This 1902 Fairbanks is the earliest Whyte Laydie banjo Gryphon has ever offered, and being a No. 7, it’s one of the fanciest as well. It has all the desirable early features including the scalloped tone ring, the thinner shell with a heavily beveled lower rim, the carved floral design in the heel and the crisply engraved pearl inlays with the iconic "gryphon" design on the back of the headstock. (This inlay has always been a favorite around here.) Fairbanks started building Whyte Laydies in 1901 with serial number 20343 and this example is only 500 numbers later, so it's doubtful we'll ever get an older example.
This example is in excellent structural and cosmetic condition. The neck angle is good and the fretboard is straight and level. The frets only show a little wear and are all tightly seated. It appears the neck was over sprayed at some point, but the finish wasn't heavily applied. The gold tuners with pearl buttons and all the other hardware appears to be original. This Whyte Laydie No. 7 was built before the fire that destroyed the Fairbanks workshop in 1904 so it is likely the pearl engraving was done by Icilio Consalvi, an Italian craftsman who was famous for the quality of his craftsmanship, but it is impossible to say for sure.
The one curiosity is this example does not have the marquetry on the back edge of the rim normally found on No. 7 models. Since the serial number on shell and dowel stick match, this is how it was finished when new, and it's so early that other Whyte Laydie No. 7 examples may have had shells like the plainer No. 2 models as well. (The back edge of the shell is so rounded the later style of marquetry wouldn't have fit). This banjo comes in a circa 1920 hardshell case.