Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Any historians who can help me better understand the Wide Awakes?

I know that the Wide Awakes in the mid-1850s were nativists, loosely associated with the Know Nothings.  What about the Wide Awakes of 1860 who rallied for Lincoln's presidential campaign.  Were they the same as the Wide Awakes of the mid-1850s, did they evolve from them, or were they a completely different entity?  I can't seem to get much from US History encyclopedias I have at home or from the internet.

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I have never heard of the "Wide Awakes" but it seems hardly an expression you could use to describe Parliamentarians of all persuasions wherever they may be.

Thanks Wes.  While a nativist stance might not have been their primary goal as the mid-1850s Wide Awakes seem to have been, their stated beliefs include, "...in protecting our laboring men against European pauper competition....".  I presume that in 1884 (the pub.date) that statement referred to restricting immigration rather than outsourcing.

Thanks, Dan'l.  I found one in images at 3538 x 2962.  If you have a higher res. version, please send it to my email.

Last week I visited the Newseum in Washington DC for the first time and among their exhibits is a collection of historic newspapers. I was particularly interested in a cartoon of Lincoln with a banjo and, in trying to find a bit more information on that, came across this site which has some bearing on this discussion.


Well, at least they were not rare on a well known minstrel's banjo-- one that played with Tom Briggs, Eph Horn and… Frank Converse...

Dan'l said:

BTW, notice the frets or fret markings on the banjo depicted in this 1863-published image. Perhaps that's an indication that it wasn't so rare after all to see a fretted banjo used by CW period Minstrels.


That's very interesting, guess we know who modeled for old Abe there...

Wes Merchant said:

That's very interesting, guess we know who modeled for old Abe there... here's the image I was looking for I snapped a photo but couldn't find a better quality image on line

Wes, here are some better images of it:



P.S. I like that motto they have on the bottom...

Laff and grow Phat... 

Thanks Strumelia, those are much better images.

Putting it plainly, as I have read and see it, Wide Awakes by 1860 were a political club - antislavery, Republican party ralliers.  Here's a great piece I came across:  Hartford, CT Wide Awakes


Another good read with some great images, including the one below which I consider the embodiment of "what a Wide Awaker looked like" while campaigning etc.:  Journal of American History - Wide Awakes


Thanks Matthew.  I'll read through and see if I can detect a tie to the Wide Awakes of the mid-1850s.

I don't know of the mid-1850s Wide Awakes have taken a stance on slavery.  It seems inconsistent for the 1860s Wide Awakes to be anti-slavery and yet anti-immigration unless purely for labor's sake.  Maybe I'll find out via your posting.

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