Orpheum No. 1 banjo mandolin, S/N 13486, Circa 1915

Banjo mandolins such as this Orpheum model made by Rettburg and Lange were popular instruments in the early 20th century because mandolin players could play them easily and they were LOUD.  The history of stringed instruments in the U.S. during the period 1850-1950 was to some extent a story of a search for volume.  Gut-stringed guitars gave way to louder gut-stringed banjos, which gave way to louder steel-stringed mandolins, which gave way to louder steel-stringed banjos, until steel-stringed guitars (which were loud enough and provided more musical versatility) took hold.  By the time steel-stringed guitars were seriously in vogue, the age of electronic amplification arrived and made the issue of volume less important.

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