Fact or History?

In this day and age research into most subjects can start with the internet .. but sometimes what is posted is simply perpetuating a myth. A classic case is John Clamp of Newcastle who AP Sharp stated in BMG .. he was told … “made only about 30 banjos in his whole lifetime”.

This “word of mouth” comment has become history and a Clamp banjo was offered at auction, in NY in 2015 at several thousands of dollars because it was so rare and the AP Sharp comments were used to justify the valuation, nether the less is was a very nice example.

A copy of a John Clamp price list was recently discovered which had over 30 combinations of pot sizes, stringing’s and styles .. with bespoke instruments being made within 21 days from order. He also bought up several children on the proceeds of these “30 banjos” .. Draw your own conclusions .. as we can now .. because of this wonderful research tool.

Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts

During the last decade of the 19th century there were 5 well respected manufacturers of Banjos, doing business between # 161 and #187 Tremont Street, Boston, a distance of about 750 ft between them.

Pelton #161 Robinson #170 Cole #179 Gatcombe #181 Fairbanks #187 A little further into town at #86, part of the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, was Thompson and Odell.

tremont 2

The Church was made famous 30 year earlier when there, in 1867, Charles Dickens read from Pickwick Papers and a Christmas Carol in a 2-hour recital.
T&O moved into # 523 Washington Street (parallel to Tremont Street) about the time of the 1893 fire when the Church burned down; Cole moved into #786 Washington Street a little further out of town, close to OR Chase.
Is it any wonder that all these makers banjos bear striking similarities? they probably sat in the pub on a Friday night discussing their new ideas, playing their instruments. -->

tremont 1
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No doubt the different makers had specialities and other skills like engraving, plating and fret cutting, possibly subcontracted and surely not all of them were making the metal pots patented by O.R. Chase in 1882, where he was well established at #698 Washington Street.
In 1856 Ira Chase and H Lincoln Chase of Chase Brothers and Co., published a book on patent ornamental woven or wrought iron railings, entrance gates, and window guards: Their “warerooms” were at 383 Washington Street. Was O. R. a son? With significant metal working skills was he capitalising on the latest fashion in musical instruments? Was the Chase manufacturing facility at #698?

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The “Tremont”

Pictures on this page are of a derelict instrument that was acquired from an auction and they displays a lot of history, as well as playing wear, and it tempts us discover its origins from around the 1880's.

While it has a peghead shape and inlay similar to a G C Dobson Victor the hardware could have been the fore runner of the Washburn Imperial although the brackets are almost certainly Boston,

One assumes the model name is “Tremont 45 1/2”. Perhaps someone could enlighten us as to what that is all about ... as its not the scale. CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR FULL SIZE

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