This talented kitty now has his own CafePress shop! The Banjo Cat Shop has shirts, buttons, and magnets and tote bags.
We have had this cabinet card of a cat playing a banjo for years. Although some photographers used stuffed animals for genre images we feel that this kitty is alive if obviously annoyed at being posed with a banjo, top hat, and gloves. I believe the photographer is Louis De Ribas, a Boston photographer who patented a drop shutter in 1887. The time, the place, and the name seem right.
I used a slide (*now replaced with a scan of the original) of it recently for a demonstration to a friend who is considering the purchase of a scanner. The scan was only going to be a demo and I didn't even plan to save it. When we looked at an enlargement of the scan we saw faint writing on the image. That became a demonstration of contrast enhancement.
The only part we could read was ".... to Me Quickly My Darling" and "copyright ....." Was this the title of the song the cat was "playing"? A Google search brought us to "Come to Me Quickly My Darling" from the 1874 comic operetta Evangeline. It was loosely (very loosely it seems) based on the Longfellow poem Evangeline. It toured and was revived periodically for over 30 years. Its popularity seemed partly explained by the liberal use of ladies in tights but texts also mention a two-person dancing heifer and an amorous whale. Isn't the internet amazing!
*Note #3 I found the graphic that I mention in one of my comments. It is the cover of an 1885 program for Evangeline. In the lower left you will see a man with an umbrella riding on the back of a whale. This is obviously the "amorous whale" mentioned in the quote below. It also shows a dancing cow although the picture is obviously of a real cow although the quote mentions a "two person heifer" which suggests it was two people in a cow costume. There is also a balloon ascension and an Indian with an upraised weapon. This show really had a LOT going on!
The music and words for the song the kitty is playing, "Come to Me Quickly My Darling", is now posted on Google Books! Go to the URL for the Evangeline Book and click in page 101 for the song.