American Five-String Fretless Banjo

American Five-String Fretless Banjo

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Description (Brief)

This banjo was made by an unknown maker in the United States around 1875-1899. It is a Five-String Fretless Banjo. The instrument’s body is made from oak, and the body’s rim is ornamented with 12 furniture tacks. This banjo was acquired from noted traditional musician Frank Proffitt, who said that he had bought it from a local second hand store with the understanding that it had originally come from the family of a local wagoner. It is a finely crafted example of the traditional thick rim style banjo, a style which was never adopted by urban manufacturers but which continues to be made and used in the southern mountains.

In her book African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia, Cecelia Conway points out similarities between the body form and small head of such instruments with those of 19th African American gourd banjos.

Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
United States: North Carolina
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
animal skin (overall material)
overall: 35 1/2 in x 10 in x 2 1/4 in; 90.17 cm x 25.4 cm x 5.715 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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