Cradled here in my arms is my new (old) beloved. It plays like a dream. I feel very fortunate that this piece of Americana is now in my stewardship. They don't make 'em like they used to because 1) old growth wood simply isn't available any more, and 2) the turn of the century makers were all bought out by multi-instrument makers such as Martin, etc. The pot (the part that's not the neck) is an original Fairbanks / Vega --- a mid 19th century company. It's a "Style F".. and judging by the info on the serial number... it was made in 1920.
It came with the original skin head still on it, signed by various folks who must have played together. Besides their names, they've listed the military academies they attended, the years they graduated, and greek symbols for fraternities.
Dick Ludebuehl-- Shady Side Academy, 1922. Swarthmore College, 1926.
Harry "Cowboy" Deland Barnhardt-- Shady Side Aademy, 1922. Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va. John Hopkins University, Maryland.
Jay "The Indian" Stone---Culver Military Academy, 1918. (Unintelligible) Military College, St. Louis, MO.
The frats listed are Theta Pi Pi and the Eta Tau Omega. On the other side of the head is "M.C.H. '22"-- no clue what that is. There's also a sketch of a Lucky Strike cigarrette, as well as the name of a woman..."Peg Daubert." I'm thinking of naming the banjo after her. Peggy.The sound is still pretty awesome considering the age of the head, but I will have to replace it. I'll keep the original, though, and do my best to find out who these guys were!!!