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NMM 6072.  Tenor banjo (later converted to five-strings, but original neck/head was saved)
by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, ca. 1928.  Florentine model.  Serial number 8761-4.
  Board of Trustees, 1997.

NMM 6072.  Tenor banjo by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca. 1928

Gibson's high-end Florentine banjo, introduced in 1927, epitomizes the flamboyant aesthetic of the jazz age. Advertised as "The World's Finest, Most Luxurious Banjo," the Florentine featured a fancifully carved, gilded, and painted coat-of-arms on the resonator, reflecting the later Renaissance Revival style that could also be found on homes and decorative arts of the period.


Front, Side, and Back Views

NMM 6072.  Tenor banjo by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca. 1928. Treble side view Bass side view Back view

Gibson's Florentine model was originally sold as a four-string, tenor banjo. This example was later converted into a five-string instrument, complete with a new neck and peghead set with a Florentine special pearl inlay. Fortunately, the original neck and peghead , with its pearloid veneer, rhinestone ornamentation, and painted scenes of Venice (not Florence!), was preserved and kept with the banjo.


Front and Back of Banjo Head

Front of banjo head

Front of banjo head with resonator attached

Back of banjo head, without resonator

Back of banjo head with resonator removed


Arm Rest and Rim Engraving

Arm rest on banjo head

Gold-plated arm rest

Side view of arm rest

Side view of arm rest

Rim engraving

Engraving on gold-plated rim


Tailpiece

Tailpiece

Gold-plated and engraved tailpiece

Tailpiece mechanism

Grover patent tailpiece attachment mechanism


Details of Carved and Painted Decoration on Resonator Rim and Neck Heel

Treble side of resonator Close-up of resonator decoration Close-up of resonator decoration Neck heel decoration


Original Peghead and Fretboard

Front of original neck Santa Maria della Salute Church St. Mark's Square  (Piazza San Marco) and Campanile Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) San Giorgio Maggiore Church and Campanile, close-up Grand Canal, Santa Maria della Salute Church, and Gondola Island of San Giorgio Maggiore Shoreline and Gondola near St. Mark's Square Church, Campanile, and Buildings on Canal Sailboat in front of Churches and Buildings on Canal Original headstock Top of truss rod Front of peghead Front of peghead

Note:  Click on highlighted text, the peghead, or any painted fret to see a close-up of that area.

The original, pearloid-covered peghead features a white, gold, red, and green rhinestone "ice cream cone" decoration that would catch light on stage. Marketed to those who felt that they needed the very best, whether they be professional entertainers or wealthy, aspiring amateurs, Gibson's catalog reported that "theatre audiences marvel at the sparkling beauty; recording companies are delighted with the tone and radio fans are amazed at the clarity and brilliance of the banjo as they tune in."

The original fretboard, covered with pearloid veneer, has nineteen frets and features nine Venetian (not Florentine) scenes (starting immediately below the nut, in descending order):

    Santa Maria della Salute Church
    St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) and Campanile
    Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
    San Giorgio Maggiore Church and Campanile, close-up
    Grand Canal, Santa Maria della Salute Church, and Gondola
    Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
    Shoreline and Gondola near St. Mark's Square
    Church, Campanile, and Buildings on Canal
    Sailboat in front of Churches and Buildings on Canal


Front, Side, and Back Views of Original Peghead

Front of peghead Bass side of peghead Back of peghead


Side and Back Views of Original Peghead, Neck, and Neck Heel

Bass side of original neck

Side View

Back of original neck

Back View

Back view of heel on original neck

Back of Heel

Side view of neck heel on original neck

Side View of Neck Heel


Two Views of Serial Number

Serial number stamped into neck heel of original tenor neck Serial number stamped into inner wall of rim

Above:  Serial number stamped in inner wall of rim.

Left:  Serial number stamped into original tenor neck.


Views of Conversion Neck and New Peghead

Front of conversion neck

Click on 5th peg for close-up.

 
Front of conversion neck peghead

Front view of new peghead with Florentine special pearl inlay.

 
Back of conversion neck peghead

Back view of new peghead.


Gibson Mastertone Guarantee

Gibson Mastertone Guarantee

Decal on inside wall of the rim.


Literature:  André P. Larson, "Tenor Banjo by Gibson, Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1928," South Dakota Musician, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Winter 1999), cover, p. 20.

Margaret Downie Banks, "A Great Gibson Banjo . . . A Florentine Tribute with a Venetian Twist," National Music Museum Newsletter, 35, No. 2 (May 2008), pp. 1-3.

Return to Gibson Banjo Checklist

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Fifth string close-up