Frank C Wilkes 1868 to 1929
... was born in Salford, Manchester and in 1891 he was registered as a "banjo maker and music seller".
In 1894, Frank Cecil Wilkes, of 19 Mount Street, Manchester, took out a patent involving a banjo with a "hole in the vellum" and started manufacture both banjos and zither banjos incorparating this feature. He applied in England (#1925) and the USA (#554967) when he was residing in Tib(b) Street, Manchester. The patent which was granted in 1896 in the USA.
The aperture was surrounded by an elaboratedly-decorated celluliod ring to reinforce the skin. His banjos were made with hoops of 9" or 10" diameter with the back of the hoop enclosed by a rosewood soundboard. His early instruments had a groove on the outside of the neck (with an elaborate arrangement of slotted screw-nuts) to take the octave string from the side "pip" up to the peghead.
Later he used the normal tunnel under the fingerboard (see images) producing traditional 5 string banjos with zither type slotted machine heads and closed backs! His business appears to have flourished as the name of the firm changed to F.C Wilkes & Co., with premises in 1911 at 6 Oxford Road, Station Approach, Manchester.
At the turn of the century we was resident in Moss Side Manchester working on his own as a Banjo Maker & Music Seller and by 1911 had moved to Levenshume but appears to have gone out of business during the 1st WW. He died there in 1929.
Wilkes replacement skin and other restoration work undertaken by Andy Fitzgibbon of Smakulas Fretted Instruments, Elkins, West Virginia.