The mandolin-banjo reached its peak of popularity in the 1920s, but as late as 1942 the Gibson catalog was proclaiming this odd hybrid “a necessity in every banjo band for lead or obbligato–ideal for solo playing”. The tenor, plectrum, and five-string configurations of the sub-Mastertone style 1 had transitioned to a cast-metal one-piece flange in 1929, but mandolin-necked examples retained the “bracket shoe” construction featuring a flange plate with hexagonal holes as seen on earlier sub-Mastertones.
MB-1 #1350-1 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) was originally shipped on September 10, 1935 to Eshelman Music House in St. Joseph, Missouri; it was returned to the factory unsold and shipped again on October 15, 1936 to Polangin Music Shoppe in Farrell, Pennsylvania. This MB–1 was shipped a third and final time on November 20, 1936 to Arthur Eady and Company, Gibson’s prewar dealer in New Zealand.
#1350-1 bears a “Made in U.S.A.” label inside the resonator, as was standard practice for Gibson banjos shipped outside the United States. This instrument remains in New Zealand and has been converted to five-string using the original peghead inlays.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.