Fairbanks & Cole "Clipper" 5-string banjo, S/N 1700, Circa 1881
The "Clipper" line of banjos was Fairbanks & Cole's finest, and only four banjos in this line had come to light before I found this one on Ebay. The least expensive banjo in the "Clipper" line cost $50 in the 1880's. All had laminated rosewood/maple/rosewood rims, a spunover German Silver cap on the bottom of the rim, cobra hooks with square nuts and lovely two-point shoes, ebony backstraps, and "boat" heels. The tone rings appear to have been varied over the years, with this example employing a 3/16" hollow brass ring with holes drilled in it. This is apparently the only known example of the use of this tone ring, which Fairbanks patented in 1887. Tasteful, saw-cut pearl inlays were used on the peghead and fretboard for ornamentation. "Clipper" banjos came either fretless or with raised ivory or flush ivory frets. This example, which had new guitar frets on it when I got it (ugh!), has been restored and now has flush ivory frets once again. The tuning pegs are not original. For more information on Clipper banjos, go to http://home.comcast.net/~fairbankspages/Clipper/Clipper.html (thanks to Hank Schwartz).
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