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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Dear Joel,

Just wanted to say very many thanks for tracking down Temlett's 1869 patent.  We disagree on a multitude of things re ZB's but I'm extremely grateful for your efforts.  At least we now know for certain that this patent existed.

Best Wishes,

Jake.

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_...

Cammeyer did have a patent, for his 'Patent' model banjo. I haven't got one at present but from memory the patent was for hollow walls to the closed back tone chamber. The patent number is usually stamped alongside Cammeyer's address on the heel of the banjo neck.

Trapdoor2 said:

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.

I have a Patent Camm zb. The patent # on the heel  is 14724.  This banjo is gorgeous but in need of a lot of cosmetic repair.  Apparently this is the fate of all Cammeyer Patent banjos. Did the glue fail?  I've been keeping it just to look at. I keep it on an instrument stand and see it every day.  I have most of the veneer, binding etc. Some can be glued back, some needs to be replaced. I've given up on the idea of doing the repair myself and haven't decided if I want to have someone restore it or if I should sell it at cost. If anyone's interested in a restoration project on a banjo that will likely sound as good as it looks let me know.

Richard William Ineson said:

Cammeyer did have a patent, for his 'Patent' model banjo. I haven't got one at present but from memory the patent was for hollow walls to the closed back tone chamber. The patent number is usually stamped alongside Cammeyer's address on the heel of the banjo neck.

Trapdoor2 said:

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.

Based on Jody's patent number, I have found a UK listing for it under the number GB18961472A "Improvements on Zither Banjos" It is just a placeholder, no documents. Maybe someone will turn up the UK patent for us to see.

As we can see from Joel's listing of patents, the patent activity for "banjolike objects" was heating up in the 1870s...and tap would not run dry for several decades!

I'm absolutely intrigued about the banjo Cammeyer brought with him in 1888 'clearly fully developed' as a ZB.  Was this one of Benjamin Bradbury's as described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (paired 10 strings with 5th pair tunnelled)?

Best wishes,

Jake.

Richard William Ineson said:

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.

Good morning Jake, The zither banjo which Cam brought to England with him in 1888 was just a normal zither banjo, 5 strings, the fifth tunnelled. There is a photograph of the instrument in the B.M.G. accompanied by a short article by Len Broomfield who owned the banjo at the time, this would have been published in the early 1960s I would think. It's just a case of wading through/using the search facility, I'm too old and feeble to be bothered. I do still own one of the last Vibrante Royal ZBs to be made, this is stamped Sydney W.Young, on the side of the heel and 'John Alvey Turner' behind the peg head. This  was formerly the property of Leonard Hussey; I think it was made in the early 1960s but I've never checked the serial number which is 108.

Jake Glanville said:

I'm absolutely intrigued about the banjo Cammeyer brought with him in 1888 'clearly fully developed' as a ZB.  Was this one of Benjamin Bradbury's as described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (paired 10 strings with 5th pair tunnelled)?

Best wishes,

Jake.

Richard William Ineson said:

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.

Good Evening Richard,

I'm very grateful for your reply and it's very helpful, especially where to start looking.  Being also very old and assuredly more feeble, I fully understand your reluctance to trawl through the archives.  I was once acquainted with Leonard Hussey.  He was the Medical Officer at RAF Halton when I was an RAF Apprentice!

Thanks again, and all the Best,

Jake.

Richard William Ineson said:

Good morning Jake, The zither banjo which Cam brought to England with him in 1888 was just a normal zither banjo, 5 strings, the fifth tunnelled. There is a photograph of the instrument in the B.M.G. accompanied by a short article by Len Broomfield who owned the banjo at the time, this would have been published in the early 1960s I would think. It's just a case of wading through/using the search facility, I'm too old and feeble to be bothered. I do still own one of the last Vibrante Royal ZBs to be made, this is stamped Sydney W.Young, on the side of the heel and 'John Alvey Turner' behind the peg head. This  was formerly the property of Leonard Hussey; I think it was made in the early 1960s but I've never checked the serial number which is 108.

Jake Glanville said:

I'm absolutely intrigued about the banjo Cammeyer brought with him in 1888 'clearly fully developed' as a ZB.  Was this one of Benjamin Bradbury's as described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (paired 10 strings with 5th pair tunnelled)?

Best wishes,

Jake.

Richard William Ineson said:

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.

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