Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

While researching historic children's toys for a workshop I am teaching I found this link to a pdf copy of Hooley's Opera House Songster, (I know, it has NOTHING to do with toys. I'm just very distractable)


Of equal interest to the songs is the number of pages in the back listing songs contained in other songsters.

Mr. Hooley was born in Ireland and raised in England. In 1844 he visited America and entered into a business agreement with E.P. Christy to help manage a minstrel troop. He then formed his own troop, and later opened Niblo's Garden in NY, where he hired Christy as manager, forming the Hooley & Campbell Minstrels. In 1862 he built an opera house in Brooklyn, which was noted to be the only minstrel show open nightly in Brooklyn. He built a larger, very sucessful opera house in Brooklyn as well. In 1865, Hooley's Minstrels played Christy's in baseball, with Christy's winning. In 1867 he moved to Chicago and built Hooley's Opera House, which was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1871. He died in Chicago in 1893.


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This is one of the coolest ways I've seen to view a book on the internet.
From "Monarchs of Minstrelsy" by Edw. Le Roy Rice

Page #38 "R. M. Hooley was associated with all that was best in minstrelsy. He came to America in 1844, and on August 17, the following year, he played his first engagement in Buffalo, N.Y., as "leader" of E. P. Christy's Minstrels; he remained with Christy for two years.

About 1851 he organized his own company. and took same to Europe. where he played Paris, Boulogne, Brussels and other Continental cities. During the 50's he was associated in the management of Miguire's Minstrels in California, and in 1858 was proprietor with Maguire of George Christy's Minstrels in San Francisco.

Returning to New York in 1859, he soon separated from Christy, and on Feb 6, 1860, in co-partnership with Sher. Campbell and G. W. H. Griffin, organized Hooley and Campbell's Minstrels; this company disbanded in July, 1861, and the following year Mr. Hooley opened his famous minstrel hall in Brooklyn, where he continued for several years.

During the above period Hooley had a company in Philadelphia at the old Seventh Street Theater, from September 7 to October 17, 1868.

October 19, 1868, he opened another minstrel show in Brooklyn, at the Odeon, the present site of the Novelty Theater.

The home of the original Hooley Company was destroyed by fire May 12, 1865, and the same month the energetic manager opened at 201 Bowery, New York, the present site of the People's Theater. January 2, 1871, Mr. Hooley opened Bryan Hall, the present Grand Opera House in Chicago, and remained several months.

The big fire of October, 1871, having destroyed his theater, Mr. Hooley thereupon built what is now known as Power's Theater, Chicago, which he opened with his company in 1872, and flourished about three years, when he returned to his old love in Brooklyn, and began an engagement in 1875.

In the Spring of 1876 in conjunction with Billy Rice, he formed Rice and Hooley's Minstrels for a road tour; December, 1876, they opened at Hooley's old Opera House in Brooklyn for a limited engagement.Mr. Hooley again went to Chicago, and on March 1, 1880, opened with a minstrel company at the Novelty Theater.

In September, 1882 he associated with Rice; and Billy Rice and Hooley's Minstrels opened in Joliet, Ill., but disbanded after a few months.

Mr. Hooley married Miss Rosina Cramer of New York, in San Francisco about 1856 after a brief but romantic courtship.

R. M. Hooley was born in Ballina, Ireland, April 13, 1822; he died in Chicago, Ill., September 8, 1893.


From "Gold Rush Performers" by Helene Wickham Koon

Hooley, Ray M - "celebrated violin and concertina performer." - "comedy and musical ability "cannot be excelled"; toured mines, 1857-1858, Christy's Minstrels."

Chris Ownby

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