Stewarts Banjo and Guitar Journal

The University of Rochester have made available online issues of S.S. Stewart’s banjo and guitar journal from the 1890s. S.S. Stewart was a banjo and mandolin manufacturer and this magazine was intended to promote his instruments though a network of dealers. Taking a closer look you find many interesting  (and weird) stories from a time when there was nothing much on T.V. 

For example in the March-February 1894 issue there is a report of the "Grand Banjo and Mandolin Club Contest at the Academy of Music Philadelphia". First prize was a Stewart's World Fair Model Banjo (valued at $250 dollars in 1894 this was a significant prize). First prize went to the Carleton Banjo Club (the only club with lady players); however the musical egos of the other contestants were terribly bruised. Judges were accused of partiality; some contestants talked of burning their prizes, and others wrote strongly worded letters to the journal!

"..Not only were the contestants themselves in general very much disgusted, but the audience showed by the way in which they received the announcement, that there was some certain and evident unfairness.."

S.S. Stewart himself was troubled by counterfeit copies of his banjos. Evidently someone had been stamping his "S.S.S." logo fraudulently on cheap low quality banjos. Some sleuthing led Stewart to the Chicago factory of Lyon and Healy, although there was no evidence that they had added the S.S. Stewart logo themselves. Stewart offered the following advice on how to identify the copies: 

"Those having banjos offered to them, should be careful to see that Stewart's registered trade-mark is stamped upon the bar which extends from the neck, though the rim; and also that the instrument has its number stamped on it.”

Link: S.S. Stewart’s banjo and guitar journal. 

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