Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Tony Thomas
  • North Miami Beach, FL
  • United States
  • since 1998
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Tony Thomas's Discussions

On Picayune Butler, T. A. Brown, George Nichols, T. D, Rice and “Jim Crow”

Started Jan 24 0 Replies

About 7 years ago, prodded by a contract from Oxford University Press and Harvard's  African American biography database,  I set out to write up what i thought was the simple easy to get information…Continue

Tags: Jim Crow, Rice, TD, banjo, Black

The Clipper now online in searchable downloadable

Started May 27, 2015 0 Replies

I thought researchers of the banjo and popular entertainment in NYC in particular will happy to know that the University of Illinois' Digitial Newspaper collection has placed all issues of The…Continue

Picayune Butler gourd banjos and Phil Rice

Started Aug 19, 2014 0 Replies

I am raising here in this community several direct research related issues on the pursuit of the various individuals using the title Picayune Butler.  I am not interested in unsupported conjecture,…Continue

The hard truths about Picayune Butler

Started this discussion. Last reply by Bob Sayers Jul 8, 2015. 78 Replies

I have been doing a heck of a lot of work on the Picayune Butler issue for the presentation I will give in November at the Banjo Gathering,  once known as the banjo collectors gathering,  in…Continue

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Tony Thomas posted a discussion

On Picayune Butler, T. A. Brown, George Nichols, T. D, Rice and “Jim Crow”

About 7 years ago, prodded by a contract from Oxford University Press and Harvard's  African American biography database,  I set out to write up what i thought was the simple easy to get information about Picayune Butler, who I assumed was a historic Black Banjoist who played some role in minstrelsy, and had something to do with the song "Jim Crow".   The research I did led me to understand that most things written to that point were simply and completely wrong, as well as how the world of…See More
Jan 24
Tony Thomas and Byron Thomas are now friends
Jan 24
Tony Thomas replied to Al Smitley's discussion History of the banjo presentation
"Don't forget Bollman and Guara's America's instrument which provides the history of the banjo in regard to the construction of banjos over the 19th and early 20th century. Again, as someone who does this regularly on all levels from…"
Jan 24
Tony Thomas replied to Al Smitley's discussion History of the banjo presentation
"Carlin's book is useful for what it contains, Cece's work from nearly 30 years ago on banjo orings is completely supercede by the materials in Laurent Dubois's The Banjo: America's African Instrument and more directly by Banjo…"
Jan 24

Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
countless web visits
How long have you played banjo?
since 1998
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
a tubaphone clone, a 1894 Electric, a goldtone whyte lady, a kevin enoch tradesman, a no name fretless, a goodtime rb

Comment Wall (1 comment)

At 9:32pm on July 3, 2013, Bob Sayers said…

I'm going to add my last two cents here, since it seems like Tony is getting advice from lots of well-meaning people, both offline and on.  And I don't want to add to the confusion.  

In looking for the "original" Picayune Butler, I personally would begin by searching digital newspaper sites, concentrating on the period of the 1820s and 1830s.  My favorite newspaper sites are NewspaperArchive.com; GenealogyBank.com; and the British Library digital newspaper site.  My agency and the Library of Congress have co-developed their own beta website for historical newspapers; but I find it hard to use at this point compared with the others.  

After sifting through the early newspapers, I would move on to diaries and memoirs from New Orleans that were either written during the 1820s and 1830s or, like the Robert Buchanan account, refer back to this place and time.  

By the 1840s, everything gets a lot more complicated and a lot murkier.  There are lots of newspaper references to "PIcayune Butler" during this period, but they invariably refer to a popular minstrel song, not to a real person.  However, as you point out, an entertainer in the New York area in the late 1850s was calling himself "Picayune Butler."  I looked at some of the ads for this guy and I'm pretty certain he was a white guy in blackface.    

So I would concentrate on the earlier period,  before the song became popular.  Robert Buchanan (I would find out who he is) in the 1869 Cincinnati newspaper talks about the growing popularity of the word "picayune" in New Orleans early in the century.  He also associates his early banjo player Picayune Butler with flatboatmen.  So these are also leads that I would pursue.    

So that's about it.  If I didn't have my own big newspaper research project (on Japanese entertainers in America in the 1860s and 1870s), I might be tempted to look a little more deeply into Picayune Butler myself.

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