Orpheum Brass Band 5 String Banjo , c. 1914

Orpheum  Brass Band 5 String Banjo ,  c. 1914
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Item # 7924
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Orpheum Brass Band Model 5 String Banjo, c. 1914, made in New York City, serial # 06350, shaded mahogany finish, laminated maple/mahogany rim; laminated maple neck withebonized fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a beautiful and fairly rare 5-string banjo from New York's premier early 20th century makers Rettberg and Lange. The fancy Orpheum Brass Band was a special high-end model in the company's line of the 1910s. At well over 13", the oversize rim combined with the patented Orpheum raised arch-top tone ring gives the Brass Band model a huge, powerful sound, representing Rettberg & Lange's instrument craft at its finest.

The very long 28" scale neck and rim are laminated maple, with an ebonized maple fingerboard featuring a 3-fret extension extending well over the head. The early-patter arch-top tone ring has an outer sheath and is raised on small pillars set into the rim, a basic design Lange would carry forward into the 1920s Paramount line. The tailpiece is a period no-Knot.

This was a top-line banjo featuring fancy shaped contrasting colored abalone and white pearl inlay patterns in the fingerboard and face of the headstock. The trim includes all wood binding, contrasting wood laminations in the neck and a half-herringbone marquetry strip around the underside of the rim. The heel is carved in a floral pattern and the headstock has multiple laminations on both sides and an ebony backstrip.

This banjo carries a fairly early 5-digit serial number on the dowel but no other stampings. The celluloid "Orpheum, Made by Rettberg & Lange NY" tag and rim patent stamping are intact and clear. This imposing banjo represents Rettberg & Lange's instrument craft at a fairly early point but still fully developed. It is a fine playing and sounding example of a 1910-era large-rim banjo, loud and proud with more depth to the sound than many 5-strings from the era.
Overall length is 39 in. (99.1 cm.), 13 3/8 in. (34 cm.) diameter head, and 2 5/8 in. (6.7 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 28 1/4 in. (718 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This lovely banjo is a splendid survivor of the gilded age, well preserved for being at least 110 years old and a very good player. The finish remains all original with some fairly light typical wear. The plating is surprisingly clean as well. The neck is beautifully straight; the fairly thin frets are era correct but this appears to be an ancient refret.

The headstock has been fitted some time back with repro 2-band geared Grover tuners; all other hardware appears original or at least period. The planetary tuners facilitate stringing with steel giving this large banjo a sound is that is big but never muddy. It is set up with an ancient but solid calfskin head and an older maple/ebony/bone insert grocer bridge it sounds very authentic to the early steel string period; it would work perfectly with gut or nylon as well. The banjo still rests in a slightly battered but still intact, functional (and very rare!) original period HSC. Excellent - Condition.