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1880s Buckbee with Weird Aftermarket Tone Ring... 🧐

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Jun 25, 2022 - 8:32:13 AM
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351 posts since 8/11/2007

I think this otherwise typical 1880s Buckbee has a 1903 Farmer tone ring (or a copy of one). Others have disagreed with me. Any ideas?


Jun 25, 2022 - 9:04:27 AM
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3022 posts since 4/7/2010

The patent date is the same as the Henry Hoseus patent that has some similar features, but is an "improved" design.

I have no opinion if the Buckbee banjo pictured has the Farmer tonering, part of a Hoseus tonering, or a wrong date stamped on the dowelstick.

Bob Smakula

Jun 25, 2022 - 11:42:13 AM
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1391 posts since 1/9/2012

I bought one several years ago and did my best to restore it.  A skin from Bob Smakula allowed fitting a way-out-of-round head.  Here's my account:  Several things were missing.  And here are some sound files:,,, -- with steel and fishing line strings as indicated in the file names.  Needless to say, I've kept the fishing line on it and actually pick it up to play once in a while.

Edited by - davidppp on 06/25/2022 11:45:28

Jun 25, 2022 - 11:55:56 AM
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1662 posts since 12/26/2007

The Farmer tone ring suspension rests on the top of the pot, see Figure 3, item "H".

The Hoseus tone ring suspension rests on a bracket that is fastener to the inside of the pot wall, see Figure 2, also Item "H".

Your tone ring suspension is more similar to the Hoseus suspension, although your banjo has more suspension brackets (24) than the Hoseus patent (10).

Your banjo doesn’t have the (two or more) springs (Hoseus patent, item “J”). The writeup for the Hoseus patent describes how these spring are intended to allow the player to “regulate the tension of the ….. head”.

I believe that your banjo has a Hoseus-style tone ring system, and was likely made by Buckbee.

Jun 25, 2022 - 12:25:06 PM
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687 posts since 9/29/2009

I have had some Windsor banjos with a very similar suspended tone ring. Likely still do

Jun 25, 2022 - 3:49:44 PM
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7008 posts since 9/21/2007

The OP banjo has a ring suspended by supports attached to the inside of the rim using the bracket bolts.

The cited Farmer patent has bar supports sitting on the ledge of the rim. These are two different things.

I've seen a handful of banjos over the year that conform exactly to the OP, all looked like they were built that way. And I've seen enough of them to believe that this was an offered item built by Buckbee for some retailer (perhaps Hoseus).

That said, William Farmer did patent and make a "tone ring" that was suspended by supports attached by the bracket bolts. But this example is not one of those.

Farmer was a popular and top level classic era banjoist that for a time played with Fred Van Eps. I have seen early examples of FVE built banjos using Farmer tone tone rings (which are distinct and were stamped with the appropriate patent number). The banjos FVE built after electric recording came out use a near identical ring but by that time Farmer's patent had expired.

Below are examples of an early FVE banjo using an adjustable Farmer tone ring. Also an example of what he was using in 1951.

I have not seen an example of a Farmer tone ring as shown in the OP patent.


Jun 25, 2022 - 5:02:17 PM
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155 posts since 5/30/2010

I had the same thing on a banjo labeled "Daisy", same patent date on the dowel stick... (May 18, 1886... aka..Hoseus) 


Edited by - staceyz on 06/25/2022 17:06:52

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