Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

In keeping with the season, I thought I would post some images I just found.  They are from the German fashion magazine, Der Bazar, from Jan 1862.  The article was on Christmas in the United States, and regretfully, I didn't copy the text.  I should also comment that it is not my magazine.

The engraving I have posted is titled "Christmas celebration of Negro slaves in the Southern United States."  There are many interesting details in the engraving, and I'll leave most of them up to you.  John has noted that he believes the banjo is a gourd (it's oval).  You will note at least 2 white couples have come to watch the celebration.

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Thank you for sharing Elaine. I don't think I've seen image before. If you can get the text for us, that'd be great!!
I also posted these in an album, where you will get better resolution on the last 2 images.

Greg Adams said:
Thank you for sharing Elaine. I don't think I've seen image before. If you can get the text for us, that'd be great!!

That's one of the things that got me so excited about this engraving - I didn't think anyone had seen this before!
I would say that the apparent ovality is a function of the perspective...the banjo isn't shown straight on, it is tilted (and thus shown as an ellipse). To me, it looks like a std. hoop banjo...although quite short scale. I've seen this cut before...but I can't recall where.

Awesome image! If you get a hold of the text, I'd be glad to translate it into English!

Yes, unreliable at best. However, from an engineering perspective (and yes, I have many engineering perspective drawings under my belt) I would say that from looking at how the pegs and the rim of the banjo are depicted, it is tilted back longitudinally (like mine are when I'm sitting playing...and the player appears as portly as I am too) and thus a horizontal ellipse rather than a vertical one. If the hands were markedly different in size (as if the neck was further from the viewer than the pot), I would agree.


Macht nichts, great picture.

Dan'l said:

        I agree with  John on the gourd banjo, also because it doesn't look to be held flat against the chest but held the thickness of a gourd away.  I don't think the oval appearance is due to perspective (my degree in art is useful!), as it would instead be a vertical oval in that case, as depicted from the perspective of the artist standing at ground level in front of the scene.

        Of course this is not a photo but a drawing so may not be enough to draw such conclusions reliably.


Or - (speaking as someone who just steamed and bent  his first banjo pot) - "It just may not be round".


The banjo pot in question is now attached to a neck and will be ready for strings tomorrow. It's another tackhead - prettier than my grain measure - hope it sounds as good. I'll post a video once I get it working.

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