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S. S. Stewart Banjo Serial Number Date Chart?

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Sep 16, 2020 - 9:54:31 AM
4690 posts since 3/22/2008

Where is it?
To my knowledge the only broad attempt to date Stewart banjos by serial number was published by Eli Kaufman in Mugwumps Vm. 2, No. 5 - Sept 1973 and an online summary here: http://www.mugwumps.com/sss_date.html.

In Eli's Mugwumps article he explains his benchmarks then postulates that: (1) The number of Stewart banjos manufactured " is probably  in the high 20,000's; (2) Stewarts made in late 1870's or early 1880'a would have serial numbers 1000 or lower; (3) 1888 - 1889 would be 4000 to 5000; (4) About 1894 would be 14,000 to 15,000; (4)  There is a break in serial numbers from 19,900 to 50,00 maybe due to formation of Stewart & Bauer or Samuel Swaim Stewart's death both of which occurred in 1898.  (therefore Stewart's with serial numbers 50,00 and up were not made by the original Samuel Swaim Stewart company.)
So, now we have this new thread: https://www.banjohangout.org/topic/368728.  S/N 5527 = 1889 and I'm wondering is the Stewart boys on BHO are ready to give us a serial number date chart?  Would be might handy.

Sep 16, 2020 - 10:16:35 AM
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rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

I'd also like to see some more info on Stewart serial numbers.

I hear a lot of talk about how inaccurate the Mugwumps info is purported to be, but I don't see any action on providing better dating information.

Every now and then, someone will post a catalog page, which may be useful in identifying a model and major changes in specifications, but that is all. And I've seen no effort to compile that information into a more useful form. I realize that constructing a serial number list is a daunting and time consuming task, but as an alternative, how about a list of models with the periods in which they were made and the approximate years of any changes in features?

I get rather tired of listening to people criticize the work of others without providing access to better information.

I'd also like to see some serial number info for the W.A. Cole banjos.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/16/2020 10:32:48

Sep 16, 2020 - 10:44:56 AM

5495 posts since 9/21/2007

I'll leave this job to the collectors and experts, I am just an enthusiast that has read some old magazines and sheet music.

I will say that no banjo before March 1 of 1883 would have a serial number as that was when they were introduced. Stewart wrote that "every Stewart banjo made since the date of March 1, 1883 is numbered and registered." Interpret that as you will, but I have seen many early SSS banjos with no number.

Sep 16, 2020 - 10:48:03 AM

5495 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

I'd also like to see some more info on Stewart serial numbers.

I hear a lot of talk about how inaccurate the Mugwumps info is purported to be, but I don't see any action on providing better dating information.

Every now and then, someone will post a catalog page, which may be useful in identifying a model and major changes in specifications, but that is all. And I've seen no effort to compile that information into a more useful form. I realize that constructing a serial number list is a daunting and time consuming task, but as an alternative, how about a list of models with the periods in which they were made and the approximate years of any changes in features?

I get rather tired of listening to people criticize the work of others without providing access to better information.

I'd also like to see some serial number info for the W.A. Cole banjos.


All of this information was compiled in the S. S. Stewart Banjo & Guitar Journal (more or less).  Of which most issues are now available with the click of a mouse.  This sounds like a great project for you to work on!  I can't wait to read it!!

Sep 16, 2020 - 11:12:12 AM

rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

I'm not a young man anymore.  I'll turn 64 in a few weeks, and I have a limited amount of time left for projects. This work is going to have to be done by you younger guys. Since you have studied Stewart banjos in some depth, it would be a good project for you.

For the record, I have already made a small historical contribution on the spec changes of early Gibson mandolins. It was received with little interest on the mandolin forum, so I need to forward it to George Gruhn.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/16/2020 11:13:34

Sep 16, 2020 - 11:23:26 AM

5495 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

I'm not a young man anymore.  I'll turn 64 in a few weeks, and I have a limited amount of time left for projects. This work is going to have to be done by you younger guys. Since you have studied Stewart banjos in some depth, it would be a good project for you.

For the record, I have already made a small historical contribution on the spec changes of early Gibson mandolins. It was received with little interest on the mandolin forum, so I need to forward it to George Gruhn.


My interest is in the printed material, of which I have done quite a bit of work on.  At this point I'm not really interested in collecting numbers.  I am more into what the banjos were used for when new than what bolts hold them together.

FWIW, I'm okay without such a list... it is just not my thing.

Sep 16, 2020 - 11:53:35 AM
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2296 posts since 4/7/2010

On July 4, 2020, Jim Bollman posted his collection of S.S. Stewart serial numbers and dates that he collected from Stewart's Journals. Click here to view that banjo Hangout page.

Bob Smakula
smakula.com

Sep 16, 2020 - 12:17:47 PM

rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

Thank you, Bob and Jim.

Sep 16, 2020 - 12:23:22 PM

4690 posts since 3/22/2008

Bob - Thanks for the BHO link to Jim Bollman's S.S. Stewart list. I missed that thread.

Sep 16, 2020 - 2:14:25 PM
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esmic

Canada

263 posts since 6/27/2011

Here's another step forward : Jim Bollman's list plus a few of my own points.  I'm older than Bob and have other priorities. Further development rests with the younger enthusiasts in the banjo community.

S.S.Stewart Serialization Data Points (From Stewart Journals and Dated Maker Plates) 
1883 Mar 1             1000  (assumed starting number)  Serialization Commences
1884 May 13           1563  ( Orchestra model )
1884                        1583  ( " Orchestra arrived " )
c.1884-85                2185
c.1886                     2460
1887 Feb                 2922  Annie Oakley's American Princess - SSS Journal (see also Apr 1890)
1887 Jun                 3205  ( " Champion arrived " )
c.1887                     3618  ( Champion )
1888 Nov                4812  ( " arrived " )
1889 Feb 1             SSS Trade Mark Stamp Introduced
1889                        5527  American Princess No 3 (bears TM stamp)
1889                        6357  ( metal 1889 dowel tag ) ( several seen in the # 5000 serial range )
1889                        6754  (Maker's Plate 1889)
1891 Jan                 8839  ( bought Jan.'91 )
1892                        13976  ( banjeaurine, bought 1892 )
1893                        13778 (Orchestra )
1896 Nov 1             Patented R. Kuenstler Neck Adapter Introduced
1897                        15930 ( bought in latter part of 1897 )
1895 Apr 30             16420
1897                         18580 ( " Special Thoroughbred arrived " )
1898                         19145 ( Universal Favorite recently purchased )

Eli Kaufman has theorized that serials at # 50000 and beyond may have occurred after Stewart's death in 1898. Other have conjectured that the missing serial numbers between # 20000 and #50000 may have been allocated for Acme Professional models which usually but not always deleted serial numbers. I'll leave that conundrum to the Stewart historians.

Edited by - esmic on 09/16/2020 14:27:37

Sep 16, 2020 - 4:11:18 PM
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5495 posts since 9/21/2007

This is great Shawn, let us add a couple more points.

March 1881 the wedge plate and wedges are introduced (at that time it was used with a dowel through rim tailpiece knob with brass L angle on the inside of the rim to brace, hard to describe if you have not seen it.

J. E. Brewster entered Stewart banjos in the London International Exhibition in 1884 and wins a medal. The banjos entered were later altered by Dallas and re stamped as Brewster banjos. A re-stamped Stewart was once owned by Stephen John Prior that has the serial number 1494 and is likely one of the batch of banjos Stewart sent over to Brewster for that trade show (which Brewster did not pay for). That would put the banjo in late 1883 or early 1884 (allowing time for shipping to London).

Sometime around 1885 SSS started using a bolt for the tailpiece end (like modern banjos) and begin using the formerly used angle piece for 2nd Grade banjo neck brackets (like the F&C bracket that came a few years later). There is no concrete date on this change and was taken from an article about F&C claiming a patent on something that had been in use for "a few years" (which I read as 3).

The Common Sense Tailpiece starts to show up in ads in late 1890 (I have December 1890). It is officially announced in June 1891.

Sep 16, 2020 - 7:26:58 PM

238 posts since 6/23/2013
Online Now

Joel, interesting that you mentioned that Stewart started using an end pen for the tailpiece (attachment) around 1885.
The first end pens Stewart used were for a tie-on tailpiece, at least according to my observations. The rim still had a square hole at the tailpiece end and the end bolt had a square flange. The end bolt had to be attached to the dowel and then inserted into the rim.
Stewart # 1605 and # 1683 had this feature. I have not seen any Stewart banjos with serial numbers between these two numbers. Surely others have survived with this type of end pen.
Photos of Stewart # 1605 attached.


Sep 16, 2020 - 7:49:29 PM

esmic

Canada

263 posts since 6/27/2011

Joel here's another data point to add :

My SSS records (saved over the years), once organized by SN, suggest the neck adapter became standard between about SN 14975 and 15150. This should correlate with November, 1896.

An exception in the list (14694) may be an early trial. Presentation heels (15438, 15747) done after the adapter's introduction, were carved in the round and not compatible with the adapter, as they offered no flat surface for fastening.


 

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