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Robert William Keith was born in Lambeth in 1787 and was a musical instrument maker, composer and publisher.  In 1830 he went into partnership with William Prowse (b 1805 in Hornsey, London) also a music publisher and they formed Keith, Prowse & Co.  

 

Keith died in 1846. Prowse went on to expand the business into a wide range of music and entertainment related activities from making instruments to selling theatre tickets ( as early as 1880).  In the 1880’s the shop of Keith, Prowse & Co. at 48, Cheapside in the City of London specialised in the sale of musical instruments (including banjos) and retained teachers to give lessons on the premises.  They also had premises at 13 Grand Hotel Buildings, Charring Cross.

 

The resident banjo teacher was A. H. Nassau-Kennedy, who no doubt encouraged his pupils to invest in the Keith Prowse banjos which where priced from 2/- to 10 guineas Although these well made 5-string 6-string and 7-string instruments were fitted with an engraved nickel-silver-plate on the heel stating they where made by, the firm. they were usuallymade for them by Dallas or Temlett.

 

Some carried the K.P. trade name”Ajax” as did Telmett banjos. In later years, all the branches of Keith, Prowse & Co. which sold musical instruments included banjos in their displays but these were always sold under the various "brand names of the makers, i.e. Jedson. (Dallas) G. H. & S. Houghton; Windsor, etc. William Prowse died in 1886.  

 

Fretted five string "Universal Favourite" images courtesty of Ray Newell made by Dallas.  

 

This name was used by SS Stewart and in the April 1884 issue of Stewarts Banjo & Guitar Journal, having implied in the previous issue that Ward was copying his banjos, he identifies Temlett as the person who is advertising the fact.  Did the latter make this one or was it Brewster who was Stewart's sole agent or was it Dallas (most likely) who previously worked with Brewster for 2 years in Oxford Street and was producing his own "Univeral Favourite" a few years later.

Keith, Prowse & Co

union jack next maker Prowse  Universal Favourite Prowse front