The style 1, priced at $50, was a mainstay of Gibson’s lower-priced non-Mastertone line of the 1930s. Style 1 had nickel-plated hardware and a dark-finished maple neck and resonator, with white binding on the neck and both edges of the resonator; the tailpiece was an inexpensive type referred to in Gibson catalogs as the “Grover first model”. The fiddle-shaped peghead was retained on the style 1 even though the Mastertone models had by this time gone to the double-cut peghead shape. The rosewood fingerboard was normally inlaid with a fleur-de-lis inlay pattern which is also known by such varying names as “bats” and “flying birds”.
#157-22 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) is a catalog-standard TB-1 of the period and was originally owned by Marian Lauber (June 1917–January 1979) of Syracuse, New York, who is pictured above at the age of fifteen playing the banjo with her friend Edna Eichelberger (November 1916–December 1993). The date of 1932 on these photographs is a valuable corroboration of the revised production chronology being established by Joe Spann’s ongoing research. For many years it has been believed that a banjo with a lot number in the 100s would date to around 1935 or 1936, but examination of Gibson’s prewar shipping ledgers and other period documentation is making it clear that the long-accepted dating framework for Gibson banjos of the 1930s has been off by several years.
Miss Lauber’s married name was Ours and she lived her entire life in Syracuse. Her son gives us more information:
“Her mom was a widow (mom’s father died when she was twelve years old). Because they didn’t have much money, I never knew how they could afford a banjo for her. Maybe it was given to her by a friend. Just another thing I could have asked her but never did. I do know that she loved to play and even played once in a while with other people at different gatherings. She must have been pretty good, because I remember her telling me that she either was invited to audition for or join the group “Red Nichols and His Five Pennies“. I don’t know where or when this took place. I know mom spent a couple summers working in Newport, Rhode Island as a waitress before the war. She stayed with her half-sister who lived there with her husband. Maybe this is where she saw Red Nichols. Her mother squelched that idea in a hurry. I was told it was a time of some family disagreement. Her mom did not want her traveling as a teenager with a musical group. Now that I’m at the age I’m at, I can agree! She worked at the L.C. Smith typewriter factory in Syracuse. . . like so many others at that time, because of financial problems, she had to quit school to help her family get by. I can remember her playing when I was a young child, but not often. The banjo spent the last fifty or sixty years in what I think is the original case.”
Photos courtesy of Jerry Ours.