While it isn't known who first conceived the idea of a banjo ukulele, John A, Bolander of California was certainly a pioneer in their manufacture. His patent number 1,265,450, titled "Banjo" and dated 11 January 1921 (a revision of patent number 176,775, which was originally filed 25 June 1917), specifies that Bolander's invention, in part, "relates to a resonator shell or reflector secured to the rear side of the instrument body, to throw the sound forward." He goes on to state that "to throw the sound of the instrument forward and minimize the quantity absorbed by the clothes and body of the player, a resonator shell, in the form of a curved plate, is secured to the rear edge of the rim by any suitable means, such as screws, or may be adjustably mounted thereon if desired."
Bolander's patent specifications end by saying " what I claim and desire to secure by Letters Patent of the United States, is the following, to wit:
1. A banjo including a rim, a resonator shell having a rear edge corresponding to the shape of said rim and having an arcuate front edge of a greater radius than said rim, said resonator shell secured to the rear edge of said rim and curved outwardly therefrom forming thereby a free space between said rim and shell for the egress of sound.
2. In combination with the rim of a banjo, a resonator shell having a circular edge portion secured to the rear edge of said rim and a free edge curved outwardly from said rim forming thereby a free space between said rim and shell for the egress of sound.
3. The combination with a banjo head, of a resonator shell having its rear edge closely fitted to the free edge of the rim of said head, and its opposite free edge curved outwardly therefrom for the edges of sound."
Bolander was located in California; the patent papers give his location as Berkeley, but the nameplate on the peghead of the instrument pictured below says San Francisco. It is a plain, inexpensive, banjo uke, with a very interesting partial resonator, as described in the patent papers. Rubber stamped on the back of the resonator is "Pat. Dec. 5, 1916 Others Pending." Stamped on the underside of the head is "BOLANDERS UKULELE BANJO SAN FRANCISCO." The purpose of the hole at the top of the peghead isn't known, but it appears in the illustrations on the patent papers.
An Internet auction offered one of these instruments and commented that "On the inside bottom there is a sticker the advertises "The Fiddle Hospital, J.A. Bolander, prop" and has a phone number of 'Douglas 974'" Obviously building banjo ukes wasn't Bolander's only business.
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