1925 Weymann Model 125

 

Much like the mandolin orchestras of the early 20th century, banjo orchestras were all the rage in the late 19th. Decades before the development of the tenor and plectrum banjos, manufacturers like S. S. Stewart developed a range of banjo sizes to flesh out the arrangements of these clubs. The motivation wasn’t just musical: professional players, or trendy amateurs, would need to buy a range of instruments to fill every niche, and manufacturers were more than happy to sell them a complete range of banjos. Thus, an 1890s Stewart catalog features pony banjos, banjeaurines, “special” banjos (for tuning to C instead of D), bass or cello banjos, giraffe banjos (yes, really!), ladies’ banjos, guitar banjos, and mandolin banjos alongside a wide range of standard-sized 5-string models.

At the bottom of the size range was the piccolo banjo. Although it appeared much like a banjo ukulele with a drone string added, it actually predated the banjo uke by several decades. The piccolo was designed to be tuned one octave above the standard 5-string, which reduced the number of frets available but gave the banjo orchestra a cutting treble instrument. Like so many of the creations listed in Stewart’s catalog, the piccolo banjo gradually disappeared as banjo orchestras gave way to mandolin orchestras in the early 20th century. However, banjo manufacturers still built them, if only on special order.

This Weymann, from 1925, was probably one such example. By that date, tenor and plectrum banjos ruled the popular music scene and it was unlikely that Weymann even mentioned piccolo banjos in their catalogs. The dowel is stamped with the model number, which suggests that the company had a formal history with this type of instrument and patterned it along with other products: the 125 piccolo was similar in features to the 25 mandolin banjo and the 225 ukulele banjo. The rim and neck have the same dimensions as the 225, and both featured friction tuners.

This example is all original except for the bridge and in excellent condition.

 

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