavorable light and slowed the development of the instrument.  Notwithstanding this negativity the lowly vaudevillians continued to play the 5-string banjo "Plectrum Style".  By 1910, however, it became difficult for a finger style banjoist to get a vaudeville engagement as by then the "Plectrum Style" played on the 5-string banjo had become in vogue.   As you mentioned, at this time A.A. Farland began playing with a pick and spoke highly of the technique.  This gave the the "Plectrum Style" a goodly boost.  In 1907/1908 the tenor banjo was developed and began to come into its own about 1914 so we had a 4-string banjo in the blossoming dance bands of the times.  Bandleaders (especially out west) however discovered that the tuning and sound of the 5-string banjo blended very well in the rhythm section of the dance band and about this time we see the first manufactured true plectrum banjo (Vega 1915 most likely special ordered).  By 1918 the combination of the vaudeville 5-string "Plectrum Style" and the 5-string tuning in the dance band caused Rettberg & Lange to add a true plectrum banjo to their offerings.  So, in sum, it was the negative attitude of the finger-stylists that dominated the the publications and BMG memberships (to which the major banjo manufacturers belonged) towards the wire stringed and mandolin picked 5-string banjo played "Plectrum Style" that delayed the shop production of the true plectrum banjo.

Aug 10, 2020 - 9:48:33 AM
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4727 posts since 3/22/2008

Joel:
P.S. When did 5-string banjo played with pick on wire strings begin?
See Lowell Schreyer's "The Banjo Entertainers" p. 189 Para 3 wherein it was reported that Dan Polk of K.C. Missouri played the 5-string "on wire strings with a mandolin pick" in the 1880's. This info is footnoted #32 but I have not had any luck finding the the data in the citation at footnote #32 so I've always gone with "I don't know" which is an answer found in some The Cadenza or The Crescendo writers articles on this subject.

Aug 10, 2020 - 10:48:32 AM

5602 posts since 9/21/2007
Online Now

Thank you John, that was my working theory. Considering that most manufacturers were finger style players that makes sense.

I can place wire strings on the market as early as the early/mid 1880s, but it is clear that they were a price point product.

I have no doubt that as soon as the Spanish Students left and the mandolin became a thing in the US, someone tried to play the banjo with a pick. I think it was too early for that to catch on as stroke style still had a following and could answer for the need of volume (Farland did play stroke style with a thimble for some marches).

Aug 10, 2020 - 6:53:18 PM

190 posts since 4/17/2015

June 29, 1920, U.S. Patent #1345104 for "improvements in banjo resonance". Issued to Gaetani Puntollio. The date seemed familiar to me. I believe these show up on instruments sometimes marked Majestic or even SS Stewart (using the name). There is a section of Majestic instruments in the Tsumura "big book" (1,001 Banjos). The patent date is marked on an archtop tone ring with large holes around the inside piece.
Those banjos do not have much in common with this instrument, but perhaps this is the source of the tone ring and perhaps the rim?


Aug 11, 2020 - 5:27:21 AM

7734 posts since 8/28/2013

That patent date sounded familiar to me, too, but I doubted its importance considering the rest of the instrument being so varied and more modern (I was also too lazy to look it up!). This particular hoop was used on some of Puntillilo's earlier products, such as the "Regina," "Princess," and others I can't remember, but was superceded later in the twenties by a different design which included the flange as part of the tone ring.

This date is what lead to my thinking that this banjo was a later assemblage of parts from other instrument makers. Probably Lange for the armrest, perhaps Leedy for the resonator, maybe here and there a few generic bits inspired by Vega and others.

It's and interesting banjo if only for the combination of design features from other makers. I'd like to hear it.

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