Slingerland was one of the largest manufacturers of banjo ukuleles. Most of them were plain, modestly priced instruments, although they also made some fancy ones. The company was established in Chicago by Henry Heanon (or Heanon Henry, as the name is given in some accounts) during the teens. Information regarding Slingerland's activities during that time is sketchy and I have not been able to determine the exact year he went in business. However, it is known that during the teens he was associated with the Chicago Correspondence School of Music, a company he eventually acquired. A large two-sided flier advertising the school and instruments is illustrated herein; see the link below.
Slingerland is best known to collectors of banjo ukuleles as the maker of the May Bell line of instruments (the company also made regular banjos, banjo mandolins, guitars, and mandolins under that name). The banjo ukes are readily found today, and most models may be purchased for modest sums. I have seen one with a green finish and an oval printed label on the back of the peghead reading PEABODY PIANO CO. MUSICAL MERCHANDIS & RADIO, 489 N. HOWARD ST., BALTIMORE, MD. I'm sure they exist with other retailers' names.
In the 1920s Slingerland, a well established name in the musical instrument business, started manufacturing drums, and the firm's name was eventually changed from Slingerland Banjo Company to Slingerland Banjo and Drum Company. During the 1930s there was yet another name change, this time to The Slingerland Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company.
Today the Slingerland name is owned by the Gibson Company, and drums are still manufactured under that name.
CLICK HERE to see three typical May Bell banjo ukes
CLICK HERE to see an unusual May Bell banjo uke with celluloid peghead and reaonator
CLICK HERE to see a May Bell banjo uke that is fancier than those usually encountered
CLICK HERE to see a fancy Slingerland Special
CLICK HERE to see an advertising broadside for the Chicago Correspondence School of Music
Also see the fancy Premier/May Bell banjo made by Liberty which is pictured elsewhere on this site.
A 1920s advertisement for Slingerland banjos and banjo ukuleles.
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