Password Theresa Vaughn, the Buckbee banjo, her Transformation of theater

     Thank you for visiting and learning about my discovery of Theresa Ott Vaughn (1863-1903) and the Buckbee banjo.
     I published 5 books about Theresa, her music and the Buckbee type banjo she accompanied herself with.
     Theresa transformed theater and culture. She evolved us from the Minstrel show era and put us on the
     road to Rodgers and Hammerstein II.
     The troubadours of middle ages popularized Love, Romanticism and Poetry. I believe William Shakespeare,
     Theresa Vaughn and Rogers & Hammerstein II are our most wonderful troubadours.
     We sorely need a renaissance of Love and Romance .... more such dream weavers.
     - Leonard Schneider

If you have questions or would like to discuss this project please email:

Theresa Ott Vaughn                  Leonard Schneider                1880 Buckbee replica #1                 1880 Buckbee replica #2
1882                                   with original 1880 Buckbee        

1965 Leslie Anne Warren  (Cinderella) Rodgers and Hammerstein II.
A fine example of our very beautiful musical / cultural "DNA". It traces back well to Theresa's influence. .

This little clipping from 115 yrs ago (1903) says much.
(Louis Armstrong is the only other musician I can think of who "scattered much sunshine in the world")      

Library of Congress: Western Kansas World.,(WaKeeney, Kansas 1885 to current). From October 31, 1903

Hopefully my shows continue Theresa's work : Scattering much sunshine in the world.

Click here to learn more about the books and banjos Len is selling.
Click here to learn about new French connection to this project.

August 18, 2018 The Autumn issue of B.M.G. ( Banjo Mandolin Guitar ) magazine from England will publish my article in mid-October about this project. B.M.G is the oldest musical instrument periodical in the world. They have continued to publish ever since 1903 except for a short period.
B.M.G. has titled it:   "Theresa Vaughn - a Muse for a Renaissance"
Sept 28, 2018 World wide individual or group webinars now available. Webinar and live presentations can cover
all aspects of this project. They are interactive classes, workshops & lessons. Webinars can set up for individuals or groups.

March 1,2019 New project evolving now! Miss Stefanie Hoefgen Click here for Stef's website
will be presenting a Venus inspired, Cinderella like DVD fantasy. It will be a time
travel adventure. A Fairy Godmother or a time machine takes a modern international
young woman performer (Stefanie Hoefgen) back to 1893 to meet with Theresa Vaughn
on Broadway. There's a very interesting synchronicity here: Stefanie is Bavarian
as was the father of Theresa Vaughn. This is based on a novel now in the works
by Logan Best, a North Carolina writer. Stay tuned for updates.

Audio of Stefanie introducing "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo". Click here

Lab Workshop Section

April 24:   I was thinking about the 1896 Lithograph image below. It was used on the cover of my book "Little Christopher" and was used as a poster for the show. Theresa Vaughn starred in this major Broadway show. The book contains a photocopy of the full, original show script with handwritten stage notes. The costumes and scenery were said to be exceptionally beautiful. Depicted is the French Cancan dance. The Cancan's roots go back to the 1830s. Over the years the Cancan gained worldwide popularity. By 1890 it was highly perfected and spectacular. The history surrounding Cancan is VERY colorful. See links below. The iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. In this complex show, Theresa plays young Christopher Columbus when he was a cabin boy. In the show, the cabin boy was supposed to be Columbus's descendant. A situation develops requiring Theresa (as young Christopher) to disguise for a needed escape. Theresa ( as young Christopher) borrows clothes from girlfriend Pepita. While disguised as a girl she/he sings:

     "I'll dance you a dance when you're out at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree!
     She danced it once to amuse the crew
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!"
     The only dance I learned at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree
     l 'Twas a dance to make you stare,
     with a liberal show of underwear.
     For above her head she raised her toe,
     And the Captain ordered his wife below,
     She danced it once to amuse the crew,
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!

* A Little adventure back to gay Paree inspired by Theresa Vaughn's 1888 visit to Paris. Music by Ivan Caryall from the
      "Little Christopher Columbus Show"(1893-1896). Hopefully a vocal track of show's Shakspearean like lyrics(above)
      will be added soon.
      Click here

* A beautiful but heart breaking biography of the most wonderful 1890's Moulin Rouge dancer: Mlle.Jane Avril.
     Click here

* From Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” trip to Gay Paree in 1867. This was 22 years before the Moulin Rouge was but
     very close by in distance. At tab "8:23" on video counter He mentions Jardins D'Asnieres Cabaret Garden and his first
     exposure / reaction to the cancan. Very droll.
     Click here

* Thanks to Colin M. Johnson's Music and MIDI files ( here are mp3 files of all 20 pieces of the VERY
      wonderful music of the "Little Christopher Columbus" show by Ivan Caryll (1861-1921). It's like a summary of all music
      happening in the 1890's. You can download / hear many musical concepts: Ragtime, Mozart, Yankee Doodle, Cancan even
     The Tarentella.It is best to put all 20 midis into a folder and use a "play all" option to play all in sequence for
     full appreciation of this masterpiece. Click here

In my lab, I enjoy exploring how the 1880 banjo was used both at home and on the Broadway stage by Theresa. This section is NOT meant to be a parking space for polished video performances. I like to share my experiments here to help show how others how to enjoy this kind of adventure and exploration. ie to have fun. It's an easy way to travel in time & place. I'm very interested to explore how Theresa transformed theater and helped usher in the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II, that followed her. Lately, I have been "connecting more dots" to better understand all this. I believe it's beneficial to be aware of culture and life in Paris, French in the 1880s and '90s. Broadway and Paris culturally were both in a wonderful golden age at that time. I believe that moment in time is a great role model for western civilization to emulate and learn from today. Theresa Vaughn ( 1863-1903 ) was America's most prominent performer. In Paris, the cultural and artistic leading edge was Louise Weber (La Goulue), an early developer of the French Cancan dance, Jane Avril perfected the Cancan and painter Toulouse-Lautrec (1838-1913) who wonderfully captured that Golden age. The Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. Meanwhile, Theresa Vaughn was brightly lighting up Broadway with her sparkle and magic. Just after Theresa's era, Broadway became electrified..... to become the "Great White Way"... thanks to Nikola Tesla! Nikola Tesla!

* Louise Weber (1866-1929) Gallery Click here

* Jane Avril ( 1868-1943) Gallery Click here

* Many good Cancan videos on youtube (old and new). This beautiful Cancan Youtube video: ORQUESTA Y BALLET
     DIAMANTES "ORFEO EN LOS INFIERNOS" was published June 10, 2014.
Click here

* Video 1st test applying the Buckbee to the Cancan. Great fun to play it. Perhaps very alive Cancan dancers can
     become part of a musical movie or show about Theresa!
Click here

* 1891 Very wonderful full page newspaper story about the Moulin Rouge Cancan scene. Enlarge it, scroll around and
Click here

You can check in here and hopefully see progress as I explore banjo adaption to these songs below. I will update when possible.
The purpose here is to show progress as it happens. This is a "work in progress" lab/place . Perfection hopefully comes later :)
It would be wonderful if others will join these experiments.

... Earlier experiments

Test video showing my 4D concept ( More on 4D below ).
Rogers and Hammerstein II's, "Driving through the moonlight on a highway"
Laura Osnes (2013) and the Buckbee banjo. How Theresa might have played it. Click here

My 1st video showing Theresa's transformation .. from early Appalachian & Civil war
     music to the road leading to Rogers & Hammerstein II's Broadway. 12 Min. Click here

... Current explorations, now in development

1. "People will say we're in Love", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     My newest experiment/discovery.. now in development. This is a rough 2nd draft to show my 4D concept.
     Hopefully more finished/polished versions will post as I work it out more. This eventually can evolve to a more
     jazzy and or blue-grassy thing. Click here

2. "The Belle of Poverty Flats", 1896. A sensitive song from Theresa's show honoring Winnie Horn,
     a very pretty poor working girl selling newspapers on a NYC street corner. Click here

3. "My Little Sunday Girl" (with lyrics), 1896 Theresa sang this comic song. Click here

4. "Little Wooden shoes", 1893. Theresa sang this to raise money for the World Bread Fund
     to feed the poor in NYC. Click here

5. "Impossible" from Rogers and Hammerstein II's Cinderella. Sounds nice Theresa style on Buckbee. Click here

6. "Love Sweet Love", 1894. A very romantic song written for and sang by Theresa. Click here

7. "Surry with the Fringe on Top", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

8. "A Lovely Night", 1957. Cinderella Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

The above songs can all serve well to demonstrate the 4D genre I speak of. It's interesting
to jam with its ( key of B ) especially if using a Buckbee type banjo. You can soon get
the idea that something new is happening. By connecting Rogers & Hammerstein II's music
to its 19th ancestry banjo roots one can strongly sense the connection/entanglement between
them. At the same time the banjo itself can fly to new places by this 4D inter-connection
process I believe. Somehow it can bring out various new banjo styles including and going beyond
frailing & bluegrass. A new jazzy and classical effect can happen. I'm still working on these songs
Hopefully I'll post video of all when I have it figured out.

Theresa's images from 1882 to 1895

     Theresa's world

Syracuse NY mid 19th century
Syracuse NY mid 19th century
Union Square-Broadway, 1892
Union Square - Broadway, 1892

Mark Twain's quote:

"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

Project Summary: Hopefully, this project, website, and shows, will help inspire a much needed Renaissance. My information sources ( the Library of Congress & other)  are credited in my books. From 1882 to 1897 the Library of Congress has 673 newspaper articles from across America about Theresa. I was able to gain additional information as a result of discussions with Matthew Nelson Ott Jr.(82). Matthew Ott's grandfather, Philip Anthony Ott, was one of Theresa's brothers. Another brother, Michael Matthew Ott, left a handwritten-rough typed collection of "notes, musings, references and dreams of the Ott family and its connection to the world of music". Michael Ott confirmed and helped to sharply focus my understanding of Theresa transformed theater. I gained much understanding from the 1880 Buckbee banjo. I work to discover how she played her songs. It seems likely that she incorporated both Appalachian frailing and a classical guitar style/approach. Theresa was born in NYC in 1863 (approx.). Her father was an immigrant from Bavaria. At 12, She sang in her Catholic church. Theresa was the oldest child and had 12 younger brothers. As a young teenager, Theresa joined a coast to coast traveling show run by William Ayres Mestayer in 1882. They married several years later. Theresa became the star in these shows in a few months. In 1888 she visited Germany with her husband W.A.Mestayer. Later in 1888, she bought a beautiful hilltop ocean view mansion, in Red Bank NJ. Theresa was very charitable and well loved everywhere. I believe She opened the way to Rogers and Hammerstein II's music (R&H). In 1895 Oscar Hammerstein II was born in NYC just when Theresa was the brightest star on Broadway. In her earlier performances, Theresa played minstrel and Appalachian music very well. She was very good at singing doggerel and could make it sound believable/real. Soon her performances grew more artistic and magical. She was very romantic, poetic & dreamy. Theresa could be very funny... funny beyond description it was said. She was once described as "the Apotheosis of Girl". In the early 1890's Theresa became the major Broadway star. She studied in Dresden, Germany and could sing opera in French Italian and German. Theresa was also a ballerina. I believe she was the archetype of the Rogers and Hammerstein II Broadway music that was to come next generation... Her generation was very special. Some of Theresa's contemporaries were: Nikola Tesla, Annie Oakley, Uncle Dave Macon, Thomas Edison, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Abraham Lincoln was the president when Theresa born.

No Recordings: It was announced in 1896 that Theresa would soon be recorded on wax cylinder recordings... but unfortunately, I believe she passed away before that happened. Newspaper and periodical research helped to learn about Theresa but building and playing Buckbee banjos and learning her music was extremely helpful to the process of discovering Theresa better.

Buckbee banjos: John H.Buckbee (NYC) built drums during the Civil war. He started building banjos in 1867. He was the most prolific banjo builder from 1867 to 1897. It was said Henry C. Dobson and other builders at times bought Buckbee's and re-labeled them. Buckbee banjos were very popular. I'm now exactly replicating silver-plated and gold-plated 1880 Buckbee banjos. These replicas sound, play & feel exactly my original 1880 Buckbee both discovered hibernating for 115 years, nearby, in a Gardiner, Maine attic. The magical Buckbee tone was due to its rim design. They were made by steaming and bending a solid, 0.263 maple board to become an 11" diameter rim (single-ply). The maple rims are very tightly encased in a 0.025 brass sheath. Theresa used such a banjo to accompany her singing. After 1900, banjo builders (Fairbanks, Gibson, etc.) increasingly began using laminated (plywood) rims. Steam bending was too tricky for mass production as we began the 20th century. These days banjos all have plywood rims even the most expensive ones. Endless metal internal tone rings were designed to improve the poor tone of the plywood rims... they gained back the lost volume but lost the magical ring of the bentwood Buckbee. These replicas are wonderful to play. They sound just like my original 1880. You can hear the 1880 Buckbee .. original and replica on videos below. They are very responsive and they; tell you the best way to do this or that.

Project Background: In 1976 I organized and performed in an East coast touring Bicentennial show about the banjo and its cultural connection with American music. The tour was sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service. My research has continued since 1976. Every so often I uncovered interesting, valuable information. Then 10 yrs. ago, while researching for a presentation I made a monumental discovery: Theresa Ott / Vaughn ~1863 -1903 (Vaughn was her stage name). Theresa was our most admired and loved performer (across America, on Broadway, and in England too). As I discovered more about Theresa and her performances I came to realize that she was very special and transformational force musically and culturally. I'm very amazed that Theresa is now totally unknown and forgotten. I believe she is/was the missing link between our mid-19th-century music (minstrel, Appalachian, burlesque ) and the emergence of Rogers & Hammerstein IIs music. I'm now very focused on Theresa, Buckbee banjo and the connection to Rogers & Hammerstein II. Hopefully, this project will inspire a very needed cultural Renaissance. These 1880 Buckbee's were built before electric power. John Buckbee's shop likely ran on steam power. My goal is to convey the full essence and value of all the above. Music and sound here are vital ie .better than words and pictures alone. To that end, I've made (and continue to make) videos showing more of Theresa's songs and how she might have been playing them on banjo. There are many variations in her songs, so I believe she likely had to use different playing styles to connect them with the banjo. I work to learn how she may have done this. I'm sure she used a mix of frailing and a classical guitar like style ie. whatever worked. Exploring my videos can be beneficial. Of course, as new songs are explored more understanding will hopefully happen. Hopefully, more videos with very fine singers will be posted here in October.


Introductory slideshow for perspective on this project. Video's and shows to come will show how Theresa Vaughn transformed theater. She evolved our Appalachian, minstrel and troubadour music. I believe her influence lead to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II. The background music on this slideshow is "Love Sweet Love"(1893). It was written for and performed by Theresa. This song was a big evolution from our earlier music. It is very Chopin like. Lyrics by Shorn Cliff, music by Herman Perlet. This video lets you peek into our golden era. Click here

  • "Sweet Alice Ben Bolt" (1848). Lorna Jane Murray's contemporary version (key of G).
    Could be close to how Theresa sang it: Click here
  • Video #1... "Little Annie Rooney".. (Jamming with or inspired by Theresa)   Click here
  • Video #2... "Little Annie Rooney".. ( same as above but more mellow )   Click here

* Beginning mid-September Online virtual classes. Workshops & presentations can be
     arranged to cover all aspects of this project for individuals, arts academies, libraries,
     schools, hospitals, nursing and retirement homes.

This project illuminates the evolutionary missing link between our very earliest folk, Broadway, Circus, Appalachian and Minstrel music to the wonderful music of Rogers and Hammerstein II ( R&H ) that would soon emerge from Theresa's influence ... her paradigm shift.

Thankfully there is still a trace of Theresa's artistry today. .... it's Broadway, especially the R&H shows. In case you're not familiar with the magic of Rogers and Hammerstein II or would like a good review of their wonderful works, Accuradio is a wonderful free resource. (24/7) Click Accuradio, select Broadway, then select Rodgers & Hammerstein II. You may be amazed at the amount of very artful music & poetry they produced. Click here

I believe R&H, Theresa Vaughn and the very earliest Broadway shows all reflect Shakespeare. In 1750 there was one only one Broadway theater ... it was all Shakespeare!

Hopefully this project will inspire a beautiful, cultural/musical Renaissance to blossom everywhere. This is important.. especially these days. "Culture" and too many of us are now deficient in these eight essential cultural ingredients:

      Beauty, Warmth, Poetry, Love, Tradition, Sweetness, Magic/Sparkle, and Romance.

I believe this project can help bring us to a healthy balanced new Renaissance ... culture and music. We all need culture we can actually love and agree on again.
To get there we all need to learn a bit.... and enjoy a paradigm shift to more perspective and understanding. If not we'll remain unglued and fragmented. I believe it's very important to heal the severe cultural polarization/fragmentation now well underway. Theresa's music and influence were healing, integrative. I believe the cultural effect of her artistry and music helped us recover from the Civil war. This project may lead us to such a wonderful Renaissance. Culture REALLY does count ... it's very fundamental .. effects EVERYTHING. It's like good air and water.

From my research, it seems American culture reached a very beautiful hi-peak between 1880 and 1895. Rodgers and Hammerstein II's music of today may be the last remaining trace of that earlier very special time. Theresa Vaughn's time and her cultural influence is an ideal starting point for a new Renaissance to emerge from. She's a wonderful Muse for us. 1880-1895 is a good Renaissance restore point for a good cultural reset/reboot. Note: My Renaissance friendly "4D" music concept below.

Len's Books and Banjos for Sale:

* "Silver Ghost Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* "Golden Age Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* Exact 1880 Buckbee banjo replicas (silver-plated and gold-plated) models
      now available for sale
  1.    "Silver Ghost" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully silver-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" book.
          Signed case, replica Buckbee banjo, silver-plated wrench key
          and teaching video included.
                                            $ 3,500 Available now.
  2.    "Golden Age" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully gold-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" book.
          Signed case, replica gold-plated Buckbee banjo wrench key
         nbsp; and teaching video included.                                      
                                            Contact for price ...

* Len's Theresa Vaughn Books and her Broadway Show Scripts.
     Preview and purchase books from eBay and Amazon below:

  1. "Miss Theresa Vaughn"
  2. "Theresa Vaughn, the Broadway years"
  3. "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" (combined book 1 and book 2 above)
  4. "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It"
  5. "Little Christopher (Columbus)"

For more information please email:

"In the loud, tawdry, throwaway culture of modern television, we need stories of a quieter kind, a longer lasting kind, a kind of 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