The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

❌SOLD❌ S S Stewart The Amateur Open Back Banjo, 1899


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The S.S. Stewart company built banjos in Philadelphia from 1878 to 1910. Following the death of founder Samuel Swain Stewart, in 1898, the firm eventually shut down. The rights to the S.S. Stewart name were purchased by the B&J company (Bugellsein & Jacobson) in 1915. B&J was really a distributor and had the Stewart instruments built by other companies, including the Chicago Musical Instrument Company (CMI); some were built by C. F. Martin. S. S. Stewart branded guitars, banjos, and mandolins continued to be popular until the second world war years.

The Chicago Musical Instrument Company also made the Kay, Harmony, and Silvertone brands. CMI absorbed Gibson Guitars in 1944 and eventually the other brand names, including S.S. Stewart, faded from prominence but SS Stewart instruments finally disappeared in the 1960s. Kay, Harmony and Silvertone were mainly sold through department store catalogues rather than dealers.

CMI  went on to acquire Epiphone in 1957, and used the brand – once a major competitor for Gibson – to market budget versions of Gibson designs.   In 1969,  led by Arnold Berlin, Chicago Musical Instruments merged by way of share purchase with ECL,  a prominent Panama-based conglomerate led by Norton Stevens producing both beer and cement, and the merged company was renamed Norlin. Gibson remained under Norlin’s control from 1969 to 1986, when it was purchased by its current owners led by Henry Juszkiewicz.  

Shown here is a lovely S S Stewart The Amateur Open Back Banjo, Grade 2 model, built around 1899 after Stewart’s death in April 1898.  The ‘Grade 2’ designation means that it’s a more advanced model, not that it’s a second.

This fine S S Stewart The Amateur Open Back Banjo, features the original tailpiece, friction tuners, a period Rogers calf skin head and standard dowel stick adjuster system. This is one of the few of these banjos we’ve seen that have all the original finish, hardware, tension hooks and name plaque complete and in place. Apparently the original owner, a Mr. AL M. Dodgson, carved his initials into the dowel stick — no doubt a hundred years ago or more.

The neck is cherry with an Ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay. The pot features a classic “Spun-over” brass nickel-plated tone ring on a maple rim. It is strung with gut strings as originally intended, and this banjo has a lovely mellow tone, ideal for Clawhammer or bare finger-style playing.

Sold without case.


Price: $750.00 CAD
  • Model: The Amateur
  • Year: 1899 | Approximate year
  • Finish Natural
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: 59558
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 18/12/2017

  • This instrument has been sold
  • Not Consignment

  • Scale Length: 27in 686mm
  • Nut Width: 1.25in 32mm

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