The style 1 of the 1930s was a non-Mastertone model and therefore had no true tone ring, but otherwise it featured the same basic construction as the higher-priced Mastertone models, with a three-ply maple rim and one-piece flange. The fiddle-shaped peghead that had been used on the Masterones of the 1920s was retained on the style 1, although with a minor modification; the small indentations under the first- and fourth-string tuners of the 1920s banjos were absent on the style 1 peghead. This example, a rare original five-string dating to circa 1939, features the “fleur-de-lis” inlay pattern that, at least in catalog illustrations, had been discontinued by that time in favor of simple dot inlays. The serial number is stamped on the back of the peghead as was standard Gibson practice by this time; the letter prefix “E” indicates a production date of 1939.
#EA-5078 was shipped on August 4, 1939 to the C.B. Ellis Music Company of Burlington, North Carolina. Its original owner was Gus Tingen of Burlington who, according to his granddaughter, played the banjo for many years with a band in the area.
Photos courtesy of the family of Gus Tingen.