Two Abbott Amboyna zither-banjos walk into a bar in San Francisco and the first one says…… Well OK, they didn't walk into a bar, but Richard Davis did walk up my stairs this morning with the Abbott Amboyna banjo that Skip Sail sent to him from Australia. At Skip's request I took some photos (they didn't come out very well) and to satisfy my curiosity I took some measurements and peeked inside with some strong magnifying glasses. 

Whereas the label in mine says 

J.G. Abbott & Co.

Musical Instrument Makers    Banjo Specialists
44 Cha  (lton Street)   Eu  (ston)  Road

The label inside his says 

J.G. Abbott & Co.
Musical Instrument Makers    Banjo Specialists
37, Fitzroy Square, London, W1

the y in Fitzroy is not clearly visible so what can be seen is "Fitzro" but surely it is Fitzroy. Richard did some research this afternoon and discovered that the building was all but leveled in air raids c 1940 and that the last known occupant of #37 was a music professor named Bruno Scheirig. A friend of John Abbott Senior?  I don't know.  

Has anyone heard of this address before? Richard is wondering if this might have been a temporary address right after leaving Barnes & Mullins.

Mine has a scale of 27.25 inches. Richard's is 27.5

Mine weighs 6.6 pounds. His weights 7.4 pounds. 

His has a smaller peg head of the same shape as mine. The engraving on his tuner plates are fancier than mine. The pegs are plainer in shape than mine but appear to be ivory whereas as mine, are fancifully shaped celluloid. Between the fingerboard and the neck mine has one more small stripe than his. The backs of each resonator (or whatever the wooden sound chamber of a z.b, is called) have similar but obviously different patterns of amboyna and other woods, his with small black button in the center and mine with a larger white one.

His has a split second fret. Mine does not.

His has a odd nut. His action is high. I don't know why. It might not be a problem once lighter strings get on there, a necessity for such a long scale.  Each banjo has a unique buckle type tailpiece. His is smaller and sits lower. The inlays are different. The neck profiles are different. We both found that very interesting. His has a steep v profile. Mine has a bit of a v at the lower frets but is pretty much round. His fingerboard is flat, Mine is slightly concave, something I have never encountered on another banjo.

Mine is well set up for playing. His needs some adjustment. But even now we can tell that the sound of the two is similar. His might be louder.

Questions and comments are very welcome. We think his is one of the first that John Senior made after leaving Barnes and Mullins (unless he made it BEFORE working there). I think mine is post 1928 which shoots down the great story that came with this banjo. Here's the URL: (there are photos there as well)

and here are some photos of the two banjos, together for the first time:

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Lovely! Imagine all these connections being made pre-internet? couldnt have happened.

Imagine the travels of these instruments,who owned them,the different countries they ended up in,the way they got back together
Great to see these two banjos in the hands of people who recognize their beauty.

One thing I mentioned last week but neglected to mention now is the difference in the marks at the heel end of the neck.  This is Richard's with "1 A" , no "G" and no "& Co"

and here is mine. The apparent difference in the color of the neck wood is a anomaly due to different cameras in different light in different hemispheres.

beautiful ; explanation ( may be ? ) ;  these banjos were offered for sale with customs options ; look at this one gone by eBay in 2012 for 595 £ ;  he has a zero fret

Also, these 2 banjos seem to have been built in different eras. There may be more than 20 years between them.

marc dalmasso said:

beautiful ; explanation ( may be ? ) ;  these banjos were offered for sale with customs options ; look at this one gone by eBay in 2012 for 595 £ ;  he has a zero fret

Wow! Thanks for posting these photos, Marc. 

Here's a photo, taken by Richard Davis, of the nut on his Abbott Amboyna.

My ca. 1889 Stewart Orchestra #2 has a scalloped nut similar to that. Wow, that notch on the left of the photo looks like you could drive a truck thru it! 

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