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Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts

By nguiver, Nov 19 2020 04:29PM

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.

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.

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?

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 to see them full size.

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For tailpieces: Michael Holmes article on Mugwumps


Antique/Vintage Banjos at auction Collectors Weekly


Banjoleles on David Sims Ukulele Corner


Hank Schwartz site on the history of Fairbanks


Banjo Hangout


Smakulas Fretted


National instruments