A. C. Fairbanks Professional 5 String Banjo , c. 1891

A. C. Fairbanks  Professional 5 String Banjo ,  c. 1891
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Item # 11813
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A. C. Fairbanks Professional Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1891, made in Boston, Mass., serial # 943, natural varnish finish, spunover rim, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This is an interesting and attractive very early Fairbanks banjo, made very soon after the split of Fairbanks & Cole into two separate companies. Each of the former partners went on to greater glory as banjo makers, but by the turn of the (19-20th) century the Fairbanks company was arguably building the finest, most advanced banjos in the world. This instrument is a much older product, a nice old-time Boston banjo built on a 12" spunover pot with a simple tone ring, typical for the era but with some distinct Fairbanks & Cole touches. The inside and dowel stick are lacquered black and the shoes are the "teardrop" style specific to these two fraternal makers. The dowel is stamped "A C Fairbanks & Co. Makers, Boston Mass" with matching early 3-digit serial numbers on the side of the stick and inside the rim.

The mahogany neck has a long 28 1/2" scale, with a simply carved heel and stylish pearl inlay on the ebony fingerboard, heelcap and headstock veneer. The tailpiece is a typical period ivoroid carved unit, the tuners friction pegs with ivoroid buttons. This banjo with its large rim and long scale had a fairly dark sound, very 19th century in character and attractively archaic. While not exactly the style of banjo the Fairbanks name is most remembered for this is a high quality instrument of its time and a neat piece of Boston banjo history.
Overall length is 37 1/2 in. (95.2 cm.), 12 in. (30.5 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 28 1/2 in. (724 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/8 in. (35 mm.).

While built with the older 19th century style metal-and-wood rim, this banjo maintains the quality inherent in all Fairbanks instruments and has survived over 130 years in nicely playable condition. It has seen a bit of re-working over the last 125 years but even so plays fine and sounds lovely. The neck appears largely original, possibly at least partially refretted at some point but the style of wire is VERY old. The metal-shaft friction tuners are period but something else, probably Champion pegs were fitted at some point.

The rim hardware appears mostly original, with some of the hooks and nuts similar but not identical to the bulk of them. All appear period, at least. The dowel stick has been converted from the Fairbanks screw tension adjustor to a conventional 19th century wedge system by the neck joint. Further along on the stick is a rectangular area where something -- possible a store or personalization plaque -- was once inset into the wood that is now empty, with some old residue of the glue that failed to hold whatever was there. The neck has been shimmed lightly and the angle is very good, this is a nicely playable banjo with a lovely if old-fashioned sound, set up wit an older calfskin head and more modern bridge. It resides in an older (1970s?) HSC with a foam pad added for a better fit. Very Good + Condition.