When the Gibson company’s survival was threatened in the early 1930s with the onset of the Great Depression, it turned to the production of wooden toys to stay alive until the musical instrument market began to recuperate. One of the toy lines was given the name of the Gibson company’s home town in Michigan–Kalamazoo. A couple of years later, this brand name was applied to a line of low-priced instruments produced by Gibson beginning in 1932.
The banjo pictured here is a Kalamazoo tenor. The pot is the “hook and shoe” type with sixteen brackets and no flange. There is no tone ring. The flat bracket hooks and thin tension hoop are similiar to those used on Gibson’s style 00 banjos. The sunburst finish is also quite similar to the one seen on style 00, although in the case of the Kalamazoo banjo the resonator back is flat rather than arched. The maple resonator is single-bound on the back edge only.
This banjo remains in its original soft case and is accompanied by a bill of sale dated March 7, 1936 showing that the banjo was sold on that day to a Chas. Rush by Irving’s Music Shop, located at 46-48 South New York Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Photos courtesy of Jim Schroth.