by Jeff Noonan
In a recent article in NYlon Review (“History Lesson: Roll Over Beethoven,” NYlon Review 1/4), Tim Brookes presents an overview of America’s musical culture in the nineteenth century, offering some suggestions for the classical guitar’s low profile in this country preceding Andres Segovia’s arrival here. He paints his picture in broad strokes, highlighting the “Monster Concerts” of Jullien and Gilmore as well as the Eurocentric work of critic John Sullivan Dwight and conductor Theodore Thomas. The landscape Tim presents — filled with grand pianos, Wagnerian sopranos, and romantic, over-stuffed orchestras — has no room for the intimate and introspective guitar.
While I agree in principle with many of Tim’s ideas about the nineteenth-century’s predilection for expansive performances and performing forces, a closer look at the century preceding Segovia’s 1928 American debut reveals that elite America’s infatuation with romantic Eurocentrism was only one part of the rather complex story of the guitar in this country. Recent research demonstrates that guitarists — some quite accomplished musicians — were active in America from the early nineteenth century into the early twentieth century (1). As Tim notes, these guitarists seldom shared the platform with large orchestras or earned the respect and praise of America’s elite musical audiences. Yet, in its own way, this community of players, teachers, and fans strove to create a place for itself in America’s elite musical culture.
By most accounts, the guitar did not figure prominently in America’s early musical history. Nonetheless, as Tim correctly observes, the instrument was played publicly in Colonial and Federalist America by professionals as a formal, concert instrument and privately by amateurs as part of home entertainments. O.G. Sonneck’s Early Concert Life in America 1731-1800 documents recital and concert appearances of guitarists in America before 1800 not only as accompanists, but also as soloists, performing sonatas, caprices, and other unidentified works (2).
In the early nineteenth century, the guitar was also promoted, taught, and studied in this country in much the same way that other serious, cultivated European instruments were. American guitar instructors (like other teaching musicians) touted their European roots and taught their instrument based on formal techniques — including written notation — imported from Europe. The popularity of the guitar in European courts and homes served as a useful advertising gambit for these teachers. For example, an advertisement from a concert in 1787 concludes with a plug for a Mr. Capron (who played both guitar and cello in the concert) as a guitar teacher:
Mr. Capron respectfully informs the public that he instructs ladies and gentlemen in the art of singing and of playing on the Spanish and English guitars, recording the most approved method of the first masters of Europe … The guitar, from the late improvement which it has received, being so portable and so easily kept in order, is considered not only as a desirable but as a fashionable instrument (3).
Capron’s advertisement highlights the European influence on guitar pedagogy in the early years of the United States, as well as the instrument’s fashionable status (4).
As early as 1820, teachers produced guitar method books in America, most based on European models. American-published tutors include J. Siegling’s Complete Instructor for the Spanish and English guitarNew and Improved Method for the Spanish Guitar (1828, 1834) and James Ballard’s Elements of Guitar-Playing (1838) (6). Most of these books were produced by established commercial publishers and their numbers point to a lively competition for the public’s dollars. This number also reflects a perceived need — if not an actual demand — for formal and systematic guitar instruction using standard musical notation and accepted classical technique. Even the authors of method books promoted to “those who study without a master” recognized the need for musical literacy and presented the rudiments of standard musical notation before offering lessons and repertoire in the same notation (7). The one distinctive American method book to follow Ballard’s, Justin Holland’s Comprehensive Method for the Guitar (1874) (8), was modeled on the work of such European pedagogues as Sor, Carcassi, and Giuliani.
Certainly, the guitar was also taught and played in this country by ear, and some teachers published guitar tutors touted as “Simplified Methods,” utilizing tablature systems as an alternative to standard notation. Despite evidence of such oral and tablature transmission, however, standard musical notation appears to have been the principal means of preserving and transmitting instructional materials and repertoire for the guitar throughout the nineteenth century (9). Reports of informal performances suggest, in fact, that much of the popular repertoire transmitted orally — songs and simple solos — first appeared in standard notation and only entered the oral chain after distribution as print music (10). Antonio Lopes expressed the sympathies of numerous teachers and players of the nineteenth century when he advised
Learning the Guitar (or any other Instrument) by ear or figures, is loss of time and money, for what is learned to-day may be forgotten tomorrow. In learning by NOTE you have the advantage of constant Progress (11).
Much of Peter Danner’s research has established the guitar’s importance in the nineteenth century as an instrument of the American middle-class amateur (12). He describes several periods of popularity for the guitar in the century, the first between 1835 and 1850, and concludes that this popularity derived from the guitar’s role in the lower middle-class parlors of men and (especially) women aspiring to better things:
[T]he place of the guitar in 19th century American life was not among the itinerant workers or the rural poor; nor was it an instrument of upper-class society. Rather the guitar was to be found within the middle class, particularly among those who could not yet afford a piano (the true symbol of Victorian propriety), or who were just beyond the pioneer stage and not yet settled enough to make one practical (13).
Young women in freed and middle-class African-American families also utilized the guitar, like the piano, in social events in the home:
It is rarely that the Visitor in the different families where there are 2 or 3 ladies will not find one or more of them competent to perform on the pianoforte, guitar, or some other appropriate musical instrument; and these, with singing and conversation … constitute the amusements of their evenings at home (14).
The guitar’s repertoire at this time, like that for piano, consisted primarily of simple solos or songs, many based on or derived from popular Italian opera tunes (15). Music publishers offered this repertoire to pianists and guitarists in printed reductions and arrangements for home performance. As Richard Crawford has demonstrated, although such a repertoire achieved notoriety in theatre or operatic performance, it achieved currency as printed sheet music purchased for home performance (16).
In addition to the burst of publishing activity and consequent parlor performances, the same period witnessed a significant increase in professional guitar activity in the United States. Douglas Back’s research documents an upsurge in concert appearances of European and South American visitors and immigrants before the Civil War, many patterning their touring and performances on those of successful European stars like Jenny Lind and Ole Bull (17). As expected, early accounts of professional concert appearances by guitarists identified them as European. Foremost among these was the Spaniard A. F. Huerta (1804–1875), who first performed in New York in the 1820s (18). Concerts featuring professionals like Huerta alternated solo and ensemble instrumental and vocal numbers and allowed the touring soloist to present his own compositions and arrangements, spotlighting his highly-developed technique.
Besides the Spaniard Huerta, other prominent performers included John B. Coupa, Leopold de Janon, and James Dorn (1809–after 1859) (19). While their New York concert appearances appear to have caused little stir, each of these men had some influence on the later history of the guitar in America. Coupa became a business partner to the immigrant luthier C. F. Martin (20); de Janon may have been related to the American guitarist Charles de Janon (1834–1911); and Dorn was the uncle of the American guitarist Charles Dorn (1839–1909).
The popularity of the guitar waned in America from the 1850s until about 1880 (21). A similar decline in the use of the guitar, as well as the harp, in home music-making in England has been credited in part to popular music’s increasing chromaticism in the mid-nineteenth century (22). The most popular American songs of the same era — Stephen Foster’s plantation melodies, for example — displayed little in the way of unplayable chromaticism. More likely, the drop in the guitar’s popularity in America resulted from a growing interest in the banjo, an interest clearly linked to the near-universal popularity of the minstrel show (23).
This change from guitar to banjo was, however, more than the replacement of one popular plucked instrument with another. The choice of the banjo over the guitar reflected the development of a new and different type of entertainment that flourished in the public sphere. Guitar performance in early nineteenth-century America centered on the parlor, featuring popular works in private music-making. Such private popular music “treasured reserve and sentiment, was without ostentation, and could be performed by the competent amateur” (24). This was the sphere of the guitar. On the other hand, the banjo’s popularity grew directly out of its use in an eminently public sphere, the theatre. Public music of this era featured “noise, excess, unrestrained emotionalism, and showy professionalism,” all inappropriate for the refined entertainments of the sequestered world of the middle-class nuclear family (25). The banjo came to white, middle-class America from the black slave, through the rough world of itinerant white entertainers (26). While minstrel and plantation songs eventually found their way into print and into the parlor (most often with piano or guitar accompaniment, seldom with banjo accompaniment), banjo music remained an oral legacy for many years.
By the 1850s, the technical level of the players had improved to the point that professional banjoists engaged in public tournaments with instruments and cash as prizes (27). These public performances inspired non-professionals to learn the instrument and perform in their homes, challenging the guitar’s place in the parlor. Professional and amateur banjoists gradually assumed the technique, notation, and repertoire of the guitar, too. But the banjo could never capture the cultivated cachet of the guitar, based on its historical associations with Europe’s courts and salons. Despite the best efforts of its players and advocates, the banjo continued to be associated with black America and the blackface minstrel show.
The desire of banjo manufacturers and players to elevate their instrument — not just into America’s middle-class parlors, but onto the platform of elite recital and concert halls — led to a new period of popularity for the guitar, in the company of the banjo and, eventually, the mandolin. In the 1880s, this drive for musical respectability, coupled with the late nineteenth-century development of mass-production and advertising techniques, led to the BMG (Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar) movement (28).
As Richard Crawford has demonstrated, American musicians had always been businessmen, attempting to balance the need to make a living with the desire to make music (29). At the end of the nineteenth century, this blend of business and art was reflected in a booming music industry that offered American consumers instruments, music, accessories, instruction, and eventually, recording and playback devices. Banjo manufacturers, led by S. S. Stewart in Philadelphia; and Albert C. Fairbanks, William A. Cole, John C. Haynes, and L. B. Gatcomb in Boston, produced instruments and music, aggressively promoting them to the middle and upper classes.
Two important developments grew out of the BMG movement. First, instrument manufacturers and music publishers created inexpensive magazines to promote not just their products, but the ideals and goals of the BMG movement. Second, these same men invented new instruments and devised new ensembles to create composing and performing opportunities for banjoist, mandolinists, and guitarists.
The BMG magazines flourished from 1882, when S. S. Stewart’s Banjo and Guitar Journal first appeared, well into the twentieth century. The most important of these magazines for guitarists are The Cadenza and The Crescendo, each of which featured numerous articles by and about important American and European guitarists. But even less well-known periodicals like The Chicago Trio, The F.O.G. Journal, and The New York Musical Era offer a glimpse into the role the guitar played in the United States at the close of the nineteenth century.
These magazines reveal a vibrant community of manufacturers, publishers, performers, students, and aficionados dedicated to promoting the three “plectral instruments” to the American public. Moreover, these men and women fully believed that their instruments warranted the same respect and position in America’s finest concert and recital venues. Toward that end, the BMG community not only called for greater use of banjos, mandolins, and guitars in elite music-making (like symphony orchestras and opera orchestras), but also created a parallel world of elevated music for these instruments. “Orchestras” of banjos, mandolins, and guitars regularly played light classics by Von Suppe, Rossini, and Nevin along with popular song and dance numbers. But many ensembles, especially large groups of 100 or more players performed Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven. Virtuoso solo banjoists and mandolinists tackled sonatas by Beethoven, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and even Bach’s D-minor Chaconne.
And just where was the guitar in all this activity? The guitar remained a part of this new world of elite music for two reasons. First, of the three plectral instruments, it was the only one with a refined history. BMG authorities regularly linked it to the lute in their histories which celebrated not just Sor, Carcassi, Giuliani, and Mertz, but such important guitarists (?!) as Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, and especially Paganini. Through its long (and occasionally fictional) history, the guitar offered the BMG community cultural legitimacy. Second, the guitar was the only one of the three “trio instruments” capable of actually playing harmony and observing the strictures of proper voice leading. Like the piano (to which it was often compared), the guitar provided a harmonic underpinning for the BMG ensembles which were generally dominated by the banjo and mandolin, whose single-line techniques and brighter, louder voices carried the melodies and moving inner voices.
The attitudes towards the guitar varied from magazine to magazine, but a later reader gets the distinct impression that many leaders of the movement would generally have preferred to ignore it. S. S. Stewart denigrated the guitar in his magazine regularly, suggesting that his banjo was a more decorous and more musical instrument. Later proponents encouraged the use of the piano or harp in mandolin or banjo ensembles, noting that these instruments were far preferable to the guitar, in part because the piano and harp were even more refined, more elevated than the guitar. As manufacturers created new instruments (mando-cellos, guitar-neck banjos, bass mandolins, banjeurines), some ensembles modeled themselves on string quartets (two mandolins, a mandora, and a mando-cello) or chamber orchestras (sections of banjos, large and small mandolins, woodwinds, and percussion) with no guitars at all.
Guitarists did appear, of course, on the pages of the magazines and in concerts. The BMG periodicals document a vibrant community of guitarists who recognized their roots in the repertoire and techniques of Europe’s great masters. J. K. Mertz remained the most revered of Europe’s earlier guitarists and American guitar soloists regularly presented his works to enthusiastic audiences. These performers included Meta Bischoff Henning (Chicago), Francis Vreeland (Boston), Elsie Tooker (San Francisco area), Jennie Durkee (Chicago and Denver), C. D. Schettler (Salt Lake City), George Krick (Philadelphia), and Sophocles Papas (Washington, D.C.). The most famous guitar soloists and guitar authorities, William Foden (St. Louis and New York) and Vahdah Olcott Bickford (Ohio, New York, and Los Angeles), maintained high profiles in the magazines, each writing columns for Cadenza and Crescendo, which promoted and reviewed their concerts, recitals, and publications. The magazines also published ensemble and solo music for the three instruments and my recent survey has documented nearly 1500 pieces involving the guitar published in these periodicals.
The BMG magazines promoted the three instruments as part of a larger movement which viewed music as a business in which selling, teaching, manufacturing, and publishing were as important as performing or composing. Despite its attempts to enter America’s elite music community or to create a parallel community of elite plectral performing institutions, the BMG movement never received the respect it felt it deserved. As Tim Brookes observed in his NYlon Review article, America’s elite musical community walled itself off from America’s popular culture. This cultural divide affected the BMG movement which, led by banjoists and mandolinists, turned more and more to popular music, including the syncopations of jazz and the crooning of pop vocalists. As America’s elite musical community preached “art for art’s sake,” the BMG leadership allied itself ever more strongly with the music industry, an industry attuned to fads (the ukulele, for example) and consumer popularity (tenor banjo chord charts).
The classical guitarists in the BMG movement wrote about Sor and his peers, promoted gut-strung instruments, and encouraged students and professionals to play Bach, Beethoven, and other classical giants. They badgered beginners to study with qualified teachers and called for composers to study and emulate the masters. At the same time, the BMG industry promoted new hybrid instruments — including the Hawaiian guitar, the tenor banjo, and the archtop f-hole guitar — more suited to jazz and dance bands. Although they continued to produce the traditional guitar, many manufacturers focused significant energy on promotion of the archtop guitar, an over-sized mandolin, strung with steel and played with a plectrum. Near the end of its publishing life, Crescendo offered long articles about electrical amplification, especially suitable for guitarists in popular dance bands. In short, the BMG movement, like America’s broader musical culture, was inexorably pulling apart, separating into camps dedicated to the popular or to the “artistic.”
In 1928, Crescendo rapturously reported Andres Segovia’s American debut as a pivotal moment for the BMG movement. BMG advocates saw in Segovia an international plectral figure regularly welcomed into the world’s elite concert halls. They hoped to ride his wave of popularity with elite audiences, bringing the banjo, the mandolin, and the plectral orchestras into these same venues. But Segovia’s debut proved pivotal for the BMG community in another way. Segovia was a solo artist who eschewed ties to the music industry, a performer rather than salesman or teacher who cared for no plucked instrument except the six-string, Spanish guitar. Segovia neither understood nor endorsed the goals of the greater BMG movement, but did reinforce the stance of its classical guitarists, who appeared more and more isolated from the Hawaiian guitarists, tenor banjoists, and pop players to whom the magazines appealed. Segovia helped America’s community of classical guitarists separate from and redefine itself independent of both the music industry and the BMG movement.
While it might appear that Tim Brookes and I have approached the history of the guitar in America in very different ways, I do not think that is the case. In his article, Tim examined America’s wider cultural dynamics, painting a backdrop against which America’s nineteenth-century guitarists played and taught. In my comments, I have attempted to approach the guitar’s history in America from another perspective, considering the influence of business and advertising, as well as the development of new instruments and their repertoires. In both cases, Tim and I have demonstrated that the history of the guitar in America demands a context, or a series of interrelated contexts. By considering the big picture (as Tim did) as well as focusing on arcane minutiae (as I have), the guitarist and the guitar historian can begin to appreciate the complexity of our instrument’s story in this country.
1. While the number of serious bibliographical and historical studies has increased over the past twenty years, scholarly documentation of the guitar’s early history in America remains fragmentary, residing principally in articles from Guitar Review and Soundboard, the journal of the Guitar Foundation of America. Among specialists in this area, Peter Danner and Douglas Back deserve recognition as two of the most active and prolific authors on the topic. An excellent survey of the guitar in nineteenth-century America to date appeared in 2003 as an introductory chapter to Philip Gura’s new book about Christian Frederick Martin and his storied guitars. See Philip F. Gura, C. F. Martin and His Guitars, 1796–1873 (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003). For a slightly different perspective, see Chapter 3 of my study, “The Guitar in America as Reflected in Topical Periodicals, 1882–1933,” (Ph. D. diss., Washington University in St. Louis, 2004).
2. Oscar George Theodore Sonneck, Early Concert-Life in America (1731–1800) (New York: Musurgia Publishers, 1949), 29, 32, 76, 130-131, and 137. See also Peter Danner, “Notes on Some Early American Guitar Concerts.” Soundboard 4/1 (Feb. 1977): 8-9, 21. Danner’s article draws primarily on Sonneck. See Richard Crawford, America’s Musical Life (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2001), 83ff, for an overview of Colonial concert life, also based on Sonneck.
3. Sonneck, 130.
4. As a recent article argues, nearly all American references to the guitar prior to the 1820s — including those tying George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to the guitar — point not to the gut-strung “Spanish guitar” but to the wire-strung “English guittar.” See Art Schrader, “Guittars and Guitars: A Note on a Musical Fashion,” American Music Research Journal 1 (2001), 1. This instrument, which bears a similarity to the cittern, enjoyed a surge of popularity among the upper class in England and America at the end of the eighteenth century. See P. Coggins, “‘This easy and agreeable instrument’: A History of the English Guittar,” Early Music 15 (1987):204-18 and NGDMM, 2001, s.v. “English guitar,” by Robert Spencer and Ian Harwood.
5. Aaron Shearer, “A Review of Early Methods,” Guitar Review 23, (June 1959):24-26.
6. Both cited in Peter Danner, “The Guitar in 19th-century America: A Lost Social Tradition,” Soundboard 12/3 (1985):295. See also, Danner’s “A Noteworthy Early American Guitar Treatise: James Ballard’s ‘Element’ of 1838,” Soundboard 8/4 (1981): 270-276. Shearer, “A Review…” and John C. Tanno, “American Guitar Methods Published from the Turn of the Nineteenth Century to the Present,” Guitar Review 23, (June 1959):28-31, document approximately twenty-five titles published between 1827–1900.
7. See, for example, Charles Converse, New Method for the Guitar, containing Elementary Instructions in Music, designed for those who study without a master… (New York: William Hall & Son, 1855) and Septimus Winner’s two guitar tutors: Winner’s New School for the Guitar, in which the instructions are so clearly and simply treated, as to make it unnecessary to require a teacher, … (Boston: Oliver Ditson & Company, 1870) and Winner’s Primary School for the Guitar; a Thorough and Complete Course of Instruction for the Guitar. Written and Arranged for Self-Instruction as well as for Teacher’s Use, … (Cleveland: S. Brainard’s Sons, 1872).
8. Justin Holland, Holland’s Comprehensive Method for the Guitar… Also A Choice Collection of Music… (New York: J. L. Peters, 1874 and 1876). See also, Barbara Clemenson, “Justin Holland: African-American Guitarist of the 19th Century,” Soundboard 21/2 (1994):13-20. Shearer, “A Review…,” discusses Holland’s Method at some length, calling it “far superior to any other early American publication” of this sort. Also see Gura, C. F. Martin, 160–167, for a discussion of Holland, especially his business relationship with C. F. Martin.
9. Shearer, “A Review…,” and John C. Tanno, “American Guitar Methods … together offer a comprehensive list of American guitar methods, all in standard notation. Peter Danner’s count of guitar music in the 1870 Board of Trade Catalog tallies “over a thousand pieces for solo guitar (plus an even larger number of songs with guitar accompaniment),” “Foreword” to Antonio Lopes, Instruction for the Guitar, Facsimile Edition (Menlo Park, CA: Instrumenta Antiqua, 1983), iii. See Nicholas E. Tawa, High-Minded and Low-Down, Music in the Lives of Americans, 1800–1861 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000), 68ff. for an examination of how Americans learned music in this period. Although Tawa allows for oral instruction, the bulk of his examples involve the transmission of musical instruction and works via printed sheet music.
10. See Crawford, America’s Musical Life…, 221ff., for a discussion of the dissemination of popular music in America in print and its relation to performance. He distinguishes between the oral transmission of “traditional” music and the loosely structured interpretation and performance of popular, printed music.
11. Antonio Lopes, Instruction for the Guitar and Banjo-Guitar (1884), Facsimile Edition (Menlo Park, CA: Instrumenta Antiqua, 1983), .
12. Peter Danner, “The Meaning of American Parlor Music,” unpublished paper, 1996. See also, Danner’s foreword to Antonio Lopes, Instruction for the Guitar, Facsimile Edition (Menlo Park, CA: Instrumenta Antiqua, 1983), iii-v.
13. Danner, “The Guitar in 19th-century America,” 294.
14. Joseph Willson, Sketches of the Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841), quoted in Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans (New York: Norton, 1997), 101.
15. Danner, “The Guitar in 19th-century America,” 293. While antebellum American guitar solos exist in considerable numbers, few appear in modern editions. Most remain available only in original editions in libraries or private collections. Some recent publications feature later nineteenth-century guitar solos by American composers like Justin Holland, William Foden, Charles De Janon and others, but Peter Danner’s 1978 anthology remains the best source for examples of earlier American solos: Peter Danner, ed., The Guitar in America. A Historical Collection of Classical Guitar Music in Facsimile (Melville, NY: Belwin Mills, 1978).
16. Crawford, America’s Musical Life, 221ff.
17. Douglas Back, “Guitar on the New York Concert Stage, 1816-1890 as chronicled by George C.D. Odell and George Templeton Strong.” Soundboard 25/4 (1999): 11-18.
18. Back, “Guitar on the New York …” See Phillip J. Bone, The Guitar and Mandolin; Biographies of Celebrated Players and Composers, (1914, 1954: Reprint, London: Schott & Co., 1972), 171-173 for a biography of Huerta.
19. Back, “Guitar on the New York…” See Bone, 99-101, for a biography of James Dorn.
20. See Back, “Guitar on the New York…” See Mike Longworth, Martin Guitars: A History (Cedar Knolls, NJ: Colonial Press, 1975), 2, and Gura, C. F. Martin, 67-68 and 74-78, for discussions of the business relationship between Martin and Coupa. Based on archival documentation, Gura suggests that Coupa probably died in 1850; Gura, C. F. Martin, 79.
21. Danner, “The Guitar in 19th-century America,” and Back, “Guitar on the New York …” describe this waning in the private and public spheres respectively. Gura notes a downturn in guitar production at the Martin factory beginning in the early 1870s: “Not until 1882 would the company return to more normal production;” Gura, C.F. Martin 187.
22. Derek Scott, The Singing Bourgeois. Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1989), 50.
23. See Phillip Gura and James F. Bollman. America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Karen Linn, That Half-Barbaric Twang: The Banjo in American Popular Culture, (Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), and Cecelia Conway, African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997).
24. Dale Cockerell, “Nineteenth-century popular music” in The Cambridge History of American Music, ed. David Nicholls, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 159.
26. The minstrel show has been the subject of many studies, especially in the last decades of the twentieth century, and all touch on the history of the banjo to one degree or another. Significant book-length studies include: William J. Mahar, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); Dale Cockrell, Demons of Disorder: The Early Blackface Minstrels and their World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch and Brooks McNamara, eds. Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press. 1996); Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); and Carl F. Wittke, Tambo and Bones: A History of the American Minstrel Stage (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1930).
27. Early contests usually pitted soloists against each other. See Stewart’s 2/1, (May 1883): 2 and Stewart’s 4/8, (February-March 1888): 2 for accounts of a contest in New York in 1883. Stewart described this particular event as a “farce” designed to unfairly promote members of the banjo-playing Dobson family who not only put on the contest but won all the prizes. Stewart himself later sponsored contests for banjo and mandolin clubs or orchestras.
28. The remainder of this article is derived from my recent study, “The Guitar in Topical Periodicals 1882-1933.” The reader is encouraged to consult this study for more detailed discussions of the BMG movement, its personalities, and its significance for the history of the guitar in America.
29. Crawford has observed that “in the absence of settings of the kind that the church, the court, and the state have traditionally provided in Europe, music in the United States has depended chiefly on the success musicians have had in finding customers and serving their needs;” Richard Crawford, The American Musical Landscape, 41. Michael Broyles observes that this mix of the commercial and artistic is not an historical construct applied to the period by later historians: “Institutions capable of nurturing and promoting art music, convincing the public of its value, and making it accessible nationwide, had to be consistent with American society … Americans had to find a mix of private and civic support that was both worthy of the new reverence for art and consistent with cherished principles of democracy … Many musicians and patrons [in the nineteenth century] were keenly and consciously aware of the problem and the opposing, at times contradictory viewpoints.” Michael Broyles, “Art Music from 1860 to 1920,” in The Cambridge History of American Music, David Nicholls, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 216.