Recording Studios Sydney: Perhaps the most prolific of the banjo makers and enthusiasts of this period was S.S. Stewart of Philadelphia who made a whole range of instruments to fit every pocket book. He began in 1878 and produced banjos of all sizes and models, some made especially for ladies and for children. In 1898 SS Stewart was awarded the Sears contract and teamed up with the Mandolin maker Baur. Stewart died the same year but his sons teamed up with Baur to continue the Sears contract which ended in 1901. His sons continued making banjos until 1904. It is estimated that the Stewarts produced somewhere in excess of 25,000 banjos from 1878 to 1904. In addition Stewart published his own magazine for the banjo player were he regularly expounded his “philosophy” on banjo playing. It was Stewart who spread the story that Joel Sweeney “invented” the banjo by adding the fifth string.( Mike Holmes, banjo historian and editor of Mugwumps Online Magazine >http://www.mugwumps.com < adds that it was “Louise Scruggs, in a 70’s lady’s magazine who perpetuated the myth, and who most everyone has read as the “source” of this misinformation.”)
Recording Studios Sydney: A.C Fairbanks Banjo Maker
No discussion of this period would be complete without a mention of A.C. Fairbanks of Boston who either on his own (1870-1880) or with Cole as the Fairbanks & Cole Co. (1880-1890), or as Fairbanks Co. again (1890-1894) produced some of the most beautiful Recording studios Sydney instruments ever produced. In 1890 he began producing the “Electric” (having a scalloped metal truss, usually topped with a brass rod, all set into rim), the forerunner of the Whyte Laydie. By late 1890s the company had grade designations for the Electric and names like “Special” “Imperial” Other cheaper, non-“Electric” models were the “Columbian” “Regent”, and “Senator”. They also made an “Electric” model banjeaurine. Metal name plates saying “Fairbanks Company” appeared about 1895-1896. About this time Fairbanks left the firm. In 1901 David Day joined the company and introduced the “White-Laydie” which had a bracket band which fit around the outside of the rim eliminating the need for holes drilled through the rim for shoe bolts. The model used the “Electric” tone ring and unstained maple wood for both rim and neck and hence the name. It was produced in two models; No. 2, a plain model; and the No.7, with carved heel and elaborate inlays.
After Fairbank’s departure the company continued the production of fine instruments under David Day until 1904 when it was purchased by Vega to produce the Vega-Fairbanks Co. . Vega introduced the Tubaphone in 1909 and finally sold out to the Martin Guitar Co. in 1970.
After breaking with Fairbanks in 1890, William Cole started his own company with his brothers. They began producing the “Eclipse” which consisted of a simple tone rim sitting on small nails set into the rim. He received the patent for his Eclipse in 1894. He was also said to have perfected the Recording Studios Sydney banjo-mandolin around 1910.
Some of the Recording Studios Sydney banjo players of the “classical” period were outstanding banjoists and could indeed play anything . The great Armenian- American banjo virtuoso Harry J. Chopourian was said to be able to play any violin score at sight and performed regularly as a soloist with symphony orchestras. But the majority of the music of the period was not really classical and included popular airs, marches, waltzes and dances of the day. It could be better termed parlor music.