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Washburn Style 1135 Eclipse 5 String Banjeurine Banjo, made by W. A. Cole , c. 1912
Washburn Style 1135 Eclipse Model 5 String Banjeurine Banjo, made by W. A. Cole, c. 1912, made in Boston, Mass., serial # 5049, black varnish finish, maple semi-clad rim, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.
This little banjo is a spectacular original example of an exceptionally rare 5-string oddity -- a Cole's Eclipse Banjeurine with the ever-popular Man-in-the-Moon inlay labeled for Lyon & Healy's Washburn brand. For a brief period starting around 1910 the Washburn catalogs listed their "Model 1135" standard-scale 5-string banjo at $35, which was the old Cole's Eclipse Model 3000 with a "George Washburn" stamp on the dowel stick. The W.A. Cole company was winding down at the time (their heyday was the 1890s), so the Boston company was probably happy to have Lyon & Healy act as a reseller for their most recognizable product. A couple of models of standard-size Washburn/Cole 5-strings were catalogued for a couple of years; we have never seen any mention of this short-necked Banjeurine model in Lyon & Healy's print material.
Banjeurines were meant to be tuned to a higher pitch to play melody parts in the banjo ensembles of the 1890s, while retaining the mellower tone of a full-size head. Not often played or even seen today, they are considerably rarer than their full-scale banjo siblings especially in the higher grades. By the 1910s they were rather anachronistic and very rarely made at all. It's likely someone special ordered this one from Lyon & Healy; the 5000 series serial number stamped on the dowel would indicate a sale sometime around 1914-15 which would be extremely late for a Banjeurine. The instrument itself is identical to Cole's production models from 10-15 years earlier, and it may well have been sitting in stock for some time before it was finished and shipped out.
Cole's Eclipse banjos are beautifully made and have many distinctive design and construction features. The elegantly shaped "Boat Heel" neck is a trademark, as are the screw-threaded dowel stick adjustor, uniquely stylish "teardrop" shoes, and the simple but effective Eclipse tone ring. The unique engraved shaped pearl fingerboard and headstock inlays are a particularly lovely feature, with the "Man-in-the-Moon" on the headstock regarded as an iconic banjo trademark. The dowel on this instrument is marked "George Washburn" but it is otherwise 100% the product of W.A. Cole. Cole-labeled versions of this Banjeurine model are very scarce; this Washburn example is pretty much off the charts! Aside from its considerable historic interest, the instrument has a beautiful sound with steel, Nylon, or gut strings and is one of the loveliest, coolest, and rarest 5-strings we have ever offered!
Overall length is 30 3/4 in. (78.1 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 21 1/2 in. (546 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).
This instrument is in extremely fine cosmetic and playing condition, especially considering it is well over 100 years old. The finish and plating are in beautiful shape with only some very light wear; the face of the headstock shows some cracking to the veneer but is still solidly intact and presents no structural issues. The hardware is original and complete (including a perfect cammed No-Knot tailpiece) except for a set of more recent Planet-style geared tuners, including the 5th string piece.
There is some minor plating loss to the extremities of some of the shoes and nuts, but really for the age of this instrument the original plated metal is exceptionally well-preserved. All the lovely original engraved inlay on the fingerboard and headstock is crisp and nearly perfectly preserved, and the frets show almost no wear.
This banjo is set up with an older skin head and nylon strings, and plays and sounds beautiful with an elegant, soft, yet incisive tone. If not for the more modern tuners -- which do make it much easier to keep in tune -- this instrument would be little changed from how it was during Wilson's first term as president. It includes an original HSC, which is an even rarer find as this would have been a brand new item at the time! Excellent - Condition.
Item # 9225
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