A. A. Farland Concert Grand 5 String Banjo , c. 1915

A. A. Farland  Concert Grand 5 String Banjo ,  c. 1915
This item has been sold.
Item # 12031
Prices subject to change without notice.
A. A. Farland Concert Grand Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1915, made in New York City, natural varnish finish, laminated maple rim and neck, ebonized fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

A.A. Farland, celebrated banjo virtuoso of the late 19th and early 20th century, didn't care for those new-fangled tone rings banjo makers of his era were using on their high-grade instruments -- he thought they sounded "too tinny!" He also abhorred spun-over metal rims, like those on S.S. Stewart's banjos, for the same reason. Farland preferred a plain heavy wooden rim with no metal at all and so designed and patented his own banjos with no tone ring whatsoever -- just a thick laminated maple rim sloped away from the outer edge.

He called it the "A.A. Farland Beveled Top Wood Rim Banjo", putting a label inside to that effect with his picture in the center. As he was a teacher and performer he didn't actually build the instruments bearing his name, but assembled and finished them out and (he claimed) tested each one himself. Farland subcontracted his components from the best builders of the day; this example was made by New York's Rettberg and Lange, and shares some family traits with their Orpheum banjos.

This is not one of the very fanciest Farlands, but is a very professional grade and beautifully crafted instrument listed at $60 in Farland's 1910s catalog. The neck is 3-piece laminated maple with a carved heel, capped with an ebonized boxwood fingerboard inlaid with small pearl diamonds. The headstock is veneered with ebonized wood sporting a large pearl fleur-de-lys inlay. The rim is bird's eye maple painted dark on the bottom edge. The dowel has an "A.A. Farland Maker Plainfield N. J." label but sadly the Farland picture label is gone from the rim; only the glue spot remains..

Originally the banjo mounted Farland's elaborate mute assembly on the dowel with a string-and-turnbuckle connection to a small lever on the rim. This was removed long ago, as indeed most were. In practice it is rather inconvenient as it works in reverse to most such systems, being permanently engaged unless the lever is pressed to un-mute the instrument! The large center aperture in the dowel and a few small screw holes in the rim are the vestigial signs of this contraption.

Conceptually not unlike an S.S. Stewart "Special Thoroughbred", this banjo is intended for the serious player who is not interested in the flashy decoration common on better classic era century banjos. Farland's ideas were considered somewhat eccentric even at the time, and didn't ever catch on in a big way, but he did leave behind some elegant and distinctive banjos. The unique sound of the beveled top wooden rim gives the banjo a deeper mellow tone prized famously by John Hartford, among others. This is a lovely and nice playing example of Farland's legacy.
Overall length is 36 5/8 in. (93 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 27 in. (686 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This 110+ year old banjo shows general wear overall but remains in fine playing condition; set up with a modern Remo head and NylGut strings. The very thin varnish finish is worn overall but has a nice patina, the headstock face shows signs of the veneer having been repaired and polished out. All the hardware is original, including the hooks, nuts, tuners and an original No-Knot tailpiece. The original Farland turnbuckle-and-string mute device is missing and the hole in the dowel for it remains. The original frets and fingerboard show very little wear and this is an excellent playing and sounding Farland equipped with a modern HSC. Very Good + Condition.