.. born in Preston Lancashire ... started to make banjos with J E. Brewster in a small workshop in London's Oxford Street in 1873 and two years later set up as a publisher and banjo maker at 415 Strand, from which address it is said he made banjos for the Moore & Burgess Minstrels and the Mohawk Minstrels. Dallas was a fine wood craftsman who fashioned some exceptionally high-class banjos and zither-banjos.
By 1893 the demand for his instruments made it necessary for him to take over the entire premises at 415 Strand; enlarge. his workshops; and employ men to make the large range of instruments he had put on the market. For some years he advertised that he personally tested every banjo and zither-banjo before it left his workshops.
At the height of the banjo boom he was making banjos and zither-banjos for other firms and teachers and some of the latter whose "branded" instruments were made for them by Dallas included W.H. Plumbridge (Brighton), J. E. Brewster (London) and Norton Greenop (London). In 1905-6 the three sons of John E. Dallas were rewarded for their work with the firm and were made directors and the firm's title changed to John E. Dallas & Sons.
In February 1914 the firm moved to 202 High Holborn and by the late 1920's the banjos and zither-banjos bearing the company's name were truly mass-produced instruments and started to bear the trade name of "Jedson." John E. Dallas died in 1921 and in August of that year the firm became a private limited company.
Soon the activities of the company had spread far beyond the fretted instruments and with it came growth. In 1926 the firm moved to larger premises , at 6-10 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C.2 and there started to lay the foundation for the large wholesale distribution of everything musical for which the firm is today known. In 1937 the house of Dallas moved to Ridgmount Street and finally to the present address in Clifton Street, E.C.2. In June 1947 John E. Dallas & Sons Ltd. became a public company with an issued share capital of £500,000.
With the outbreak of World War II, Dallas ceased to make banjos but in 1947 they started to produce in small quantities the inexpensive banjos which have been sold by music shops throughout the country. These bear the "Jedson" trade mark but are in no way comparable to the pre-war instruments bearing the same name. It was in 1963 that the Houghton works in Birmingham were closed down and George Houghton set up workshops for the Dallas company at Bexleyheath, Kent and it was from here that most of the post-war banjos bearing the Dallas name have been made.
Universal Favorite & Jedson 4 string pictures courtesy of Steve Prior