A Summary of Bacon Serial Numbers

by Ed Britt
Copyright © 2003 All rights reserved.

(From my forthcoming, yet-to-be written, magnum-opus - David L. Day, and the Transitional Bacon Banjos)

Editor's note: There was never a "Bacon & Day Company" nor for that matter a "B & D Banjo Company." It was always called the Fred Bacon Manufacturing Company, or the Bacon Banjo Company, or some variant thereof. The "D" of "B&D" was in fact David L. Day, but his name was never part of the company name. While the bulk of the information contained here is from Ed Britt, I have added a few things, and responsibility for errors is mine. MIH

The "Bacon" and the "B&D" models were numbered consecutively - from Bacon's start in 1906 (#1) to it's sale to Gretsch in 1939/40 (approx. #35,xxx).

1906 - 1920The early Bacon banjos, made from 1906 to 1920 were produced for Fred Bacon by several makers, including: Fairbanks-Vega, Wm Lange (Orpheum), and Fred's own workshop - in Forrest Dale, Vt.
1913Earliest reference to Forrest Dale, VT address in catalog. Actual maker at that time is still unknown, although later banjos were probably made or assembled there.
1920 - 1940Serial numbers were at approximately #5xxx - when the Groton, Connecticut works were started in April, 1920.
1920Bacon announced 2 arched top, carved mandolins.
1922David L. Day left Vega and joined the Bacon Banjo Company.
1923Serial numbers were approximately #9xxx - when the Silver Bell was introduced.
1930Ads for the new Sultana model appear stating "available in March."
1931Serial numbers were approximately #29,xxx - when the "new generation" Symphonie, Sultana, and Senorita were introduced.
1938Serial numbers were approximately #35,xxx - when the famous Hurricane of 1938 (Sept), closed the Groton works.
1938 - 1940At first, The Bacon Company contracted with Gretsch to produce banjos for them. There are some transitional instruments made by Gretsch - from late 1938 to early 1940 (probably from existing stock) - which carry Bacon serial numbers, and Bacon stamps.
1940Gretsch purchased the Bacon Banjo Company in early 1940.
1940 - 1965Sometime around 1939 -1940, Gretsch apparently restarted their OWN serial numbers at #1 - on guitars, at least. It's unclear whether the Bacon/B&D banjos were included in this renumbering scheme, at this particular time.
1939/40 - 1965From 1939/40 (#1 - or #001?) to 1965 (approx. #84xxx) Gretsch supposedly numbered all guitars consecutively. My observations suggest that at some point - in the early 1940's - the Bacon banjos also began to conformed to this scheme.
1950s/60sDuring the "Folk Boom", Gretsch produced a line of 5 string, open back banjos with both regular and extra-long necks. These all had black plastic laminate peghead overlays with "Bacon" in outlined, block letters and a small, metal plate engraved "Bacon Folk Model" tacked below it. These appear to have their own serial numberig scheme.
1964/65 - 1970From around 1964/65 to 1972, Gretsch used a different serial format showing, Month/Year/Production Number (3-4 digits), stamped as follows:
MYNNN or MYNNNN - (Month = 1-9 - with 3 or 4-digit production number)
MMYNNN or MMYNNNN - (Month =10,11,12 - with 3 or 4-digit production number)
(It's unclear whether the 3-4 digit "production number" is the total production for the Month - or for the Year.)
  • # 31197 would have been made: March, 1971 #197
  • BUT... #121197 could be made in either: Dec, 1971 #197 - OR: Jan, 1972 #1197
1966-67Gretsch stopped active production of Bacon and B&D banjos, around 1966-67 when Baldwin (Gretsch's parent company, at that time) bought the ODE Company. However, some Bacon/B&D stock was still seen on 1970 price lists.
ProblemsDue to the various renumbering schemes, there are many Gretsch-made "Bacons" and "B&D's"- with 3-digit, 4-digit, and 5-digit serial numbers - which are often mistakenly identified as being made anywhere from 1910 to 1940. For example:
  • #297 could have been made around 1908, or in the early 1940's
  • # 2197 could have been made around 1913, the late 1940's, or Feb, 1971 #97
  • # 31197 could have been made in the early 1930's, 1960, or March, 1971 #197

It's fairly easy to tell a 1910 Bacon Professional, from a 1940's celluloid covered banjo - due to obvious stylistic differences. But it can be very difficult to tell apart some Groton-made Bacons, and B&D's, of the 1930's - from the later, Gretsch-made ones - because the models and certain stylistic details carried over into the Gretsch period. For example, there are some LATE Gretsch-made "Senorita" banjos with numbers in the 3X,XXX range - which were ACTUALLY made in the 1950's and early 1960's - but the serial number also suggests it might be a depression-era, Groton-made "Senorita".

It requires a broad knowledge of the various models, and stylistic details of each period to tell them all apart. (Although, in general - the quality of the Groton-made banjos, is MUCH higher than the Gretsch-made ones.)

Ed Britt

Gretsch Guitar serial numbers
Gretsch Guitars