banjo ukulele by dennis taylor
The Lange Banjo Ukulele
William H. Lange was a banjo maker from 1897 until 1939. He bought out an earlier maker and for a while was in business with Rettberg until 1922, thus Rettberg & Lange. He is most famous for his "Paramount" line of banjos, most of which were professional grade Tenors, highly inlaid and decorated, and are highly collectible in the US. In 1897 Messrs. Rettberg & Lange took over the factory and banjo making plant of J.H. Buckbee and established a factory at 383 Second Ave., New York City. By 1903 they had moved to 115/121 East 13th Street and from this address announced the production of the "Orpheum" range of banjos years later, they were able to announce that increasing business had mad them seek even more commodious premises at 225-227 East 24th Street. In January 1915 they advertised their "Brass Band Orpheum" - a new banjo with 29 frets ( to high G). The neck of this instrument was joined to the hoop at the 20th fret, with a finger board extension over the vellum carrying the extra nine frets. July 1918 saw the debut of their "Orpheum Plectrum Banjo", and a new five-string banjo with a long fifth string tuned an octave below the 3rd string. It was in August 1920 that the company was granted a U.S. Patent for its new "Paramount" banjo, and this instrument, (designed by William L. Lange) made its first appearance in 1921. In April 1922, William L. Lange took over sole control of the company and changed the title to Wm. L. Lange. In September of that year he announced (as "
Successor to Rettberg & Lange") six styles of "Paramount" banjos. "Paramount" banjos became world famous, and were much sought after by all the leading dance-band players. The five spacious floors at East 24th Street accommodated over 250 workmen making banjos and included its own plating shop. It was during this period that Wm. D Bowen tested all "Paramount" banjos before leaving the factory. (In November 1922 Lange made what is said to be the worlds largest banjo. It was for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and is said to have cost $500. The instrument weighed 35 ponds, was 5 feet long. The hoop was 24 inches in diameter and the neck 3 feet in length. It could be played!) In the early part of 1925, the Lange factory brought out a cheaper model instrument with the name of "Langestile", and this incorporated a resonator made of metal and mahogany. Such was the demand for this cheaper instrument that it was produced at a second factory located in Brooklyn where instruments (notably " The Challenger" and "Artcraft" range were also made for other manufacturers and retailers to sell. All manufacturing ceased in 1939. This Lange 'Solo' Banjo Ukulele is a well made instrument although the finish is very plain. A solid instrument with an excellent tone. My thanks to Stephen Shelton, North Carolina, USA and John Clough, Vensac, France for this information on the history of the Lange Company.