Dating a gibson banjo
Unlike Martin, Gibson did produce a number of Banjoleles over the years, starting in 1924 before they made Ukuleles with the "trapdoor" range.These had a flap in the resonator at the rear to vary the sound between open and closed back and a big body for a Banjolele as they were originally based on the Banjo Mandolin but the number of strings was reduced to 4.
Usually there were 3 levels for Ukuleles but this was all much less rigid that Martins with, in some catalogues, the better one just being called "Deluxe".Epiphone also had a long history of Banjolele manufacture before Gibson took them over so there is another entry for the Epiphone's more historic offerings.And while on the topic of famous historic names Gibson currently own, there is also Dobro and Slingerland but as they are not being used for any Ukulele branding currently, though they were before Gibson took them over, both of these get their own entries too.It seems a fair question to ask: what is going on with Gibson Banjos?The demise of their 5 strings was not only a shock to the dealers who represented them, but very nearly caused the collapse of First Quality Music in Louisville, who had been manufacturing the Gibson banjo components for some time.Both the showroom and the assembly areas had several feet of water sloshing around.
Parts and tools were floating on the surface, with ruined machinery below.
The Sullivan family had tooled up substantially to support this production, and it accounted for nearly half their annual revenue when it disappeared in a flash after the flood.
First Quality has since restructured, and have survived the financial jolt by refocusing their efforts on their own Sullivan Banjo line, and the Derby City turkey calls they make from scrap neck wood.
Gibson Ukuleles come in either Soprano or Tenor scale, (I've never seen a Concert Gibson) and are usually mahogany, (there were a very few spruce top examples made).
They also produced a few special models over the years like the Poinsettia with flowers painted all over the body and a pearloid fretboard or the Florentine with scenes of Venice(!? In 1937 the range was cut back so only the single soundhole ring versions were made but sometime during the 40’s the fretboard length was increased to 13 frets on Sopranos.
I have also read but not seen that some cutaway tenors were produced in the 60’s.