Reproduction 19th Century Tack Head Fretless Banjos

The Banjo Factory

We now arrive at the true position of White’s Serenaders. They organized in 1846 and consisted of C. White, R. White, F. Stanton, W. Smith, H. Neil, and Master Juba. They performed at White’s Melodeon, White’s Varieties, and White’s Opera House, all in the Bowery. They remained here, continually playing, for a space of eleven years—a longer active permanency than ever attained by any similar exhibition; during which time, and at which places, many of the present prominent performers graduated under the favorable auspices of Mr. White’s establishments.

I shall now record the names of the Sable Harmonists, whom I certainly class as among the best. I am unable to name the exact time of their organization but am almost positive it was in the early part of 1846. They traveled principally through the Southern and Western country. The band consisted of Messrs. Plumer, Archer, J. Farrell, W. Roark, Nelson Kneas, J. Murphy, &c., &c. They performed for a short time at the Minerva Rooms, Broadway, in this city, November, 1847. Now we come to the starting place of the Original Campbell Minstrels, who were brought together in June, 1847, by a gentleman named Mr. John Campbell, who at that time was the proprietor of a restaurant corner of Bayard Street and the Bowery, in this city. The company, all complete, consisted of W. B. Donaldson, Jerry Bryant, John Rea, James Carter, Harry Mestayer, and David Raymond. Shortly after its organization, Mr. Rea withdrew from the company and joined the Original Christy’s Minstrels. Soon after, Mr. Donaldson resigned and the now deceased and much lamented Luke West took his place. They were playing at the American Museum at the time.

Next we come to a company known as the Sable Brothers, consisting of Messrs. Evans, Turpin, Cleveland, &c., &c. They performed at Convention Hall in Wooster Street and afterwards appeared at Barnum’s American Museum. The time of their organization is not known but I am under the impression that they succeeded the Campbells.

From this point, my qualified friends will coincide with me in placing the remaining companies in rotation as follows: the “Nightingale Serenaders,” formerly known as Kunkel’s Minstrels; Sandford’s Opera Troupe, still in operation; Sliter’s Empire Minstrels, Washington Uterpians, Ordway’s Aeolians, Pierce’s Minstrels, at the Olympic; Fellows’ Minstrels, Horn & White’s Opera Troupe, Kimberly’s Campbell Minstrels, Norris’ Campbell Minstrels, New York Serenaders, California, 1850; Raynor’s Serenaders, California, 1850, afterwards appeared in Australia, 1852; Murphy, West & Peel’s Campbell Minstrels, 1852; Backus’ Minstrels, California, 1853; George Christy’s & Wood’s Minstrels, at 444 Broadway, 1854; Perham’s Burlesque Opera Troupe, 1854; Pierce and Raynor’s Christy’s Minstrels, now in Europe, 1856; Bryant’s Minstrels, at Mechanics Hall, 472 Broadway, February 22, 1857; Rumsey & Newcomb’s Campbell Minstrels, April 28, 1857; Morris Brothers, Pell & Huntley’s Minstrels, 1857; Fox & War- den’s Campbell Minstrels,” now in Europe, 1859; Mrs. Matt. Peel’s Campbell’s Minstrels, 1859; Hooley & Campbell’s (late George Christy’s) Minstrels, January 30, 1860; Converse’s Campbell Minstrels, March 12, 1860.

Before concluding these remarks, I will again repeat that it is impossible at this late day to tell who first set the “ball rolling” in negro minstrel business. No one has any idea of its existence beyond the time above mentioned. I would, however, say that individual Negro business was done in character sixty-one years ago at the Federal Street Theatre, Boston. I have in my possession the actual newspaper which gives this information; and for the gratification of the profession particularly, will give a duplicate of the advertisement relative to the fact as it appeared in Russell’s Boston Gazette dated December 30, 1799, which journal, at that time, was the largest in America. The following performance took place on the night in question: “Orinoko, or the Royal Slave” was the first piece and at the end of Act II, “Song of the Negro Boy in Character” by Mr. Grawpner; after which, a pantomime called “Gil Blas, or the Cave of the Robbers”; the whole to conclude with a Representation of A Spanish Fair. It is also underlined at the bottom of same bill that “the Theatre will be hung with mourning.” This was the month and year that Washington died—hence the cause of mourning. The newspaper from which I gather these important facts is also in deep mourning for the same lamentable cause. Thus ends the explanation of negro minstrelsy up to the present time, 1860. I could make the subject somewhat more lengthy by introducing many outside particulars, but as my intention was merely to give a brief sketch of my profession, I trust those who peruse it will look at it as such only.

*The New York Clipper, also known as The Clipper, was a weekly entertainment newspaper published in New York City from 1853 to 1924.
Ref: York Clipper

Minstrelsy (Continued)