This mysterious package has appeared on eBay.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/324023753972?ul_noapp=true

It provoked a number of questions.

What is the string made of?

The package front seems to claim it contains a 2nd and 3rd string and on the back the 4th string is described.  Is this using the space for advertising?  Does the package contain a single string? Or 3 strings? Or a set of strings?

I was confused by the apparent description of a set of strings where the third string is for finger playing and the second string is for pick playing. I finally worked out that what might be meant is that the single string in the package may be used for in either position on the banjo according to how it will be played. But I have never found that playing with a plectrum demands heavier strings. And then on the back there is the apparent claim that if this Wonder String is used as the fourth string it will last a very long time. (but it will soon fall to pieces if used as 2nd or 3rd string?).  So I guess it must be an advert.

I was also amused by the claim that the 4th string will "retain its splendid tone till worn out".

That seems a bit like the famous orange juice stand with a big sign saying "All the Orange Juice You Can Drink for 5 Cents".  When you ask for a refill you are asked in turn for another five cents.  But what about the sign?   You are told that all the orange juice you can drink for 5 cents is one glass.   Similarly all strings that stop sounding splendid do so when they become worn out.  I think the claim is meant to mean that it will take a longer time to wear out than other 4th strings. But that's not what is written.

Expert opinion and idle speculation equally welcome!   Wuddya t'ink?

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What is the string made of... ? I would say it is made from the finest 100% "Marketing", aka "Sales Blather", which is a reconstituted form of elemental Hokum.

It doesn't appear to be a wound string. Only real way to discover what it is...is to buy it. I have some early strings in the collection (Stewart branded silk) but at this very moment, I can't buy anything that requires delivery, I'm moving in a few weeks and who knows where it might end up?

The rough texture of the string resembles the silk music string I got in Shanghai 20 years ago,

Trapdoor2 said:

What is the string made of... ? I would say it is made from the finest 100% "Marketing", aka "Sales Blather", which is a reconstituted form of elemental Hokum.

It doesn't appear to be a wound string. Only real way to discover what it is...is to buy it. I have some early strings in the collection (Stewart branded silk) but at this very moment, I can't buy anything that requires delivery, I'm moving in a few weeks and who knows where it might end up?

It does look like a 'covered' string. Covered in what, I don't know. There have been oodles of variations in strings over the centuries, I doubt it was anything innovative. Would be fun to have it and do some forensic work on it.

Not much mystery about it.  Longtime members of the ABF (or those who attend rallies where Eli brings back issues of it) will have at their fingertips the 1915 Farland catalog which was reprinted as a supplement to the 1980 Winter 5 Stringer.

In the section for strings one will find a description that states "It has the tone and appearance of gut, combined with the trueness and moisture-proof properties of silk... Banjo strings are made in two sizes.  Large for pick playing and smaller for finger work."

Ergo, this string fills the role of either the 3rd for fingerstyle or the 2nd for pick playing.

This product matches the timeline for the synthetic silk fiber "viscose" so if it is not silk it could be made of that.  I have found that violin strings were made from that early on.  I have also been informed here that the CE "tropical strings" were made from the same.

As to the 4th-- that was an informative advertisement.

Luckily we now have at our fingertips early 20th century banjo related print material like the Crescendo... 

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView...

or the Cadenza...

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/the-cadenza#/?tab=n...

With these I have gathered an understanding that early pick players were split about 50/50 on the use of wire v gut strings.  Also that the trend for pick players was to use heavier strings as the pick would shred them so heaver strings would last longer. There is also a tension factor.  Remember-- fingerstyle players were using "cobwebs"-- .017, .019, .023, .024w or one thousandth lighter across the board.  Those strings would not stand a chance against a plectrum.

There was no shortage of articles or discussion about using heavy strings for pick playing.  That was, until most went over to wire.  The "banjo tone" was gut so even pick players wanted that tone.  Wire was a compromise.

By that time Farland was mostly a pick player using a leather pick with an elastic loop that attached it to his first finger.

So to answer, the package originally contained one string that could be used as either a 2nd or 3rd depending on how one planned on playing it.

Ah Hah!  So heavier gauge not for tone or feel but for relative longevity. That I understand. 

Joel Hooks said:

Not much mystery about it.  Longtime members of the ABF (or those who attend rallies where Eli brings back issues of it) will have at their fingertips the 1915 Farland catalog which was reprinted as a supplement to the 1980 Winter 5 Stringer.

In the section for strings one will find a description that states "It has the tone and appearance of gut, combined with the trueness and moisture-proof properties of silk... Banjo strings are made in two sizes.  Large for pick playing and smaller for finger work."

Ergo, this string fills the role of either the 3rd for fingerstyle or the 2nd for pick playing.

This product matches the timeline for the synthetic silk fiber "viscose" so if it is not silk it could be made of that.  I have found that violin strings were made from that early on.  I have also been informed here that the CE "tropical strings" were made from the same.

As to the 4th-- that was an informative advertisement.

Luckily we now have at our fingertips early 20th century banjo related print material like the Crescendo... 

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView...

or the Cadenza...

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/the-cadenza#/?tab=n...

With these I have gathered an understanding that early pick players were split about 50/50 on the use of wire v gut strings.  Also that the trend for pick players was to use heavier strings as the pick would shred them so heaver strings would last longer. There is also a tension factor.  Remember-- fingerstyle players were using "cobwebs"-- .017, .019, .023, .024w or one thousandth lighter across the board.  Those strings would not stand a chance against a plectrum.

There was no shortage of articles or discussion about using heavy strings for pick playing.  That was, until most went over to wire.  The "banjo tone" was gut so even pick players wanted that tone.  Wire was a compromise.

By that time Farland was mostly a pick player using a leather pick with an elastic loop that attached it to his first finger.

So to answer, the package originally contained one string that could be used as either a 2nd or 3rd depending on how one planned on playing it.

Cool. BTW, "viscose" = Rayon, which was developed in the late 1890s. Often termed "artificial silk"

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