A little piece of history
19 fret tenor banjo from 1920’s made by the Puntolillo Company, New York, and later in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Around 1924 Puntolillo began building S. S. Stewart branded banjos and did so for several years, the Stewart Wondertone models are Puntolillo products. Before the big 20’s tenor banjo boom he was making open back 17 fret models under the names The Bell and Princess and they had a different tone ring design than Puntolillo’s later 1920’s 19 fret tenor banjos. In the 20’s, of course, he had his own Majestic line and also produced banjos named Regina and Symphony. I suspect his instruments were an inspiration for the Clifford Essex Paragon as some models have the same vertical holes through the rim.
Its archtop tonering patent was issued in 1920 to Gaetano F. Puntolillo and it is this which gives this instrument its unique tonal qualities. I would put this banjo on a power with most professional level banjos, it has a sweet sustain with bass resonance and a rich soft tone. His work is more creative, even fanciful, than many builders of his period. People have asked me from time to time to recommend a good quality tenor banjo and of course this could open a never ending dabate. Of lately I have been setting up, servicing and restoring quite a few of the Majestic brand banjos for customers and they are truly individually, little understated treasures. If Puntolillo was alive today I would market his instruments, I have two for sale at present.
Archtop tone ring in select walnut wood construction. Incredible condition for an early 1920’s vintage instrument which has been cared for over the decades in its original case, which is also in great condition.The five piece neck is constructed from walnut with double centre maple strips, and cream binding along the ebony fret board, which is perfectly straight with nice low playing action. The position markers have nice bird shaped mother of pearl inlays and there is little wear to the original vintage frets. The head stock is very tastefully decorated in beautiful mother of pearl floral inlay bearing the Majestic name. The side walls of the stock head is horizontally multi-laminated in ebony, maple highlighted with a nice white binding edge. The Waverly geared tuners are all working perfectly with white pearloid buttons and resemble the identical type fitted to Clifford Essex Paragon.
The rim construction is 3/4 inch thick maple multiply laminate with outer walnut veneer, housing the 20 circular shoes, hooks & nuts which remarkably resemble the Bacon & Day type. This lends me to think that Puntolillo bought various parts from Fred Bacon’s banjo company. The nickel plated one piece flange wraps around the top of the rim where the thick tone ring is seated. The neck is attached to the rim by a centre 1/2″ circular bar. The construction of the multiply resonator is beautiful, with the inner part in birds eye maple and walnut to the outer part. There are 3 multi-checkered circles on the back with centred checked strip. The resonator side walls also have the same matching checkered purfling which shows no expense spared in the build of this banjo. The banjo is currently fitted with a thick fibre skin head although I will be fitting it soon with a clear head. Other great features are the original Waverly Kershner tail piece and arm rest which is attached to the tension rim. Woodwork and nickel plating throughout is in excellent condition and comes with original hardshell case.