Construction & Tone Rings
A.C. Fairbanks & Co. (1890-1895)
In 1890 Fairbanks and Cole parted ways, each forming
It was in 1890 that Fairbanks introduced his revolutionary new "Electric" model.
The Electric differed from the banjos of Fairbanks' main competitor, S.S. Stewart, by the addition
of a novel new tone ring (patent issued on Dec. 30, 1890). The Electric tone ring
added a pronounced brilliance and sustain to the tone of the banjo which is favored to this day.
Fairbanks "Electric" Dowel Stick Stamp
Early Fairbanks Electric tone ring
The renowned Electric tone ring consists of a
metal truss which rests on the top of the wooden pot
and supports a round metal ring. In this early version the entire metal assembly is contained in a
thin metal sheath which is then spun over the outside of the pot as shown.
An interesting Fairbanks
Typical early Fairbanks hardware on a full spun pot.
The Fairbanks company continued to produce a
& Cole" model until around 1897.
It was similar in appearance to the early Electrics, but it had only a simple full-spun pot.
It was identified by the Fairbanks & Cole model stamp as well as the Fairbanks stamp.
The Fairbanks & Cole Model Stamp
Fairbanks' Fairbanks & Cole Pot
The Fairbanks & Cole model shown here is typical
all early Fairbanks pots other than the various
Electric models. It is a simple wooden hoop with the full spun metal sheath on the outside. The
top and bottom of the metal sheath contain thin metal rings to add strength and to provide
a surface over which the metal sheath is formed.
The higher grades of banjos had hex bolts and
securing the external brackets to
the pot. Lesser grades had slotted screws and washers as shown below.
An interesting variant of the Electric model was the
Electric, named after Fairbanks'
son Curtis who was a child prodigy on the banjo.
The Curtis Electric Dowel Stick Stamp
Curtis Electric Tone Ring
The Curtis Electric tone ring consists of a square
ring, barely visible above, sitting on top
of the wooden hoop. Numerous brass rods extend from the brass ring to the spun over round metal hoop
as in the standard Electric. The concepts are similar, but the significantly greater mass of the
standard Electric construction absorbs less of the vibrations of the skin and results in a much
more brilliant and projecting tone. The Curtis Electric is, unfortunately, a rather poor playing banjo.
The Imperial and the "Fairbanks & Cole" models
continued during this period.
The F&C stamp was frequently accompanied by a "Trade Mark" stamp which consisted
of a star surrounded by the words TRADE MARK. This was possibly used to counter
Cole's arguments against the continued use of his name on the Fairbanks banjos.
The Fairbanks models introduced during this early period were:
Curtis Electric - late 1890
Imperial Electric - 1891
Columbian - 1891
Senator - 1892
Special - 1894
Regent - 1895
The non-Electric models were quite similar, differing only in their degree of ornamentation.
The full spun pot with its double rounded brackets and typical early style hooks and nuts is shown above.
Strung with light gauge steel strings, it is a fine old-time player. It was used for the song "I'm On My Way To Zion" on my "Notes Along The Way" CD.
On to A.C. Fairbanks Co. (1895-1900)
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