Gibson’s 1927 banjo catalog described the PB-1 as “worthy of every confidence, priced for every purpose and guaranteed by Gibson.” The PB, or plectrum banjo, is a four-string banjo with the same scale length and tuning as a five-string; it allows for chord melody playing without a fifth string to get in the way. This example dates to 1928 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) and features typical style 1 appointments for the period including bracket-shoe rim construction, a flange plate with hexagonal holes, straight-grained maple with a uniform dark finish, dot inlays, and a silkscreened “The Gibson” peghead logo. A brass hoop sitting on top of the rim serves as a rudimentary tone ring.
The original owner of #8973-3 was Anton Smith (1903-1982), a native of Dunn County, Wisconsin. Mr. Smith’s son reports that his father bought the banjo used during the Great Depression and “played at house parties, barn dances and street dances.” Mr. Smith’s banjo remains in excellent original condition and is accompanied by its factory-supplied, flannel-lined #509 case made by Geib and Schaefer.
Photos courtesy of the family of Anton Smith.