William A Cole to 1909, Frank E Cole 1855 to 1922
The first Cole banjos were made by William A Cole of 179 Trement Street, Boston, Mass. after he had dissolved the partnership with A C Fairbanks in 1892 – after 12 years of supervising the production of Fairbanks banjos. The foreman of the Fairbanks factory had been Frank E Cole (Williams younger brother) and the two brothers started making banjos under the name of William A Cole.
On the 30th January 1894 the factory had become established at 786 Washington Street, Boston, Mass. for on that date they patented their “Eclipse” banjo which incorporated improvements deigned by Frank Cole.
In 1895 the London firm of Essex and Cammeyer was appointed British agents for the Cole Banjos and Mr (later Sir) Home Gordon played the first of these to be imported, at a concert held in North Cray in December of that year.
William Cole died 2nd January 1909 and Frank Cole took over the business and from then on the banjos he made at 3 Appleton Street Boston carried his name. “Eclipse” banjos were sold up until 1922 when ill health forced Frank Cole to retire. He sold his plant to E J Nokes and Edward F Nicolai.
Frank Coles was an exceptionally fine banjoist and was responsible for major improvements to banjos that were incorporated in the instruments he produced. At one time about 1890 he organised a banjo quintet that frequently appeared in public and did much to publicise the Cole banjos. About 1895 he trained his three sons (Percival, 12, Harry,9 and Raymond, 7) as banjoists.
Frank E Cole died at the age of 67 in Avondale, Nova Scotia on 19th July 1922 from cerebral haemorrhage.
Pictures courtesy of D Freshwater
Note: the Cole banjo as imported by Essex and Cammeyer