"Gentlemen be seated and Ring, Ring de Banjo! "
Banjo History 3By the 1890s the banjo pretty much completes its metamorphosis to its present form. S.S.Stewart in Philadelphia starts mass [Modern Banjo] producing standardized banjos in a true factory environment. He made both plain and fancy models in large numbers and begins marketing them with great success to the general public.
Elaborate tone rings, resonators and sound reflectors allow the banjo to compete in volume with any orchestra instrument, but as the banjo passes through the Rag Time era, the four string tenor banjo begins to eclipse the 5 string in popularity and dominates the jazz era. The 5 string, leaving the orchestra pit, makes a retreat to rural America. There it remains until the dawn of Bluegrass music and that brings us to the present.
It is hard to imagine Bluegrass music without a 5 string banjo. Whether rock, blues, jazz or old time folk music, you can hear the sounds of the banjo as artists make use of its unique voice to color their sound palette.
Though the banjo has never regained the mass popularity it enjoyed in mid-19th Century America, it retains a faithful following in all its forms and today its voice is heard around the world.