Banjo History – Some important dates


1620- Explorer Richard Jobson mentions “gourd with neck and strings”in Africa
1678- “Banza” noted in Martinique as played by blacks
1769- white banjo players performed in blackface
1813-1860 Joel Walker Sweeney
1843-first documented minstrel show by Dan Emmett & Virginia Minstrels
1840s-1850s Minstrel Craze; Banjo becomes urban instrument
1830s to 1850s Boucher of Baltimore first “shop-made” banjos
1850’s- metal strings invented;James Ashhorn, guitar and banjo maker between 1851-56 made silver wound silk guitar strings at factory in Wolcottsville, Connecticut.
1851-Stephen Foster writes “Old Folks at Home”
1855-Thomas Briggs Banjo Primer published
1858-Philip Rice’s banjo method published
1859-Dan Emmett writes “Dixie”
1859- Stephen Van Hagen patents 7 string (1 short) guitar banjo with frets
1860s-1870s first closed back banjos and first top tension banjos marketed by Dobson (i.e. Buckbee) in US & England
1865- Frank Converse Banjo primer published
1863-1897 James H. Buckbee Co., of New York largest maker.
1870-Uncle Dave Macon born in Tennessee
1878-Henry Dobson produces 5 string with frets (made by Buckbee)
1880-1890 Fairbanks and Cole of Boston.
1881-Dobson patents a tone ring
1890s-Steel strings widely available: cheaper than gut
1890-1904 Fairbanks Co.
1878-1904. SS. Stewart Co. of Philadelphia Made 25,000 banjos !
1880s- first banjos documented in “the hills”
1892-Charlie Poole born in North Carolina
1894-first patent for a banjo mute
1894-first Grover bridge patent
1898-Dock Boggs born
1901-Whyte Laydie introduced by Fairbanks
1904-1970 Vega of Boston
1907- J. B. Schall of Chicago invents Tenor Banjo or 4 string banjo tuned like a mandolin.
1909-Vega Tubaphone introduced
1910- Tango craze reached America. Tenor, corruption of Tango Banjos; Cole said to have perfected Mandolin-Banjo
1914-Dave Akeman “Stringbean” born.
1918- First Gibson Banjos
1921-first modern flange and resonator by William Lange & Paramount Banjos
1921- Mc Hugh of Gibson company patents adjustable truss rod for guitar and Mando, adjustable tension rods for banjo & adjustable bridge
. 1923-first geared tuners patented by C. Kremp
1924-Earl Scruggs born
1925-31-Charlie Poole popular rural recording artist
1925- Gibson “Mastertone” introduced
1927-Ralph Stanley born
1929-modern banjo arm rest invented by L.A. Elkington
1929- Stock market collapse
1930-1945 5 string Banjo almost disappears. No strings available
1939 -Bill Monroe & Bluegrass Boys on Grand Ole Opry without banjo
1940s- Earl Scruggs develops his 3 finger style based on classical style
1941-Bill Monroe adds banjo to band-“Stringbean” Ackeman. 2 finger style
1940s- renewed urban interest in banjo, beginning of “folk-revival”
1943- Seeger creates ,long-neck
1945- Scruggs joins Monroe band with 3 finger style
1948-Seeger published “How to Play 5 string Banjo”
1950s-plastic heads become available
1960s when folk boom hit, Gibson and Vega were only companies to still have banjos in their catalogues as compared to 200 makers in 1900, and only Vega still had banjos in production.

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