The Old-Time Herald Volume 12, Number 8

Feature
Fred Bacon and the Early Days of the Bacon Banjo Company
By Paul Heller
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Fred Bacon, from a 1901 issue of Cadenza

A century ago, one would have been as likely to find a banjo in the parlor of a Boston Brahman as in an Appalachian cabin. Some of the finest banjos were made in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Forest Dale, Vermont, launched what was to become one of the premier banjo manufacturing facilities in the country, under the command of Frederick J. Bacon.

Bacon’s connection with Vermont spanned four decades and two rural villages. He was a year-round resident of Forest Dale (a village in the town of Brandon), where he started the Bacon Banjo Company in 1906. He later summered in Newfane where, retired from the concert stage, he coached banjo students and dabbled in painting. Both Fred and his first wife, Cassie, passed away in the picturesque village above the Connecticut River.

“The banjo is the greatest of musical instruments when it is played well,” Bacon proclaimed. “In tone quality it is very much like the harp, and its flexibility of playing is unexcelled, for in the hands of a skilled player it is as good for classical music as for dance tunes. It is the only original American instrument, and is coming into its own as the greatest of them all.” His hyperbole notwithstanding, one may surmise his feelings about his favorite musical instrument.

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