Until the 1840s, gourd banjos were the norm for both minstrel and amateur alike. In both the North and the South, gourd banjos were almost exclusively made by the slaves. By the mid-1840s some were being made by turners (wood wrights). Since no one maker ever made more than just a few banjos there was a fair amount of variation in style. There's a lot of room for personal creativity. This is your instrument and you can make it the way you want to.
Below is a Banjo Factory gourd banjo kit ready for shipment.
The wooden shell banjos become increasingly common in the late 1840s and throughout the 1850s. As the banjo gained in popularity, commercial makers used peck measures, steam bent hoops or wooden drum shells.
Many minstrels still used the gourd banjos well into the civil war period for their stage acts. Though not generally the same quality as guitars of the period, the wood shell banjos are more finished or finer in their construction than the gourd banjos.
Please refer to the photo gallery for examples.