Alright, let's put this one to bed shall we?

First, we should define a "zither banjo".  My definition is a closed back banjo, with a tunneled 5th string, machine tuners, and strung with wire 1st, 2nd, 5th, a gut third, and a wound over floss 4th.

My challenge to Jake or anyone else, post examples, in print, of Temlett using the term "zither banjo" prior to Cammyer arriving.  Should be pretty easy considering the databases of newspapers.

Next, post documentation of the wire gut string combination prior to Cammeyer in the context of the zither banjo. 

Final challenge, post, in period print, anything by Temlett that could be twisted into what Cammeyer developed into the zither banjo prior to Cammeyer.

Yes, Henry Dobson did develop a closed back banjo that likely inspired Cammeyer.  Yes Temlett filed a patent for his very own knockoff of the Dobson closed back patent (it is no shock given the volume of knockoffs and plagerism by the British of American's designs and publications). 

But a Dobson closed back is not a "zither banjo", it lacks fundamental defining components.  Also, Cammeyer tells the story of how he came up with the name and no contemporaries argued with him or contested it.

I'm calling BS on this Temlett zither banjo thing.  I don't know where it came from.

I'll start with what is missing from documentation:  Just after SSS published "The Banjo a Dissertation", Temlett published a knockoff English version of the book with English content. This book "The Banjo" by William Temlett may be found in the "Journals and Albums" section.  Something is strangely absent from this book from 1888...  seems to be a pretty major oversight for the "pioneer" of said instrument.

I don't like the "comments" feature on this website as it is fragmented and impossible to follow.

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In the March 1959 Issue of the BMG Mac McNaughton rehashes the 1869 patent as being the first with Dobson improving upon it.

For what it is worth, Henry's 1867 patent does describe a "sound board" on the back-- closed back. 

https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/91/4c/c3/4246a794718447...

I'll try this link:  Here is Temlett's patent, no artwork though. 

https://www.google.com/books/edition/English_Patents_of_Inventions_...

Hi Joel, I've always regarded zither banjos as being American in origin, Cammeyer brought an already, clearly fully developed, zither banjo with him when he arrived in the UK in 1888. This particular banjo came into the possession of Len Broomfield (a prominent banjo player and B.M.G. contributor) after Cammeyer's death in 1949, and was pictured in the pages of B.M.G. in the 1960s. I was offered this instrument to buy in the 1990s but didn't purchase it as it was to my mind at the time, a very basic zither banjo and I wasn't  interested in the historical significance of this banjo in those days as I was just interested in playing the thing and there were plenty of Vibrantes and Vibrante Royales, apart from ZBs made by others from which to choose. I do not know what happened to this banjo but I haven't seen it since then. Sharpe did his best and recorded much material which would have otherwise been lost, in his notebook; he did get a lot of things wrong including saying that Earl Scruggs favoured the long necked five stringed banjo as played by Pete Seeger and other banjo players in popular 'folk music' groups in the 1960s. Nevertheless his writings, like every other source of banjo history are useful but have to be viewed with caution and reference to modern research which has been aided by the ease of access to solid reliable information made available via the internet at the touch of a button.

Joel Hooks said:

People get hung up on exceptions. First, that banjo, while claimed to be from Cammeyer, is no marked and the date+ association is the fabrication of the seller.   Second, exceptions prove the rule.  There is extant examples of every combination of features of banjos.

There were closed back banjos before, there are close back banjos now.  Cammeyer developed the "zither banjo" to have a unique voice.  His vision included the specific stringing to give the instrument that voice. He called it a "zither banjo" based on his failed performance of a zither solo arranged for banjo. 

I get that a very unique "English" form of the banjo being developed by an American immigrant might be upsetting. But reading the "Banjo World" and "BMG" they people of the time were okay with that. 

Regarding Sharpe.  His series of Banjo Makers articles are filled with inaccuracies.  While they were likely his best effort, I don't rely on much of what he wrote.

Thank you, Joel!

The description in the provisional patent is quite specific for the suspensory nature of the ZB, including the configuration of the perch pole. What we get, in hindsight (and IMHO), is that the ideas which were to become the ZB were essentially in place by 1869. Cammeyer was likely the agglomeration point, bringing the disparate bits into a whole.

I also have to say that Cammeyer's writings are certainly self aggrandizing. I would not be take them as gospel.

Joel Hooks said:

I'll try this link:  Here is Temlett's patent, no artwork though. 

https://www.google.com/books/edition/English_Patents_of_Inventions_...

Although I didn't say as much, I did include Alfred Cammeyer in the following,  "Nevertheless his writings,(Sharpe's ) like every other source of banjo history are useful but have to be viewed with caution and reference to modern research which has been aided by the ease of access to solid reliable information made available via the internet at the touch of a button."
Trapdoor2 said:

Thank you, Joel!

The description in the provisional patent is quite specific for the suspensory nature of the ZB, including the configuration of the perch pole. What we get, in hindsight (and IMHO), is that the ideas which were to become the ZB were essentially in place by 1869. Cammeyer was likely the agglomeration point, bringing the disparate bits into a whole.

I also have to say that Cammeyer's writings are certainly self aggrandizing. I would not be take them as gospel.

Joel Hooks said:

I'll try this link:  Here is Temlett's patent, no artwork though. 

https://www.google.com/books/edition/English_Patents_of_Inventions_...

Jake: to reply to a comment in an ongoing conversation, look at the bottom of the post to which you intend to reply. You will see a blue right-pointing arrow and to its right you'll see the word "Reply". Click there. A "box" will open.  That is the place to type your reply. When you have completed typing look below the "window" in which you have beenputting ("typing") your words.  On the  right will be a light  blue rectangle in which in dark blue letters are the words "Add Reply".  Click there. Your reply is now added to the thread.  That's all there is to it. 



Jody Stecher said:

Jake: to reply to a comment in an ongoing conversation, look at the bottom of the post to which you intend to reply. You will see a blue right-pointing arrow and to its right you'll see the word "Reply". Click there. A "box" will open.  That is the place to type your reply. When you have completed typing look below the "window" in which you have beenputting ("typing") your words.  On the  right will be a light  blue rectangle in which in dark blue letters are the words "Add Reply".  Click there. Your reply is now added to the thread.  That's all there is to it. 

Dear Jody,

I wrote you a very nice reply but alas, when I tried to send, it disappeared into cyberspace!  (told you I was a complete duffer in this respect!) Not only that, but I couldn't send anything to anyone, nor could I open any Comments.

Anyway I'll repeat some of what I said.  Basically just wanted to tell that I'm most grateful for your time and trouble.

Very many thanks for the help and info,  Both are much appreciated.

Let's see how this one goes!

All the Best,

Jake.

So we are starting to circle back around to my original point of all of this.  

Henry Dobson develops a design for the "closed back banjo" in or about 1867 which covers that rim in sound chamber design.  Over the years he further refines the design until selling it to Martin Brothers Guitars.  He patents it and it stays in production in the US for over two decades but seems to not catch on in wide use (but was manufactured in numbers from the extant surviving examples).  These are "regular banjos" in that they are standard 5 string gut strung banjos as was the fashion of the time. 

William Temlett copies this patent in 1869 and makes regular banjos in the closed back pattern.

At some point Alfred Cammeyer "Cammy" as he was called according to the "Banjo World" issue 1 put the closed back banjo with a tunneled 5th string, machine tuners and combination strings together and called it a "zither banjo".

He brings this "zither banjo" to England in the spring of 1889 and it is an instant success.  Since Temlett was already making closed banjo banjos (or had in the past) it was easy for him to tool up and start making these unauthorized "zither banjos".

So my point is that the only "zither banjos" are the ones that follow Cammeyer's specific configuration and unique voice.  I have never disputed that there were closed back banjos before and after Cammeyer.  But to call all closed back banjos with the suspended rim a "zither banjo" removes Henry Dobson's contribution.  To say that Temlett "invented" or otherwise developed the zither banjo prior to Cammeyer is also false as he was just making Dobson closed back knockoffs.  "Pioneering" could be true as he likely was able to quickly get knockoffs of Cammeyer's full design on the market in mass. 

It is clear that with ignorance of Henry Dobson's contribution the name "zither banjo" became somewhat genericized, but we know better now.  And just like classifying species of wood, as we further drilling down on banjo history we should make the same distinctions in classifications of banjos. 

All this talk of zither banjos makes me want one now.

Yes and no.

From reading the noted patents, I would say that Temlett did not "copy" Dobson's 1867 patent. His system appears to be much closer from a design standpoint to the end-result ZB as built by Cammeyer. Frankly, I think Dobson's 1867 patent is simply an improvement on Teed's 1862...and Temlett's is an even further improvement.

However, Temlett's provisional patent was not carried further into a full patent, it didn't carry any weight and only lasted 12 months. Generally, this was a cheap way to register an idea, get some "Patent Pending" items into the marketplace and make some money (which would help with the cost of a full patent). Didn't happen, AFAIK.

I still say that Teed patented the Ur design. That 1862 patent would have expired in 1879 (17yrs was the expiration as of 1861...it is now 20yrs). Dobson's 1867 would have thus expired in 1884. In 1885, Teed patented a design much closer to the end ZB result...and included the closed back...it is very, very close to the prior Temlett design, IMNSHO.

Regarding the closed back, I would submit that patenting such a feature would be indefensible in court. Precedents such as gourd banjos and the huge number of other common closed back instruments (guitars, violiins, etc., etc) would weigh heavily against it.

Speaking of which, Hobart C. Middlebrooke successfully patented (US patent) the tunnel 5th string in 1893. I doubt that he knew of Cammeyer's "infringement". After a certain period, if you don't sue for infringement, the teeth of your patent are pulled...not that Middlebrooke would really care, his banjo company didn't last further than 1895 and paying patent lawyers (esp in an overseas proceeding) is the last thing a bankrupt company needs to think about.

So, I would timeline the ZB as such: Teed 1862 ===> Dobson 1867 ===> Temlett 1869* ===> Teed 1885 ===> Cammeyer**

*Temlett with provisional design patent, 1869 exp. 1870.

**Cammeyer with no design patent known.

Frankly, I don't think that Dobson had much of a contribution to the end-result ZB. He did improve sufficiently on the Teed design to warrant a patent. I think Temlett improved the suspended pot design, not copied it. Teed's successful 1885 patent, I think, could have resulted in an infringement suit with Cammeyer, et al.

Cammeyer still gets the lion's share of the credit for the end result ZB, even if he infringed on some patents.

Yes, you should own a nice ZB. They're a challenge to play properly but they have a distinct voice in the banjo firmament.

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