Prewar Gibson literature promised that the mandolin-banjo combined “a certain portion of the mandolin sweetness with brilliancy, volume and tone quality of the banjo into one marvelous instrument.” Gibson had heavily promoted mandolin orchestras in its earlier years, and with the increased popularity of banjo ensembles in the 1920s the mandolin-banjo was touted as providing an essential “sweet soprano voice in the banjo band.”
#EG-6334 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a style 00 mandolin-banjo shipped on November 17, 1939 to Nicholson, Ltd., Gibson’s leading Australian dealer with locations in Perth and Fremantle. The shipment to Nicholson had originally been intended to go out two days earlier, but Gibson’s shipping clerk made the notation “not shipped (embargo) hold per I.A.” Four months previously, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration had announced that it would not renew the 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan in response to the Japanese invasion of China, but it is unclear what affect this would have had on shipping from the United States to Australia. The significance of the initials “I.A.” is unknown.
In contrast to MB-00 #E3004-4, the “Charles James Lewis”, shipped to South Africa on May 16, 1941, this example conforms to standard specifications for the MB-00 with a silkscreened white “Gibson” logo and no other ornamentation on the peghead. The serial number #EG-6334 is stamped on the back of the peghead above the tuners; the words “Made in the U.S.A.” just underneath the serial number indicate an instrument intended for export.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous collector.