W. Boucher Minstrel Era Banjo
(ca. 1865?)

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Boucher Banjo Front View
Boucher Banjo, Front View
Boucher Pot, Bottom
Boucher Pot, Bottom View

Boucher Pot, Side
Boucher Pot, Side View

Boucher Banjo Back View
Boucher Banjo, Rear View

The banjo has an average pot diameter of approximately 13 3/8".
The pot is 3 3/8" deep.

The scale length, using the end of the double ogee as the octave, is 27 1/2"
which puts the bridge slightly above the center of the pot.

The banjo came strung with very light steel strings and a modern bridge
which was much too narrow for the fingerboard.

The tension hoop is steel.  It is not appreciably rusted and looks as though
it might have been silver plated.  I have not polished it.

5 of the original massive hooks and nuts remain.
Two are makeshift replacements and 1 is missing.

The original tailpiece was/is attached with modern nylon clear fishing line.


The Pot

Pot, Neck Entry
Pot, Neck Entry
Pot, Top View
Pot, Neck Exit
Pot, Neck Exit

The neck is solid rosewood.  It appears to consist of 2 pieces, the majority of the neck including the carved peghead, and a second piece laminated parallel to the neck at the bottom of the heel.  In light of the thickness of the major piece, it appears that the second piece was added to cover an internal dove-tail or other internal means of attaching the dowel stick.

It is difficult to determine the wood of the pot since the outside is completely covered with a beautiful rosewood veneer and intricate marquetry. The pot is reinforced with two internal ribs that run the entire length. There is no additional bracing where the wall joins the bottom.

Where The Neck Joins The Pot

The Neck

Dowel Stick, End
Dowel Stick, End
Dowel Stick
The Dowel Stick
Dowel Stick-Neck Joint
Dowel Stick-Neck Joint
Heel (showing shims)

Neck Transition
Transition To Playing Area Of Neck
Double Ogee
Double Ogee
5th Peg
Fifth Peg Detail
Hand Stop
Back Of Peghead, Hand Stop

Boucher Stamp and Neck Splice
Boucher Stamp & Neck Splice
Boucher Stamp
Pegbox, Front showing Tumblers
Peg Box With Cast Tumblers
Peghead, Side View
Eagle's Head


Unfortunately, the eagle's beak has been lost in the misty past.
In the side view of the peghead it still retains its piercing glare.

Boucher Eagle, Back
Boucher Eagle, Right Boucher Eagle, Top Boucher Eagle, Left
Boucher Eagle, Front

Labels and Hardware

Geared Pegs & Tailpiece
Geared Pegs & Tailpiece
Label, Bottom
Boucher Label on Bottom of Pot
Label, Side
Boucher Label on Side of Pot
Hardware & Skin Label
Bracket, Hook, Nut & Skin

Three oval paper labels are attached to the inside of the pot,
one to the inside wall and two to the bottom.
One of the bottom labels has badly decrepitated.

The legend on the label reads:

(print here of instruments: banjo, drum & sticks,
trumpet, violin & bow, horn?)

The geared pegs may be commercial violin machines of the period
with the exception of the 5th peg gear.

The gear plates are unmarked brass.
The worms are steel; the buttons appear to be brass.
The sculptural circular gears appear to be brass, cast onto steel shafts.
The large cast metal barrels are pinned to the rotating shafts.

The fit of the gears is quite loose but they function perfectly under string tension.

In trying to determine a date of manufacture of the Boucher, Ed Britt told me that:

He was at 32 E Baltimore in 1850

Was at 38 in 1853  thru 1872
(But only labeled as a "maker" until 1859  -
by 1868 the word "maker" is NOT used - just "musical instruments")

Is at 84 1/2 W. Baltimore in 1881

Ed also suggested, and I agree, that the carving of the peghead is
an eagle with a laurel garland in its mouth.

Seeing the peghead - it appears to be an eagle's head, holding a laurel
garland.  A typical motif for the time - which would ALSO tend to place it
more in the '60's!

--> I welcome any and all suggestions about date of manufacture.


Please address any comments or requests for more information to
Hank Schwartz

Entire contents of this page ©HSD 2000