Just got this old banjo on eBay. It was listed as homemade or folk art, which is why there were no serious bidders.
I think it is an 1870s H.C. Dobson, before he went to the more conventional design in the 1880s.
Any thoughts, pro or con about that I.D.? Haven't taken it apart yet, so don't know if it says Dobson inside the pot.
With the generous help of Eric Prust, in Sequim, WA, and a beautiful tailpiece from Joel Hooks, the old minstrel banjo is playable! Wonderful, deep sound! Playing it with nylgut strings tuned down low.
Thanks to everyone for their positive feedback!