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Hercules MacCord

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... of St Louis, Missouri was a cultured gentleman of considerable means who went into the business of manufacturing banjos about the year of 1850, out of the pure love of the instrument and was a most ingenious maker.  He made a success of the venture but was indifferent to whether he made any money or not.  Banjo making was his recreation and his hobby.  He always used the best materials, finest workmanship and gave a superb finish to all the banjos bearing his name.

 

MacCord became interested in the banjo in the early 1840’s when he learned to play. With good mechanical knowledge he fashioned several banjos entirely different to others of the period.  He is said to have been the first to use 22 frets on banjos – on his wood rimmed instruments made in 1859.  One of these models also dispensed with the side 5th peg the string being carried to a scroll peg head housing  5 pegs.  The fifth string passed through a slot in the side of the neck to a point where the 5th peg is usually placed  and was carried in a groove at the side of the neck to another slot near the nut and then to the peg.

 

In 1884 he was granted a U.S. patent for tunnelling the 5th string under the fingerboard to the peg head.  

 

One of his 1880 “patent” banjos had an all metal hoop with a domed back similar to that (in wood) used for the zither banjo. This instrument was  described by Clarence L Partee, who said the hoop and the back was not in a solid piece but was in the form of strips of metal  strips, about an inch wide with equal spaces between them.  Wires were connected to the bezel and these extended down inside each metal strip  to meet at the apex of the dome back, where they were fitted to a tightening nut.  The idea was that the vellum could be tightened with a single turn of this nut.

 

According to Partee this style banjo had a tremendous volume and brilliance of tone (although predictably somewhat metallic) as was used extensively by such artists as Cha. E Latshan and “Joe” Hart.  

 

MacCord retired from banjo making in 1890 and bequeathed some of his experimental banjos to Partee who in turn presented the two oldest instruments to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where they were displayed in a glass case labelled “Banjos of the 19thC”.

 

see here  banjo 1  & banjo 2

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