Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

There was a brief discussion about female minstrel players back in 2011:

but the thrust of the discussion was on names for banjos.  Female minstrel players have been a subject of interest to me for a couple of years.  

I thought I would share the things I have been able to find so far, hoping everyone else might have more to add



Clearer image of their poster


Different version of their image

There seems to be a published collection of the Female American Serenaders' music, but it is unavailable


Buffalo Gals  (scroll down to p 6)


Blackfaced women (playing tambourine) in mixed sex company


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Some of the links were not working - I think they are all good now.  

Interesting research!

You know I want one of their dresses.......

You have a description, with enough leeway to suit your own style.

It kind of fascinates me that there are several books written about the relatively uncommon female Civil War soldiers, either fighting as females or in disguise as men.  Yet...so little info about female minstrel performers, despite the fact that minstrel shows were in front of multiple audiences and locations, and were illustrated and advertised to the public... ?   Yet abundant female circus performers, singers, and actresses were all pretty well documented.  Were there really so few women minstrel performers and musicians?   If so, why?

That fascinates me too, Lisa. 

If we found pix of women minstrel show performers that were not dressed in the usual hoop skirt CW dress, ...but rather in stage costumes such as harlequins, gypsies, beggars, etc...that would open up some welcome options for dressing in period.  As I understand it, minstrel shows also included a variety of stage productions, skits, parts of plays, and parodies aside from the typical blackface 'minstel line' musical numbers.

The images I posted show ballet costume (to the knee, full, fluffy skirts).  Of course, one would not wear that off the stage while socializing.

That troupe of ladies was questioned in the account as to whether they were actually men dressed as women...?

They are all in blackface, as 'Ethiopians'.  Wondering if they really were women, and also if any women minstrel performers were performing not in blackface.

Lisa that question reminded me of this 


Wes, here they are in live 'biscuit' action- what fun!  Check out the good ol galloping banjo pickin' style...   :D



Elaine here's a link with a few more references on it , I haven't had time to look at all of them, but itlooks promising.

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