GEORGE E. "MELLO" AND NEVA SATTERLEE McNALLY VAUDEVILLE COLLECTION, ca. 1889-1964 #760
(1 cubic ft: 1 F/O)
by: Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., December 2002
According to family history, Neva Satterlee at the age of seventeen formed an orchestra and was its leader for many years. At one time she was under contract with Charles Hoyt Productions, probably the same Hoyt of Morgan & Hoytís who boasted a "Ladiesí Band and Imperial Singing Orchestra" on their bill. She was an accomplished musician and actress. Neva married George McNally and they took the stage surname of Mello. Neva did all the musical arrangements as she was the only one of the pair who could read music. Their home base was the town of Fulton, New York. The couple remained on the vaudeville circuit as entertainers until Nevaís death during child birth in 1909. The couple had at least one child, Angeline McNally. George continued to work in vaudeville. The act was under the direction of George Mello and Eddie Shaw. The act, titled "Hokem is Hokem," was a minstrel, musical revue style show and apparently consisted of at least five musical selections; the opening "Hot-Time," followed by "Heís Goiní to Hab a Hot Time Bye aní Bye" termed ("the greatest coon song ever published"), "Tall Girl" (arranged by Neva Satterlee Mello), "Snaps," and "The Man Behind the Plow". The actís band consisted of a piano, violin, cornet, trombone, drums, clarinet, and flute but may have included other instruments. According to family tradition, Mello ceased his vaudeville career by 1928. (AC Control File, Warshaw: Motion Pictures)
The vaudeville tradition began in the aftermath of the Civil War when numerous minstrel companies began touring the country in minstrel shows presenting songs and comedy in an easily accessible format. Vaudeville became the staple American family entertainment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tony Pastor gave the first "big time vaudeville show" in New York City in 1881 and by 1919 there were reportedly 900 vaudeville theatres in the country. Featuring a collection of sketches, short plays, popular songs, and simple comedy routines, the show often featured minstrel-type acts presented by actors in blackface. With the influx of immigrants in the latter 19th century, the tradition continued but was changed by European and ethnic influences. Booking agents operated in the major cities of New York, Chicago and San Francisco promoting and developing their own Vaudeville "circuits". Booking agents booked small troupes of actors, specialty acts and musical performers to tour the circuit traveling from one townís vaudeville house to the next. (Encarta Encyclopedia, IATSE)
Scope and Content
The collection is divided into four series: Series 1: ORIGINAL MUSIC MANUSCRIPTS/ARRANGEMENTS contains original manuscripts used in the "Hokem is Hokem" act orchestrated by Neva Satterlee Mello. There are parts scores for five musical instruments and various instruments have additional music scores as well for individual selections. The series is arranged alphabetically. Series 2: COMMERCIAL SHEET MUSIC contains commercially printed sheet music, mostly from the vaudeville era with a few exceptions such as "Hello Dolly" and others. The series contains some well worn sheet music selections, some of which were presumably used by Nevaís orchestra or the Hokem is Hokem troupe. One piece, Lily of the Valley, has been sewn along its spine by a sewing machine to help keep it together. The series is arranged alphabetically. Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS contains photographs of George Mello and some of the Melloís/McNallyís vaudeville contemporaries. Of special interest is one photograph of a man dressed in drag and blackface and a photograph of Albert Tovell, one time master of ceremonies for the somewhat infamous Frances H. Browning aka "Peaches" Browning (1910-1956). There is also another photograph of two men dressed in blackface. Series 4: MEMORABILIA contains the music covers for the Hokem is Hokem act and one publication.
Donated to the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Archives Center by the McNallyís granddaughter, Beatrice M. La Clair in October 2000.