...was an enthusiastic banjo player in Boston, Mass. who was making the occasional banjo for his friends from about 1875. In 1880 he and William E Cole formed a partnership, and trading under the name of Fairbanks & Cole established a workshop in Beach Street, Boston “to manufacture banjos, mandolins and guitars”. With Frank Cole (younger brother of William) in charge of production the firm flourished.
On December 30th 1890 they patented a banjo with a tone ring which they called their “Special Electric Model”. In 1903 this model was redesigned to begin its worldwide fame as the “ Whyte Laydie” banjo.
In 1892 AC Fairbanks, having lost interest in banjo making, gave up control of the firm to exploit his invention of the wooden rim for bicycles, forming the AC Fairbanks Wood Rim Co. The Cole brothers also left to form their own banjo making company.
The financial control of Fairbanks & Cole was acquired my Messrs Dodge & Cummings who changed the title to AC Fairbanks & Co Inc. and put David L Day (subsequently to be associated with the Bacon Banjo Co.) in charge of product ion at the firms new premises at 786 Washington Street.
In 1895 the firm patented a tubular tone ting for the banjo which they called the “tu-ba-phone” and on1st September 1909 this was incorporated in an instrument they called the “tu-ba-phone banjo” although by this time they were under the control of the Vega Company.
Early in the 1900 the Fairbanks Company had made a second grade banjo called the “Star” which had a five pointed star on the peg head.
In 1904 the Washington Street premises were burned to the ground and the trading name and salvaged plant were taken over by the Vega Company and incorporated in their Sudbury Street Factory. For a time both the Fairbanks and Vega company names were used in advertising , at the same, Sudbury address.
Prior to 1904 The Vega Company had not made banjos. Acquiring the Fairbanks plant, they continued the production of “Fairbanks “instruments and in addition launched the Vega banjo – both ranges of instruments being made in the same workshops and in fact being identical except for the name.
For eighteen years both “Fairbanks” and “Vega” banjos were made in the Sudbury Street works nad David L Day was then the salesman for the two-in-one firm. He travelled the whole of the USA selling their products. He left the company on 18th September 1922 to become the Vice President of the Bacon Banjo Company Inc. of Groton, Conn, At this time the Fairbanks name was finally dropped by Vega.
Note: The double spun pot on this 1895 5 string gut strung.
Pictures of Electric courtesy of Steve Prior.
Hank Schwartz site on the history of Fairbanks