The form of entertainment that brought the banjo to the attention of the masses also represents a shameful exposition of overt racism in American popular culture.
Despite this stigma, the banjo became driving force in one of America's first mass-cultural phenomena: the minstrel show.
Ultimately two types of four string banjos emerged in the jazz period, plectrum and tenor banjos.
Tenor banjos and plectrum banjos became standard instruments in jazz ensembles and remained popular until they were supplanted by the electric guitar.
The features that made the banjo ideal for minstrel music became liabilities when attempting the complex chord structures of jazz.
Gibson sold four-string banjos and every other sort of banjo hybrid instrument but did not produce five-string banjos for the first several years of production.
By the late nineteenth century the banjo had become a popular parlor instrument.
The banjo of the minstrel stage featured a range of head diameters, generally of 12 to 13 inches and five gut strings, one of which was a short-scale drone string, and a fretless neck.
Another banjo maker of note was British-born guitar maker James Ashborn whose Connecticut factory produced banjos in the late 1840s.
The first banjo tutors published in response to the popularity of minstrelsy.
Many of his banjos featured an elegant scroll peghead and decorative profiling of the drone-string side of the neck.
The popularity of the banjo as a parlor instrument fell into decline.
The banjo depicted has four strings, one of which is affixed to a tuning peg at the side of the neck.
The defining characteristic of the banjo is the use of a stretched membrane, originally an animal skin, to amplify the vibration of its strings.
Monroe favored having a banjo in the ensemble, but even the talented Akeman could not keep pace with Monroe's pyrotechnic mandolin playing.
In 1749, the Pennsylvania Gazette carried a notice regarding a runaway slave named Scipio which, by way of description states that he "plays the banjo."
Four-string banjos were developed to respond to the popularity of jazz music in the early 1900s.
The earliest documentation of banjo-type instruments is found in writings of seventeenth-century travelers to Africa and the Americas.
The overwhelming popularity of the minstrel show created a new class of professional banjoists and a demand for high-quality instruments.
Ashborn is also credited with producing some of the first banjos featuring fretted necks.
By the 1840s gourd-bodied banjos had generally given way to construction of a drum-like sound chamber.
The banjo is a stringed instrument of African origin.
The Gibson Company is also responsible for the invention of the truss rod, which, when embedded in a banjo neck, counteracts string tension and allows for necks of thinner construction.
New configurations of the banjo were invented to meet this new musical challenge.
Plectrum banjos are similar to five-string banjos of the late minstrel period, but without the short-scale drone string.
A survey of modern banjo playing would not be complete without mention of the influence of Bela Fleck.
Notable among these was banjoist Doc Boggs who employed eccentric banjo tunings and a blues influenced finger style.
The predominant style of banjo playing in these recordings was essentially the minstrel “knock down” style, though early three-finger picking styles also were recorded.
Popularity of the mandolin was concurrent with the banjo’s popularity in the latter nineteenth century.
To meet the new demand, furniture makers, drum makers, guitar manufacturers, and others got into the business of making banjos.
The availability of metal strings also gave the banjo more volume and facilitated this transformation.
Tenor banjos are an outgrowth of the mandolin banjo, featuring a scale length somewhat shorter than the plectrum banjo and strings tuned in intervals of fifths.
Buckley's New Banjo Method published in 1860 offered the players instruction in “classical” banjo.
The sort of banjo Scipio may have played is documented in a watercolor entitled "The Old Plantation" probably painted between 1790 and 1800.
Gibson was the preeminent mandolin manufacturing company of its day and began marketing banjos for the jazz market in 1918.
Keith played with Monroe's Bluegrass Boys and Monroe noted with satisfaction that Keith had accomplished what he suspected the banjo was capable of.
A new constitution, adopted in 1996, turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic, and established a stable political system.
Fithian’s apparent chagrin at this scene is amplified by the writings of a contemporary, the Reverend Jonathan Boucher who described the banjo as "in use, chiefly, if not entirely, among people of the lower classes."
One such tutor is Briggs Banjo Instructor published in 1855.
Banjo-mandolin hybrids emerged, resulting ultimately in banjos suitable to jazz playing.
The decline of popularity of the five-string banjo is evident from the history of the Gibson Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The method for the right hand described in Briggs’ tutor likely represents an unbroken tradition from the early banjo of the plantation to his day.
Banjo manufacturers, eager to supply this market began to produce ornate instruments of more delicate proportions that included ebony fingerboards with engraved mother of pearl and necks with carved floral patterns.
The composition features a banjo player accompanying several dancers in front of the slave quarters of a plantation.
The cultural history of the banjo and its place in the history of American race relations may well be the most profound from among all musical instruments.
From the end of the minstrel period to the advent of the recording industry, five-string banjo traditions were kept alive by rural banjo players.