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Does the peg head profile really tell you the maker?

1873 two Johns, Dallas & Brewster, were making banjos in Oxford Street, London but after a few years they split and Dallas went out on his own. Brewster was noted in 1883 by SS Stewart as the sole distributor of the latter’s banjos following a spat with RJ Ward of Liverpool who Stewart appeared to accuse of copying his banjos.

About 1885 Lyon and Healy started making the Washburn range of banjos and one writer quipped that they allowed Stewart to do all the work and then just copied his banjos.

Also about the same time John Dallas, now working out of The Strand, London started making his own “Universal Favorite” model with the name spelt the American way without the “U” in favourite. For all we know Dallas was buying in necks?

Check out the six peg heads here, two each by Stewart, Dallas and Washburn (Lyon & Healy) .. Who really was copying who?

Tall stories and tailpieces

The end of the Victorian era heralded the ten years during which the five string banjo peaked in its development, before it met its nemesis that was to become the 4 string or tenor banjo, which itself peaked another twenty years later.

It was not alone in the pre 1st World War period when technology of all sorts was being developed from the 1st real telephone, aviation, motor vehicles; and massive projects in construction such as the Panama Canal and the fateful Titanic were being undertaken.

Tailpieces had been the butt of many a fancy claim in a patent application and many did nothing to enhance the instrument, often the opposite.

That was until it was discovered that volume and response could be significantly enhanced if the strings could impart more down pressure on the bridge.

This Paramount tailpiece from the '20s embodies eactly that as well as an adjustable quick release catch surely copied from some 1st WW piece of armament.


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