Weymann Keystone State Piccolo Banjo (1921)

Weymann  Keystone State Piccolo Banjo  (1921)
This item has been sold.
Item # 9959
Prices subject to change without notice.
Weymann Keystone State Model Piccolo Banjo (1921), made in Philadelphia, PA, serial # 29314, natural varnish finish, maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, black gig bag case.

This tiny long-necked Weymann is a wonderful (not to mention awful cute!) miniature 5-string banjo, a product of the late 19th century fascination with banjos of all sizes. The "Piccolo Banjo" with a 7" rim and 14-15" scale was the smallest generally attempted, though a few even tinier novelty instruments are known to exist. Much of the impetus for building banjos in many assorted sizes came from S.S. Stewart in Philadelphia but other makers latched onto the idea as well. They were originally intended to be played in banjo ensembles, with the piccolo taking the high melody or counter melody in the orchestral arrangements.

The Weymann company was also located in Philadelphia, and really came into their own building high-grade banjos after the Stewart operation faded. This is their take on the piccolo concept, beautifully made but built much heavier than technically required The 15" scale neck is maple with an ebony fingerboard, with a rosewood heelcap and headstock facing. The small 7" rim is heavy laminated maple as well. Most earlier piccolos are built on a thin spunover rim, so this Weymann is much more substantial feeling. The cosmetics are neat but plain, with a natural finish overall and no ornament except tiny position dots.

The hardware includes Champion-style friction pegs and an Elite tailpiece, both typical of the c.1900 period with heavy professional grade hooks and hoop. While technically intended for gut strings, this banjo would certainly have no trouble handling steel stringing, if desired. The accepted Weymann serial number information suggests it was made around 1921, which is very late for this style of banjo. Soon after Weymann would re-purpose this design as a 4-string banjo ukulele, the Style 225. While those are rare, this 5-string version is a far rarer find, certainly the sturdiest piccolo banjo ever designed and one of the neatest and most fun little banjos we have had in a while.
Overall length is 23 3/4 in. (60.3 cm.), 7 in. (17.8 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 15 in. (381 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This is the only example of this lovely but almost comically overbuilt instrument we have had. It remains in well-worn but all original condition with no damage or alterations. The finish was heavily smoked; it looked like it had hung in a greasy kitchen for generations! A great deal of cleaning and polishing revealed the original varnish which is now shiny but has a number of stains that resist any further attempt at removal. There are small chips, dings and scratches overall. The back of the neck is partially worn down to the wood. The name "Bill" is carved into the dowel stick with a flourish.

All hardware is original; The plating on the hardware is still shiny with some loss, mostly to hooks and nuts. The bridge is the only non-period piece, a later Grover non-tip. The head tells its own story; it is old (perhaps original) and deeply ambered; it carries a number of signatures and messages dated to September 1960 from what looks like someone's going away party. We don't know what this story was, or who "Bill' might have been but obviously this little banjo has some stories behind it! While somewhat worn looking it is structurally a well-preserved example that plays and sounds lovely; a delightful instrument to play and one that never fails to bring a smile! Very Good + Condition.