Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

339
Banjo Lovers Online


Maybe a Fairbanks&Cole? Need help identifying this old banjo

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Jul 26, 2021 - 4:22:28 PM
261 posts since 8/22/2013

Hi there,

A friend of mine gave me this banjo that he got from a friend. The friend said it was his grandfather’s, so must be 100 years old or so.

Is it homemade, a kit, or mass-produced?

I love the carved tuner pegs and that tiny carved tailpiece.

Any ideas?

Thanks everyone,
:-)
Lynda








Edited by - lyndabee on 07/27/2021 02:21:23

Jul 26, 2021 - 7:27:12 PM
like this

358 posts since 10/8/2018

quote:
Originally posted by lyndabee

Hi there,

A friend of mine gave me this banjo that he got from a friend. The friend said it was his grandfather’s, so must be 100 years old or so.

Is it homemade, a kit, or mass-produced?

I love the carved tuner pegs and that tiny carved tailpiece.

Any ideas?

Thanks everyone,
:-)
Lynda


Looks like Fairbanks & Cole. Someone here should be to tell for sure. If it is, that would put it before 1890! Nice old banjo! Take those steel strings off and replace with a set of synthetic gut string. The steel will ruin that cool tailpiece and those tuners. They were not designed for steel.

Edited by - TriMD180 on 07/26/2021 19:31:34

Jul 26, 2021 - 7:49:48 PM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

I wondered about that. I was thinking that’s why someone had the pieces of felt on there, to protect from those steel strings?

Jul 26, 2021 - 8:13:46 PM
likes this

331 posts since 4/14/2014

Mark Ralston on here makes reproductions of those tuners so you could replace the missing one. Great banjo.

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 07/26/2021 20:14:07

Jul 26, 2021 - 9:48:24 PM

4736 posts since 5/9/2007

Beauty!

Jul 27, 2021 - 1:46:02 AM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

Nic Pennsylvania thank you so much for that resource! I’ll contact him. :-)

Jul 27, 2021 - 4:51:50 AM
likes this

339 posts since 1/26/2020

It’s a shame there’s no serial number or logo on that banjo. Makes the tuners and the tailpiece worth more than the banjo itself.
Pretty examples though.

Jul 27, 2021 - 5:45:47 AM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

tbchappe that’s why I’m hoping someone will maybe recognize it, as I don’t have much knowledge of these old beauties.

Jul 27, 2021 - 6:01:12 AM

916 posts since 2/17/2005

Judging from what I can see of the hardware, I'd say its 100% Boston made in the 1890s and looks very much like a Fairbanks & Cole. The headstock inlay is very typical of the era. It is unusual but not unheard of to have one that isn't stamped. The two things that are throwing me off are the fingerboard inlays (I've never seen the like and they're really cool!) and the heel shape which is kind of in between a boat and a flat heel. I concur with above to get those dang steel strings off. Also, I think I might have an extra beaded friction tuner if you'd like a vintage one to match. I bet it will sound great with some nylon strings! Looks to be in fabulous condition (missing one fingerboard inlay).

Jul 27, 2021 - 7:09:31 AM

14192 posts since 10/30/2008

Lynda, I agree that's a cool old banjo. Have you stuck a small mirror between the head and the dowel stick to see if anything is stamped into the UPPER side of the dowel stick?

https://www.banjobuyer.com/banjo/54264

Having all the tension hooks, and an old skin head, make this a "keeper". But I concur that the steel strings have GOT to go! Get some Nylguts from your favorite banjo supplies dealer.

Enjoy.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/27/2021 07:16:25

Jul 27, 2021 - 7:15:56 AM

4317 posts since 6/15/2005

Contact Jim Bollman. He is the expert regarding turn of the (20th) century banjos. He's located in the Boston area and he's a member of the Hangout.  

Jul 27, 2021 - 7:18:59 AM

2197 posts since 1/4/2009

Im guessing its stamped on the other side of the dowel rod, also look around the rim near the dowel for a number stamped there. Its odd to see a fairbanks and cole without any markings. But i think its happened.

Jul 27, 2021 - 1:24:18 PM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

Pigeontown Banjo Co thank you for your additional info and input. I did some looking online and, as you said, have found no inlays that look like the ones on this. Also, I had never seen flush frets before, so that’s another interesting new feature for me to learn about here.
And I would most definitely love to have the matching (or close to?) vintage beaded tuner if you have it available. I’m excited to get this in playing condition.

The Old Timer Dick, and kyleb Kyle, thanks so much for the mirror and location suggestions - I just tried and have not found anything that looks like it is or could have been a number or wording. No marks at all. Is it possible it’s not the original dowelstick?

arnie fleischer Arnie thanks for the referral for Jim Bollman . I will reach out to him to see if he can help me learn more about this banjo.

And as y’all have suggested, I will order some nyglut strings straight away!

Thanks everyone for helping me learn more :-)

Jul 27, 2021 - 1:30:21 PM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

And Dick, The Old Timer I wonder how much that one actually sold for??!! :-o

Jul 27, 2021 - 2:43:11 PM

8918 posts since 8/28/2013

I recommend nylon strings for these oldies, available from LaBella. They are closer in diameter to the gut strings originally used, and in my opinion, sound better, last longer, and intonate better. The thickness of Nylgut means that you may have to widen the nut slots.

You will also need a bridge. You should contact Joel Hooks (a member here), who makes period correct bridges. and could also give you the best information about setting this fine banjo up properly. These banjos don't sound their best with modern bridges and modern set-ups.

Jul 27, 2021 - 2:47:51 PM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

G Edward Porgie thank you George for your suggestions! I’ll look up those strings and contact the bridge fellow you recommend.
I so greatly appreciate the sharing of knowledge here!
:-)
Lynda

Jul 28, 2021 - 7:15:17 PM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

At arnie fleischer Arnie’s suggestion, I did reach out to Jim Bollman. I’ll be bringing the banjo to him for his assessment on Friday and I’ll let y’all know what his thoughts are after he has been able to see it in person. And I’ll share with y’all any additional info he has to share.
I love the share knowledge from all of you. These old banjos are such a neat opportunity to travel back in time and learn!

Jul 28, 2021 - 10:28:47 PM

358 posts since 10/8/2018

quote:
Originally posted by lyndabee

At arnie fleischer Arnie’s suggestion, I did reach out to Jim Bollman. I’ll be bringing the banjo to him for his assessment on Friday and I’ll let y’all know what his thoughts are after he has been able to see it in person. And I’ll share with y’all any additional info he has to share.
I love the share knowledge from all of you. These old banjos are such a neat opportunity to travel back in time and learn!


We look forward to what you learn from Jim! Old banjos are an adventure!

Jul 29, 2021 - 9:27:07 AM
likes this

287 posts since 6/15/2006

Cole banjos did not always have markings. I have an old one with adjustable (a screw) tuners, that only has a serial no. on rim and rod thar reads 1901. Steen

Jul 29, 2021 - 11:05:39 AM

261 posts since 8/22/2013

steen , interesting to know!

Jul 29, 2021 - 11:08:28 AM

4317 posts since 6/15/2005

There's no one more knowledgeable, Lynda. I used to own a Cole's Eclipse from around 1893. I sent photos to Jim and he told me it was likely a custom order because it had features, including distinctively shaped hooks, that were not standard on the model I had.

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:31:57 AM

522 posts since 10/23/2003

If that person has any more banjos to give to their friends, let her or him know that I could be a very good friend to them.  This is a highly valuable, irreplaceable 19th century banjo that is fairly rare..  It  would be well sought after by banjo collectors as well as by people who play in the guitar-banjo style popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now called "Classic Banjo" by some.  If this banjo came into my possession,  I would immediately contact people I know who collect such banjos to recommend a luthier or restorer familiar with this type of banjo and take it to them.   It was designed and built before steel strings were available or widely used on banjos.  I own a very early 90s Fairbanks Electric that is double stamped  (meaning it was built before the Fairbanks company ran out of "Fairbanks and Cole" marked dowl sticks  even though it is marked plain Fairbanks elsewhere.  I have kept extremely light gauge steel strings on it since I obtained it in 2005 with no trouble.  Some of the top collectors have examined it or and experienced knowledgeable players like Mike Seeger have played it, but I never had anyone say I should need to put non-metal strings on it.      The biggest problem for my banjo has been the neck which took some expert works by a team of excellent luthiers a while to straighten out.     The best thing for you to do is to take this banjo to a luthier knowledgeable of 19th century Boston banjos whom you trust.

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:37:22 AM

522 posts since 10/23/2003

Living in Wellfleet,  I guess the person I would try to contact about this banjo might be Jim Bollman who lives in Concord,  He might be able to put you in contact with someone closer who can work on it.  These banjos were made on Tremont Street in Boston in the late 1880s or very early 1890s.  I was ready to dismiss this banjo when I saw the title since everyone who has an old banjo thinks it is some kind of 19th century Fairbanks or Cole, but one look at this banjo made me think it was exactly like my double stamped Electric from 1892.   Do you run into Marge Piercy, the poet in Wellfleet!  Say hello for me!

Edited by - writerrad on 07/31/2021 08:53:00

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:43:32 AM

522 posts since 10/23/2003

quote:
Originally posted by kyleb

Im guessing its stamped on the other side of the dowel rod, also look around the rim near the dowel for a number stamped there. Its odd to see a fairbanks and cole without any markings. But i think its happened.


Both makers individually and during their brief marriage made a few banjos that were not marked or serialized to be sold by other venders or banjo teachers or performers who would put their own brandings  on them.  But this looks almost exactly like my 1892 electric in the back.  The tuners are of a type that were put on fancy more luxurious Fairbanks or Cole instruments.  This banjo was a little fancier than your basic model, although the banjos this company was making at this time were probably the best banjos in the world, some might say the best ever, but that was before the best ever THE TUBAPHONE.

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:50:46 AM

522 posts since 10/23/2003

Jim is the world's leading banjo collector.  About 12 years ago when i gave a banjo history presentation at Banjo Camp North and Jim was there, I had my 1892 Fairbanks electric which resembles this banjo with me and showed it to him.   I asked him how many of such vintage and type he had.  He said  "only 25."  But he and his friend Hank Schwartz who specializes more in Fairbanks lineage banjos but lives in Kansas City would be the best people.  I am sure Jim can look at the pictures and tell you exactly when this banjo was made and why it does not have the normal markings you would expect on such a banjo.  

He is quite generous with his time.   Hank Schwartz on the other hand would probably want measurements and photos for his database of Fairbanks and Fairbanks and Cole banjos.

Aug 1, 2021 - 6:17:27 PM
likes this

2 posts since 9/12/2019

An amazing in depth discussion about this old banjo. I loved all responses. Not only was it great to learn about the banjo itself, but also about the thoughtfullness of so many people to provide helpful comments to you. Just shows how great the banjo picking community is.
Bettys Creek

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.2646484