Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I have been re-reading The Dubliners by James Joyce - the first time was 30 years ago (getting old!). Anyway, the last story in this collection of short stories is called The Dead. To cut a short story even shorter, some friends are at a party discussing the weather. One lady laughs at her husband for asking her to wear galoshes - coverings for over boots in partricularly inclement weather - and another says the word is funny and reminds her of Christie's Minstrels. This was published in 1914 - they clearly made quite an impression. I think the laughter was due to galoshes, being oversized shoes, is a reference to the clown-like attire of the minstrels. Just thought I'd mention it...

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early banjo & James Joyce.....got my attention!
In Simcoe, (a small town near where I grew up in darkest southwestern Ontario) the Lion's Club presented an annual Minstrel Show - in blackface - until 1992!!!!! To be fair to the town, everyone had been telling them not to for years and they have since changed it to a variety show. I never actually saw one. Simcoe was pretty much a monochromatic community for most of those years. (Although that's no excuse)
Even during the last 20 years, as a curator in small community museums (and a musician) I have been dragged into countless rural church basements and witnessed amateur seniors' performances that included "party pieces" learned in the 1930s but using material that I have seen referenced on 19th century playbills. One memorable night included a recitation called "The Irish Letter". This a set piece that goes way back and consists of someone back in the auld sod reading aloud a letter from a recent emigre to America. It ends with the line "I was going to send youse ten dollars but I had the envelope sealed up before I thought of it". I later found the whole routine in an 1880 book of comic stage bits. I love unscheduled time travel.

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