Lyon & Healy Banjeaurine ca. 1890


The Banjeaurine

In 1885, S. S. Stewart, the Philadelphia banjo manufacturer and promoter, introduced a higher-pitched, shorter-necked instrument that he called the banjeaurine. I suspect that he used the pseudo-French spelling to make it sound more classy.  His effective promotional skills soon launched this new banjo variation onto center stage in the brief era of the banjo orchestra (also a notion of Stewart's intended to "elevate" the banjo and sell instruments to the upper-middle and upper classes of the urban Northeast).  The banjeaurine, tuned a fourth higher than a regular banjo, was intended to parallel the function of the violin in symphonic orchestras.

By the late 1890s, the banjeaurine's popularity was in decline, as was the regular banjo. For example, the 1897 Washburn catalog does not show any banjeaurines. Though some continued to record the new turn of the century music on the banjo, the more popular instrument of the day was the mandolin. Ensembles of mandolin, mandola, mando-cello and even mando-bass became popular on the college campus. Gone was the banjo orchestra and with it, the market for banjeaurines (see this reference).

During the brief heyday of the instrument, other manufacturers produced banjeaurines (sometimes spelled "banjeurine" or "banjorine") such as the Lyon & Healy example here.  Today, the banjeaurine is largely extinct except for a few brands such as the Saga S-10P (P for "pony").  Authentic examples are relatively uncommon since few were manufactured.


Overall length: 27"

Scale length: 18 1/4" with 18 frets

Rim/Head diameter: 12" with 24 hex brackets

Rim depth: 2 1/4"

Maple neck with ebonized fingerboard, 4 MOP position markers

I acquired this banjeaurine on eBay a few years ago.  I liked it because it was quite complete and needed no major work to be made playable.  At left is a scan from the Washburn catalog, ca. 1892.  Washburn was a subsidiary of Lyon & Healy at the time, producing higher-end instruments.
Clearly, the most obvious problem was a broken and rudely repaired dowel stick.
Looks like a bit of poplar cut generally to shape and secured with a sizeable wood screw.

I took a bit of maple and matched the grain, orientation and shape as best I could and secured it with wooden pegs.  The larger peg functions to plug the old screw hole as well.  There are 2 smaller pegs on the back side of the dowel stick - I am confident that the patch is as strong as the original stick.  I rubbed on a little amber stain and a thin coat of shellac to resemble the original finish without trying to hide the repair.
Other work included regluing the fingerboard extension that had come partially elevated from the neck and re-setting the dowel stick to lower the action a little.

It had a nice Joseph E. Rogers, Jr. skin head but it could not be salvaged.  The Rogers head itself was a replacement that had been incorrectly installed and trimmed too closely to be reused.  I decided to try a 12" Remo Fiberskyn head that I had on hand.
The tailpiece is almost certainly not original, being an inexpensive one (reading "BELL BRAND, Patented, NMS Co., Inc.).  I decided to clean and reinstall it.
The bridge was a poorly fitted tenor model, so I replaced it with a 5/8" Stew-Mac compensated bridge. 

The peghead required only cleaning.
Similarly, these nice Champion tuners just needed cleaning.  I can't say if they are original but they were certainly available since the late 1880s. These are stamped "PAT. MAY 8, 88".
The original nut had been lost and inartfully replaced with a radiused one, probably made for a violin.
I made a new nut out of ebony and also made a new ebony pip.  The 5th string peg was missing so I fitted a newer one with a reasonably well-matched button.
All together now.  All 24 hooks, nuts, hex brackets, washers, and screws are matching originals.  The hooks, nuts, brackets, and tension hoop are all brass.
The strings are light nylon Clawhammer Cannonballs, presently tuned to open B.