The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 12

Feature
Joseph Daniels: Nineteenth Century British Banjo Maker and Minstrel Performer
By Lewis M. Stern

Joseph Daniels, born Joseph Toledano, was a professional musician and member of the large and well-known Daniels musical family in Victorian London. The Toledanos were Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors had fled the Inquisition in the early 1500s from either Spain or Portugal, and found their way to England. The family is fond of recounting that the navigator aboard Christopher Columbus’ flagship was a Toledano.

Joseph Daniels in front of his home, ca. 1890. Photo courtesy of Ms. Claire Daniels Goldman, daughter of Alfred Daniels.

Joseph’s father Israel was born in England in the early 1800s. Israel made his living as a performer. Family lore has it that Israel was called to entertain at the Tatton Hall manor of Lord Edgerton, in Chester. There he was smitten by the daughter of the Lord, with whom he eloped. The daughter, who converted to Judaism and took the name Sarah, was disowned by her noble family. Israel and Sarah had eight children—including Joseph who was born in Rochester in 1841.

This was a flamboyant family, thoroughly musical and immersed in the entertainment profession. At least one family member established a business renting costumes to performers. Joseph taught banjo, mandolin, and guitar as well as stage dancing out of his home in London. He was the maker of Defiance banjos, and he designed some unique and intricate banjo innovations, taught and composed music for the instrument, and performed in London through the late 1890s. . . .

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