My discovery of
Theresa Vaughn (1863-1903)
Thoughts about her and our cultural distortion after her passing.
- and-
The Buckbee banjo reproduction project.
I believe learning about Theresa Vaughn, John H. Buckbee's banjos,
our golden decade 1880-1890 and young Broadway will help elevate us.


June 17, 2017:
Not exactly "rocket science" or quantum theory science but I finally discovered
a good way to bring all the silver-plated parts to a very high gloss / mirror finish.
I'll post these new images hopefully before Friday. Images below taken before the
polishing discovery. Please check back here Friday.

June 15, 2017:
Below are some preview images of our first silver-plated 1880 Buckbee banjo replica.
The replica sounds, feels and "behaves" just like the original. exact replica hooks and nuts
( silver-plated ) are now in fabrication; They should be ready soon. So to make the preview below I had to use some original Buckbee hooks and nuts I had here. Also below is a video showing the fabrication of the tension hoops... just one of the many tricky operations involved in making these banjos. There's much magic in these banjos. More rim polishing will be done later.
Thankfully the production issues are now solved !












A peek into one fabrication process. After viewing images below tap back button to return here.
1 Click here
2 Click here
3 Click here
4 Click here
Video ... Producing tension hoops Click here

Please email Leonard Schneider if you are interested in ordering one of these wonderful banjos: len777@roadrunner.com



Background banjo history summary: Click here

.......................................................... Details, Music and Images .........................................................

What you are about to learn here is a very important and totally lost part of our cultural story.

In 1881, Theresa Ott Vaughn from New York City at age 18,  joined W.A.Mestayer's successful, well-known musical comedy traveling theatrical troupe. Appalachian and Minstrel music was very popular across America and in England up to the 1890's. Theresa excelled at singing and playing this music on banjo. Her 1880 Buckbee banjo was an evolution from the "Gourd Banjas" played by the African slaves before the civil war and also from Joel Walker Sweeney's pre-civil war banjo designs in the 1840's. The 1880 Buckbee banjo represented a blend of two cultures. The neck and general concept was very African. The banjo rims were influenced by drums Buckbee produced during the civil for the Union forces. Theresa's minstrel, Appalachian and the more modern music explored on the banjo was also significant I believe in the cultural blending process.

In those days many America towns had fine opera houses. Musical theatrical troupes would travel coast to coast by train, horse and wagon to present wonderful musical comedy and variety shows in those theaters.

Theresa Vaughn (a contralto) was said to be the very best singer anywhere. She could sing opera in French, Italian and German. One 19th-century newspaper clipping called her "The apotheosis of girl". She was also a ballerina and a great comedienne.

When Theresa sang and accompanied herself with banjo the effect was magical, artful and poetic. She had unequaled class and charm.

Her 1880 Buckbee banjo's polished German Silver rim sparkled in the bright Lime stage lights in use then. Theresa added her own sparkle and totally captivated people. She soon became the major star on Broadway in the 1890's after performing across America and overseas. I believe she is/was the founding mother of American music and culture. Theresa is a wonderful archetype of the modern women. She is great role model and muse. Theresa certainly has become my Muse #2. My mother was Muse #1.

On Broadway her Appalachian, folk and minstrel music very soon evolved into newer more modern music ... she was beginning to perform very beautiful, romantic and classical songs similar to Chopin and Strauss. This was a new Broadway evolution. Unfortunately, illness forced Theresa her to leave the stage near the end of the 19th-century. She passed away at a too young age in 1903. Modern musicians would do well to study Theresa deeply and then evolve and progress from there.

Theresa's very special, wonderful cultural contribution was soon to be pushed aside and lost when the 19th-century ended. Powerful new corporate and even criminal forces arose and began to influence and control our music, culture and politics. Our musical art form soon became known as "the music business" ... it's now called "the music industry". Many of us have been dumbed down, bamboozled and/or medicated to better fit into the cold, corporate, plastic cultural "reality" they created for us.

I believe understanding this story can help us to re-evolve or de-bamboozle. One very noticeable and important cultural distortion is the lack of romance, love and other time proved values and traditions... We need a re-boot with good influences like Theresa Vaughn for inspiration and emulation.

If we have good economy jobs, trade deals etc...that is great .. but if our culture itself is distorted and sick ... we are unglued and unhealthy as a culture.

Thankfully there is still a trace of Theresa's artistry today. It's Broadway, especially the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. To deeply experience these treasures, select the Broadway tab on the wonderful free link below and then select Rodgers and Hammerstein. Click here for AccuRadio.com

I've discovered and enjoy exploring the good connection between Theresa Vaughn, Buckbee banjos and Broadway. It's amazing how well the "DNA" of this all connects with modern Broadway, especially as regards Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella show.

Banjos produced after 1900 do not have the "right stuff" for this. They sound metallic, cold and totally lack the romance and magic of the old Buckbee's.

Theresa is the perfect role model, mentor and muse we need to help bring warmth, love and light back into our chilly culture.


The above images show the 19th-century glove case design custom hand crafted for the silver plated, highly polished 1880 Buckbee replicas now being built. Other glove case designs are available These replicas will be available in polished brass, silver and gold plate... sometimes in various combinations.



I will be posting photos of the great people working on this Theresa Vaughn, Buckbee project from all across America. Video near top of page shows Steve at Daniel's Machine shop in Augusta Maine machining a Buckbee replica tension hoop. He is a very exceptional machinist.
Image just above is Erin and her beautiful baby, Lily from Portland Maine. Lily seems to be enjoying her visit to N.Y.C. last week. Erin of "EAOriginals" co-produced this very nice case incorporating the two hand embroidered accurate signature appliques from Judy of "Arts & Crafts Stitches", Railroad Flat, California. .
Regarding connections to our time, note Lily's image and Theresa's image below ... it is but one of many other connections you will discover here.


TheresaVaughn

1882, Theresa at 19 Playing her Buckbee banjo
Credit Univ.of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Act 805



Mark Twain's quote below fits this Image ure perfectly.
"The piano may do for love-sick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles and slate pencils. But give me the banjo. Gottschalk compared to Sam Pride or Charley Rhoades, is as a Dashaway cocktail to a hot whiskey punch. When you want genuine music -- music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose, -- when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!" Mark Twain - "Enthusiastic Eloquence," San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 23 June 1865


* It took a year to assemble a wonderful team (luthiers, woodworkers, craftspeople, machinists, metal casters electroplaters and polishers) from across America to create all the needed components of these banjos.


She was as one with the Buckbee and its endless voicing possibilities & sounds. Very bell-like sounds, interesting watery sounds, hypnotic African "clicks" and many other magical sounds not easy to describe. Wonderful sounds happen at all volumes from very gentle and quiet to loud. New sounds happen often and are always nice surprises. At times, it almost seems alive. Buckbee's are extremely sensitive; they react to player's touch and mood. The weather also contributes to the Buckbee pallet of sounds. Calfskin banjo heads are used to produce the very best sound.

All banjos built since 1900 have laminated ( plywood ) rims. Then metal tone rings and special inventions were added to bring back the lost sound. Volume was gained but the tones are metallic, artificial and cold. The bent wood Buckbee sound was lost. Till now.

Hopefully, a video documentary & live show about Theresa and the Buckbee project will be produced soon.
Please contact me if you have comments, questions or would like to join this project.

Now beginning to produce exact hand-crafted reproductions of the wonderful, magical 1880 Buckbee banjo. Theresa Vaughn performed on Broadway, across America and in England often accompanying herself with this very magical banjo ( see Mark Twain's quote above ). The replicas sound and look as beautiful as the original Buckbee did. In combination with my books, they help promote an understanding and connection to our lost but very golden period of music and culture 1880-1890.

Talking about the first 1880 Buckbee replica: Click here
* Playing some very old appalachian music and showing the connection to modern Broadway: Click here

Here are images of the first 1880 Buckbee replica.
This banjo was a test so it was not yet polished or silver-plated.




Images of our 1880 Buckbee replica #1 compared with an original 1880 Buckbee. The original is in the background, the replica's in the foreground. Replica #1 was built mostly to test for tone and the fit of all the parts so its brass was left raw and un-polished. Its silver-plated cast brass "shoes" for now are un-polished. Hopefully, soon, I will post some videos to demonstrate replica #1. It sounds very close to the original Buckbee. The walnut necks of these replica's are rubbed with organic coconut oil. The tuning pegs are of beautiful rosewood. Like the original Buckbees, these replicas have ebony fingerboards and pegheads are thinned to 0.025".



* Experiment 1 .. Beethoven's 1801 Moonlight Sonata on 1880 Buckbee banjo: Click here
* Experiment 2 .. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata again: Click here
* Experiment 3 .. Little Annie Rooney (Theresa's big hit ) and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata again : Click here

Buckbee replica #2 now in fabrication. Its brass and bronze hardware will be silver plated and polished.
Black canvas, red velvet lined cases for these replicas in progress. The signatures of Theresa Vaughn and John H. Buckbee are hand embroidered on these cases.

Some other interesting videos coming here soon: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and more... played on original 1880 Buckbee & replica.

These three books and the Buckbee reproductions illuminate the forgotten, lost beauty of our 19th-century music and culture. Hopefully, all this inspires us to regain and build on what we lost.

  1. "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" - a beautiful lost moment of our culture.
  2. "1492 Up to Date or Very Near it" - copy of just found original script for Theresa's Broadway hit show of 1893
  3. "Little Christopher (Columbus)" - copy of just found original script for Theresa's Broadway hit show of 1894

Hopefully, a video documentary & live show about Theresa and the Buckbee project will be produced soon.
Please contact me if you have comments, questions or would like to join this project.

* See Leslie Ann Warren note, videos and image ( approx. 90% down this page ).
I believe she is, in our time, possibly the most similar in heart, soul, spirit and romance to Theresa Vaughn.

All the music below gives a good perspective of America's very golden days.


..................................................................................................................................................

Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo

TheresaVaughn
Theresa Vaughn, and the Buckbee banjo

Theresa Ott Haupt Vaughn  (1863-1903)  8.5" x 11", 150 pages, full color, many beautiful images.


*** Kindle version now available ***

* This book combines my two earlier books with additions and corrections.
"Miss Theresa Vaughn"
"Theresa Vaughn, the Broadway Years"
These are the only books written about Theresa Ott Haupt Vaughn.
Research and production of these books was a six year project.

* "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" and "Miss Theresa Vaughn",
are both now at the Maine State Library, Augusta Maine
and at the Hubbard Library in Hallowell Maine.
..................................................................................................................................................

1492 Up to Date or Very Near it
aka. 1492
From a just discovered full script, with stage notes of the 1892-1895 hit Broadway show
starring Theresa Vaughn. Some notes are handwritten,
possibly by Theresa ( Joanna in the play ).
65 pages, 8.5" X 11" full color.

*** Kindle version now available ***





..................................................................................................................................................


Little Christopher (Columbus)

From a just discovered full script, with stage notes of 1894 hit Broadway show
starring Theresa Vaughn. Some notes are hand written,
possibly by Theresa (Little Christopher in the play).
65 pages, 8.5" X 11" full color.




Little Christopher was a most enjoyable, visually beautiful show.

..................................................................................................................................................

* "BanjoHangout.org" discussion/chat blog: Click here

* To preview or purchase these books

Ebay: view 12 pages or purchase "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" Click here
Amazon CreateSpace purchase "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" Click here
Ebay: view 12 pages or purchase "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It" Click here
Amazon CreateSpace to purchase "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It" Click here
Ebay: view 12 pages or purchase "Little Christopher (Columbus)" Click here
Amazon CreateSpace to purchase "Little Christopher (Columbus)" Click here

......................................................................... The Music .........................................................................

Below are some of the many beautiful songs that Theresa performed on Broadway in the 1890's. Our planet lost much sweetness when we lost her. In 1894 a newspaper said Thomas Edison would soon sell recordings of Theresa singing "Little Wooden Shoes" (see below) but none of those "Wax Rolls" have been found. The early wax cylinders tended to deteriorate with age.

In 1893, Theresa sang "Little Annie Rooney" in the most well-loved Broadway show called "1492". She accompanied herself on banjo. Theresa's performances made the show a great hit

"Little Annie Rooney" (an 1889 tune)
This version is by the "Maestros":  Click here

In 1895 Theresa performed "Sweet Alice Ben Bolt" (an 1848 tune) on Broadway. Youtube has wonderful versions of this tune by various artists. All were recorded several years after Theresa passed. This tune and her later tunes are like bridges connecting Theresa's early Appalachian and minstrel music to the romantic waltzes and more modern music to come. Theresa was very central to the maturing of America ... a bridge between our early colonial past and our future. I selected these three versions below for this webpage.

"Sweet Alice Ben Bolt" (an 1848 tune)
1. The great John McCormack's version (key of G) from 1914: Click here
2. Lorna~Jane Murray's contemporary version (key of G). Could be close to how Theresa sang it: Click here
3. Nice midi version (key of B) from pdmusic.org: Click here
Four other songs Theresa performed (these links all set to the key of B ).

"My Little Sunday Girl" (with lyrics) Click here
"The Belle of Poverty Flats" Click here
"Little Wooden Shoes" Click here
"Love Sweet Love" Click here

...................................................................... Update News ......................................................................

* Great news!! There is some life and hope for our culture! In my books, I say our culture increasingly has gone off the rails and downhill after Theresa's passing in 1903. I was feeling that her romance, sweetness, class, innocence, purity and artistry was gone.... maybe even extinct. Well, now I am happy to tell you it can still be found ... on Broadway.

Lesley Ann Warren starred in the 1965 Cinderella broadway version. Leslie was very wonderful and also had the very same very natural "girlish" quality that Theresa was known for. The lost but now found missing cultural "DNA" is still here!




Lesley Ann Warren "Cinderella"  ( Broadway show, Rodgers & Hammerstein, 1965 version )
"When You're Driving Through the Moonlight / A Lovely Night", Video: Click here

Here's a wonderful free site for Broadway music.
Select Broadway; then Rogers & Hammerstein section: Click here


..................................................................................................................................................

I'm now exploring different ways to play the above Broadway songs on my 1880 Buckbee. Hopefully, will have videos of them in near future posted here and on Youtube. It's very helpful to imagine how Theresa might have approached it. After all, she was at least, (in my opinion) a major founding mother of modern Broadway. The mood(s) created is the major thing here. I'm trying: happy, joyful and also dream like. The dreamlike mood happens when I play VERY quietly. like a whisper inside your head... but with "bell" like sounds. This can create magical or spiritual feelings. It's close to meditation I believe. Hopefully, I will post clips here when all is ready.

The 1880 Buckbee banjo replica project is making great progress. Hopefully, these silver plated and/or polished brass gems will be ready soon... maybe in one month. Next week the tricky wood rim machining job is scheduled.. the last remaining fabrication issue.

Theresa Vaughn performed using 1880 and 1890 Buckbee banjos. Some 19th-century fabrication technologies and techniques had to be figured out and re-discovered. Buckbee's were built from 1860 into the 1890's. His 1880 version is my favorite. Its tones are rich, varied, magical, bell and water like and more. Buckbee banjos originally were nickel plated but since nickel allergies are somewhat common these replicas will not routinely be nickel plated. They will be available both in unplated brass and also as silver or gold-plated brass. A mix of silver & gold plating’s is available for rim sheath, tension hoop, shoes, hooks & nuts. Now preparing presentations (live and DVD) to show how Theresa might have sung & accompanied herself with the 1880 Buckbee banjo. The presentations will demonstrate and teach the different possible voicings or tones that Buckbee's can produce. The right-hand techniques that work well with these instruments will be demonstrated. Two antique, restored Buckbees (~1880 and ~1890), a new Buckbee replica and hopefully, a great singer will grace this video. These presentations will begin with the story of Joel Walker Sweeney. He's often considered to be the developer of the 5 string banjo from the gourd banjo of the African slaves. Joel became our first musical showman and star. Theresa then evolved from Sweeney’s minstrel and Appalachian music to the romantic ballads she introduced on Broadway in the 1890's. I also like the idea of including music that emerged after we lost Theresa in 1903.  "Avalon"  by Al Jolson 1920 is one that sounds very good on the Buckbee. These banjos help re-create the magic of our golden 19th-century. J.H.Buckbees's factory was located at 383 2nd St.in NYC. Originally a drum maker, Buckbee became the most prolific 19th-century banjo maker. The replicas now under construction feature rims made of single ply old growth maple salvaged from the great lakes. Wood benefits acoustically from a long submersion in cold water. The necks are solid black walnut. Fingerboards are of very thin ebony. The tuning pegs will be of Garnet wood. Other options are to use pegs of bone, water buffalo horn or ebony. Playing or hearing a well tuned Buckbee is a wonderful experience. The four music links above are good examples of the classical/romantic/artistic forms she performed. At the same time, Theresa re-visited the Minstrel and Appalachian folk music of her youth. They were becoming popular again. Vaudeville shows were also gaining popularity; Theresa joined that world for a short time.


* Corrections and newly discovered additions: Click here
Interesting articles too long for the book : Click here Please check back here for updates.
For more information email Leonard Schneider: len777@roadrunner.com

"Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" helps reconnect us to a very valuable, missing part of our music and culture. Theresa is our lost cultural gem and keystone. She created a beautiful, unique branch of music by artistically connecting banjo with beautiful ballads, comic opera, comedy and romance. Theresa was at the very top of a special peak in our music world. I see her as a founding mother of American music, the archetype of the modern woman and the archetype of the modern Broadway performer. Our music and culture suffered because Theresa was lost and forgotten. On and off stage Theresa had great class. Her musical performances were always very loved. She was visual, poetic, fascinating, flirtatious, an Angel of music, a Muse, a great actress and a mentor. Theresa was extremely humorous. As I researched and wrote this book my perspective on music and culture was greatly elevated; I came to feel like I was there. Theresa set the very highest mark or standard for performance and banjo performance. Her contralto voice was said to be the very sweetest, yet she could reach and move all 2000 people in an opera house (no amplification in those days). Let the images and clippings in this book fire up your imagination. For many years I've played 5 string banjo (Bluegrass, Clawhammer/Frailing, Rock, Pop, Broadway & Misc.); gave presentations about banjo history. About 2013 ago by chance, fate or miracle I discovered Theresa Ott Vaughn. I soon found myself compelled and propelled into an intense research project to learn as much as possible about her. Shortly before I discovered Theresa I acquired (again by chance, fate or miracle) and restored two Buckbee banjos. All those happenings "connected the dots" for me and really helped me to understand Theresa, the 19th-century and those VERY great antique banjos (1880's and 1890's). As I learned more about the 19th-entury, it's ringing banjos, and Theresa ... I knew I wasn't "in Kansas anymore". Those antique banjos are amazing in their tone... very high highs and very low lows. They can ring like bells After a while I began to reject 20th and 21st-century "music" and "culture". After 1900 everything (including music) "went off the rails", grew increasingly more technical and materialistic. Music became a business, eventually, it became an industry. Music (and our culture) became less romantic and less spiritual ... You might find this book to be like a Rosetta stone ... it can help you connect some beautiful dots. You'll gain a time perspective musically and a mentor. Many wonderful images and 19th-century newspaper clippings about Theresa. I also discuss the two classic 19th-century Buckbee banjo designs I restored. Below are pictures of two steamships (the "Aller" and "Noordland") that Theresa sailed on when she visited Germany in 1887-1888. Below also is a passenger list. It's interesting that she listed her occupation as “Seamstress” (was she sailing incognito ?). Cute and sweet …. Theresa at age 9 on the 1870 Census (see below).This indicates that she was born in 1861, just a year after the very earliest banjo devoloper and star performer Joel Walker Sweeney passed on in 1860. However, there is conflicting information. On Theresa's Death Certificate it shows Theresa died at 39 in 1903. That would indicate 1864 to be her birthdate. To add to the mystery, Theresa's marriage certificate to Ed Hull in 1879, at age 16, indicates that her birthdate was 1863. In this book I consider Theresa's date of birth to be 1863. Please check back here for later updates on this and other issues as new information is uncovered.

Ship's Manifest Click here
The "Aller" Click here
The "Noordland" Click here
1870 US Census Click here
Her 1st (short) marriage at 16 to Ed Hull Click here
1903 Death Certificate Click here


"In the loud, tawdry, throwaway culture of modern television, we need stories of a quieter kind, a longer lasting kind, a kind with character. And communities have stories. Without a story, who are we? Destroy the past, abuse the past, turn your backs on the past and you're turning your backs on and destroying all we have."

- David McCullough

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