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Smithsonian Institution Collections

Mather Five-String Fretless Banjo

  • Mather Five-String Fretless Banjo
  • Mather Five-String Fretless Banjo
  • Mather Five-String Fretless Banjo
  • Mather Five-String Fretless Banjo
Smithsonian Museum
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Description
This banjo is marked "F. P. Mather 1860." It is a five-string banjo with a bird’s-eye maple hoop, twenty brackets, brass-plated fingerboard, and machine tuners.

Fred Mather was a well known minstrel banjoist of the mid-19th century. Like banjos marketed under the name of other well known performers such as the Dobsons, this instrument was likely made in the New York factory of the Buckbee company. It is typical of mid-century commercial instruments in having a fretless neck, gut strings and a bentwood rim. The machine tuners and inlaid brass plate as well as the present arrangement of 20 head-tightening brackets are probably later 19th century additions.
Location
Currently not on view
Maker
Mather, Fred P.
Date Made
1860
Credit Line
Gift of Estate of Fred P. Mather through Adelaide Mather
Measurements
overall: 34 in x 12 1/4 in x 3 1/2 in; 86.36 cm x 31.115 cm x 8.89 cm
Object Type
banjo