The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century. Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts and music performances that depicted people of African descent; the shows were performed by white people in make-up or blackface for the purpose of playing the role of black people. There were some African-American performers and all-black minstrel groups that formed and toured under the direction of white people. Minstrel shows lampooned black people as dim-witted, buffoonish and happy-go-lucky. Minstrel shows emerged as brief burlesques and comic entr'actes in the early 1830s in the Northeastern states, they were developed into full-fledged form in the next decade. By 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national artform, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. By the turn of the 20th century, the minstrel show enjoyed but a shadow of its former popularity, having been replaced for the most part by vaudeville.
The form survived as professional entertainment until about 1910. The genre has had a lasting legacy and influence and was featured in a television series as as 1975; as the civil rights movement progressed and gained acceptance, minstrels lost popularity. The typical minstrel performance followed a three-act structure; the troupe first danced onto stage exchanged wisecracks and sang songs. The second part featured a variety of entertainments, including the pun-filled stump speech; the final act consisted of a send-up of a popular play. Minstrel songs and sketches featured several stock characters, most popularly the slave and the dandy; these were further divided into sub-archetypes such as the mammy, her counterpart the old darky, the provocative mulatto wench, the black soldier. Minstrels claimed that their songs and dances were authentically black, although the extent of the black influence remains debated. Spirituals entered the repertoire in the 1870s, marking the first undeniably black music to be used in minstrelsy.
Blackface minstrelsy was the first theatrical form, distinctly American. During the 1830s and 1840s at the height of its popularity, it was at the epicenter of the American music industry. For several decades, it provided the means. On the one hand, it had strong racist aspects. Although the minstrel shows were popular, being "consistently packed with families from all walks of life and every ethnic group", they were controversial. Integrationists decried them as falsely showing happy slaves while at the same time making fun of them. Minstrel shows were popular before slavery was abolished, sufficiently so that Frederick Douglass described blackface performers as "...the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied them by nature, in which to make money, pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens." Although white theatrical portrayals of black characters date back to as early as 1604, the minstrel show as such has origins. By the late 18th century, blackface characters began appearing on the American stage as "servant" types whose roles did little more than provide some element of comic relief.
Similar performers appeared in entr'actes in New York theaters and other venues such as taverns and circuses. As a result, the blackface "Sambo" character came to supplant the "tall-tale-telling Yankee" and "frontiersman" character-types in popularity, white actors such as Charles Mathews, George Washington Dixon, Edwin Forrest began to build reputations as blackface performers. Author Constance Rourke claimed that Forrest's impression was so good he could fool blacks when he mingled with them in the streets. Thomas Dartmouth Rice's successful song-and-dance number, "Jump Jim Crow", brought blackface performance to a new level of prominence in the early 1830s. At the height of Rice's success, The Boston Post wrote, "The two most popular characters in the world at the present are Victoria and Jim Crow." As early as the 1820s, blackface performers called themselves "Ethiopian delineators". Blackface soon found a home in the taverns of New York's less respectable precincts of Lower Broadway, the Bowery, Chatham Street.
It appeared on more respectable stages, most as an entr'acte. Upper-class houses at first limited the number of such acts they would show, but beginning in 1841, blackface performers took to the stage at the classy Park Theatre, much to the dismay of some patrons. Theater was a participatory activity, the lower classes came to dominate the playhouse, they threw things at actors or orchestras who performed unpopular material, rowdy audiences prevented the Bowery Theatre from staging high drama at all. Typical blackface acts of the period were short burlesques with mock Shakespearean titles like "Hamlet the Dainty", "Bad Breath, the Crane of Chowder", "Julius Sneezer" or "Dars-de-Money". Meanwhile, at least some whites were interested in black dance by actual black performers. Nineteenth-century New York slaves shingle danced for spare change on their days off, musicians play
John L. Sullivan
John Lawrence Sullivan known as the "Boston Strong Boy", was an Irish-American boxer recognized as the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing, holding the title from February 7, 1882, to 1892. He is generally recognized as the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing under the London Prize Ring Rules. John Lawrence Sullivan was born in 1858 in the South End neighborhood of Boston to Irish immigrant parents, Michael Sullivan from Abbeydorney, County Kerry and the former Catherine Kelly from Athlone, County Roscommon, he attended public schools in his native Boston, attending the Dwight Grammar School, performing well academically. Sullivan's parents aspired for their son to enter the priesthood as a Roman Catholic priest. To this end Sullivan enrolled at Boston College circa 1875 but after only a few months he turned to playing baseball professionally, earning the substantial sum of $30 to $40 a week for his efforts; as Sullivan recalled in 1883: "... I gave myself up to it; this is how I got into the base-ball profession and I left school for good and all.
From the base-ball business I drifted into boxing and pugilism." As a professional fighter Sullivan was nicknamed The Boston Strongboy. As a youth he was arrested several times for participating in bouts, he went on exhibition tours offering people money to fight him. Sullivan won more than 450 fights in his career. There is some controversy among boxing historians over whether Sullivan had sparred with black boxer James Young at Schieffelin Hall in Tombstone, Arizona in 1882, it is significant. If it did occur, Sullivan had a brief sparring session with the resident from Tombstone, didn't regard it as a bout. In 1883–84 Sullivan went on a coast-to-coast tour by train with five other boxers, they were scheduled to hold 195 fights in 136 different towns over 238 days. To help promote the tour, Sullivan announced that he would box anyone at any time during the tour under the Queensberry Rules for $250, he knocked out eleven men during the tour. In Sullivan's era, no formal boxing titles existed, he became a champion after defeating Paddy Ryan in Mississippi City, near Gulfport, Mississippi on February 7, 1882.
Modern authorities have retroactively labelled Ryan the "Heavyweight Champion of America", but any claim to Ryan's being a "world champion" would have been dubious. Depending on the modern authority, Sullivan was first considered world heavyweight champion either in 1888 when he fought Charley Mitchell in France, or in 1889 when he knocked out Jake Kilrain in round 75 of a scheduled 80-round bout. Arguably the real first World Heavyweight champion was Jem Mace, who defeated Tom Allen in 1870 at Kenner, but strong anti-British sentiment within the Irish-American boxing community of the time chose to disregard him; when the modern authorities write of the "heavyweight championship of the world," they are referring to the championship belt presented to Sullivan in Boston on August 8, 1887. The belt was inscribed Presented to the Champion of Champions, John L. Sullivan, by the Citizens of the United States, its centerpiece featured the flags of the US, the United Kingdom. Mitchell came from Birmingham and fought Sullivan in 1883, knocking him down in the first round.
Their third meeting took place in 1888 on the grounds of a chateau at Chantilly, with the fight held in driving rain. It went on for more than two hours, at the end of which both men were unrecognisable and had suffered much loss of blood. At this point, the local gendarmerie arrested Mitchell, he was confined to jail for a few days and fined by the local magistrate, as bare-knuckle boxing was illegal in France at that time. Swathed in bandages, Sullivan was helped to evade the law and taken across the English Channel to spend the next few weeks convalescing in Liverpool; the Kilrain fight is considered to be a turning point in boxing history because it was the last world title bout fought under the London Prize Ring Rules, therefore the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout. It was one of the first sporting events in the United States to receive national press coverage. For the first time, newspapers carried extensive pre-fight coverage, reporting on the fighters' training and speculating on where the bout would take place.
The traditional center of bare-knuckle fighting was New Orleans, but the governor of Louisiana had forbidden the fight in that state. Sullivan had trained for months in Belfast, New York under trainer William Muldoon, whose biggest problem had been keeping Sullivan from liquor. A report on Sullivan's training regimen in Belfast was written by famed reporter Nellie Bly and published in the New York World. Rochester reporter Arch Merrill commented that Sullivan would "escape" from his guard. In Belfast village, the cry was heard, "John L. is loose again. Send for Muldoon!" Muldoon would take him back to their training camp. On July 8, 1889, an estimated 3000 spectators boarded special trains for the secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, a town just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi; the fight began at 10:30, it looked as if Sullivan was going to lose after he vomited during the 44th round. But the champion got his second wind after that, Kilrain's manager threw in the towel after the 75th round.
Undefeated at that point, Sullivan did not defend his title for the next four years. During this period, he was a friend and supporter of Irish boxer Ike Weir
Francesca Janauschek aka Madame Fanny Janauschek was a Czech born stage actress. Fanny Janauschek was born on July 1829 in Prague, her mother worked as her father as a tailor. She came to America in 1867 and first performed at the Academy of Music, New York City, on October 9, 1867 managed by Max Maretzek, she spoke no English, only German and worked with all English speaking casts. In three years time since arriving in the US she mastered enough English dialect to communicate with American audiences and decided to make America her home; some of her performances Medea, were compared to the revered Italian tragedienne Adelaide Ristori. She became famous acting in other famous parts, she was noted for playing Meg Merrilies, a role Charlotte Cushman made famous. In 1873, Janauschek starred in an adaptation of Charles Dickens's Bleak House, in which she played both the heroine Lady Dedlock and her murderous French maid Hortense, demonstrating Janauschek's range as an actress, she played this double role in touring companies for decades.
In 1900 Madame Janauschek was paralyzed. She died in 1904 blind and bankrupt. Friends and actors gathered a collection to have her buried properly in Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn New York. Madame Janauschek had no offspring. Fanny Janauschek at the Internet Broadway Database Francheska Janauschek portrait gallery at NY Public Library Billy Rose Collection Fanny Janauschek at JosephHaworth.com Fanny Janauschek at the Findagrave.com database
California Theatre (San Francisco)
The California Theatre, was located at 414 Bush Street, San Francisco. It was built in 1869 by William Ralston, at that time the treasurer of the Bank of California. S. C. Bugbee & Son were the theatre cost $250, 000 to build; the original theatre was demolished and rebuilt in 1889. It was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the former site is now a California Historical Landmark, with a historical marker commemorating the theatre and its artists. Ralston's decision to build the theatre was inspired by the acting of John McCullough and Lawrence Barrett, who he felt deserved a theatre of their own to showcase their talent and which he believed would be a lucrative investment, he was right. It opened on January 1869 with a performance of Bulwer-Lytton's play Money, it was the leading theatre in the city until its demolition in 1888. There were elaborate murals of San Francisco painted by local artist G. J. Denny and a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay on the drop curtain; the theatre claimed to be the first on the West Coast to use calcium light with parabolic reflectors, aimed from the house, to light up the stage.
On the first anniversary of the theatre's opening, a Scandinavian bandleader had the following to say, The first year the California Theatre cleared $100,000. On the evening of our first anniversary, Mr. Barrett stood at the stage door and invited every single individual belonging to the theatre, saying that after the performance we should all meet up in Pacific Hall on the second floor of the California Theatre building, facing Bush street. Upon coming into the hall we were surprised with a large banquet table set in the form of “T” and furnished from the best caterer, Maison-Doree, at $5 a piece. In spite of the theatre's success, the Bank of California, which owned the theatre, failed in 1875. Soon thereafter, Ralston went swimming and drowned, leading to speculation that he might have committed suicide; the theatre went into a decline. In addition to plays, the theatre was host to opera, soprano Inez Fabbri performed there on many occasions until the Grand Opera House opened in 1876, as did Nellie Melba.
A new California Theatre, opened on the site on May 18, 1889, but was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but it never regained its former status after Ralston's death in 1875 and McCullough's departure in 1877. The new theatre was the first on the West Coast to be lighted with electricity; the periodical, The Electrical World, had the following to say about the new theatre, The new temple of Thespis is situated on the site of the famous old California Theatre. It is fire-proof, has 19 exits; the main entrance, on Bush street, is formed by a Roman arch of massive proportions and striking design. The vestibule is rectangular in shape, is finished in antique oak panelling, with pilasters and arabesques, is lighted by thirty-two 16 candle-power lamps and an electrolier of eight 82's. In the beautiful foyer is another large electrolier. In the auditorium, behind the eight proscenium boxes, with dome-shaped canopies supported by columns, rise arches of Indian fretwork carrying pillars surmounted by 88 candle-power lamps enclosed in opalescent globes shaped like pineapples.
The ceiling consists of three concave divisions extending from wall to wall parallel with the front of the stage rising upward, separated by narrow panels or chords. It is crossed by four bands of dark color, in which, as well as in the chords and fantastic tracery of the decorations, are set numbers of lamps. From the ceiling, over the parquet and near the boxes, depend three rich electroliers similar in design to those throughout the house, formed by a centre fixture of opalescent glass held in cast metal work, with four pendants of the same shape hanging by chains attached to arms radiating from the stem of the fixture. All the electroliers were specially designed by J. M. Wood, of the architect. Throughout the house the decorations are so designed that lamps in the midst of bands of flowers and carvings, not only afford light, but add hitherto unknown features to the general ornamentation. At the back of the metal and plastic tracery of the boxes and gallery, panels of cathedral glass are inserted, which soften the radiance of 16 candle-power lamps set behind, give to the railings the effect of carvings thrown into relief by mellow light.
For producing winter and moonlight effects, as a substitute for calcium light, six movable bunch lights, with silvered reflectors, are provided. The rheostats, which control all the lamps in the house, are of novel design, they are divided into six parts, which are in connection with six step-by-step switches, capable of being operated and positively. The handles of the switches can be locked to a shaft. Being divided, one-half the lamps in the auditorium can be turned down while the other half is being lighted, producing a fine blending effect; this is the only theatre in the country where the switches are so arranged. In 1933, the site was registered as California Historical Landmark #86; the landmark marker, located at 430 Bush Street, mentions the January 18, 1869 opening date, lists a number of artists who played there
Helena Modjeska, whose actual Polish surname was Modrzejewska, was a renowned actress who specialized in Shakespearean and tragic roles. Helena Modjeska was born in Kraków, Poland, on October 12, 1840, her name was recorded at birth as Jadwiga Benda, but she was baptized Helena Opid, being given her godfather's surname. The question of her origins is a complicated one. Modjeska's mother was the widow of a prosperous Kraków merchant, Szymon Benda. In her autobiography, Modjeska claimed. While it is true that the Benda family did employ a music teacher named Michal Opid, who stood as Helena's godfather, Opid was not the father of Józefa Benda's two youngest children. There is evidence to suggest that Helena and her older brother Adolf were the results of an affair between Józefa and Prince Władysław Sanguszko, a wealthy and influential Polish nobleman. Glossed over in Modjeska's autobiography were the details concerning her first marriage, to her former guardian, Gustave Sinnmayer. Gustave was the director of a second-rate provincial theater troupe.
The date of Modjeska's marriage to Gustave is uncertain. She discovered many years that they had never been married, as he was still married to his first wife when they wed. Together the couple had two children, a son Rudolf, a daughter Marylka, who died in infancy. Gustaw Zimajer used the stage name "Gustaw Modrzejewski." It was the feminine version of this name that Modjeska adopted when she made her stage debut in 1861 as Helena Modrzejewska. When acting abroad, she used a simplified version of her name, easier for English-speaking audiences to pronounce. In her early Polish acting career, Modrzejewska played at Bochnia, Nowy Sącz, Przemyśl, Rzeszów and Brzeżany. In 1862 she appeared for the first time in Lwów, playing in her first Romantic drama, as "Skierka" in Juliusz Słowacki's Balladyna. From 1863 she appeared in plays by Słowacki. In 1865 Zimajer tried to get her a contract with Viennese theaters, but the plan came to naught due to her poor knowledge of the German language; that year Helena left Zimajer, taking their son Rudolf, returning to Kraków.
Once there she accepted a four-year theatrical engagement. In 1868 she began appearing in Warsaw, her brothers Józef and Feliks Benda were well regarded actors in Poland. An incident illustrates the circumstances under which Polish society labored. At one of Modrzejewska's Warsaw performances, seventeen secondary-school pupils presented her with a bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon in the red-and-white Polish national colors; the pupils were accused by the Russian Imperial authorities of conducting a patriotic demonstration. They were banned from admission to any other school. One of the pupils, Ignacy Neufeld, subsequently shot himself. On September 12, 1868, Modjeska married Karol Bożenta Chłapowski. Best known in America as "Count Bozenta," he was not a count, his family belonged to the untitled landed gentry. In the United States he adopted the stage name "Count Bozenta" as a ploy to gain publicity. "Bozenta" was easier for an English-speaking audience to pronounce than "Chłapowski."At the time of their marriage, Chłapowski was employed as the editor of a liberal nationalist newspaper, owned by Adam Sapieha and a Mr. Sammelson.
Modjeska wrote that their home "became the center of the artistic and literary world." Poets, politicians, artists and other actors frequented Modjeska's salon. In July 1876, after spending more than a decade as the reigning diva of the Polish national theater, for reasons both personal and political and her husband chose to emigrate to the United States. My husband's only desire was to take me away from my surroundings and give me perfect rest from my work... Our friends used to talk about the new country, the new life, new scenery, the possibility of settling down somewhere in the land of freedom, away from the daily vexations to which each Pole was exposed in Russian or Prussian Poland. Henryk Sienkiewicz was the first to advocate emigration. Little by little others followed him, soon five of them expressed the desire to seek adventures in the jungles of the virgin land. My husband, seeing the eagerness of the young men, conceived the idea of forming a colony in California on the model of the Brook Farm.
The project was received with acclamation. Once in America and her husband purchased a ranch near Anaheim, California. Julian Sypniewski, Łucjan Paprowski, Henryk Sienkiewicz, were among the friends who had accompanied them to California, it was during this period. The artists Stanisław Witkiewicz and Adam Chmielowski were to have come with Modjeska's group, but they changed their plans. Modjeska intended to abandon her career and envisioned herself living "a life of toil under the blue skies of California, among the hills, riding on horseback with a gun over my shoulder." The reality proved less cinematic. None of the colonists knew the first thing about ranching or farming, they could speak English; the utopian experiment failed, the colonists went their separate ways, Modjeska returned to the stage, reprising the Shakespearean roles that she had performed
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers in the English-speaking theatre; the New York Times hailed him in his obituary as "the most conspicuous English dramatist of the 19th century." Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot was educated in Dublin where he lived on Gardiner Street. His mother was sister of the poet and mathematician George Darley; the Darleys were an important Dublin family influential in many fields and related to the Guinnesses by marriage. Anne was married to Samuel Smith Boursiquot, of Huguenot ancestry, but the identity of the boy's father is questionable, he was Dionysius Lardner, a lodger at his mother's house at a time when she was separated from her husband, who supported Dion financially until about 1840. In the late 1830s Dion worked as a clerk at the Guinness brewery, when his brief affair with the third Arthur Guinness was revealed, he was sacked by Arthur Guinness II.
Dion went to London and was enrolled at University College School at the age of 13 and studied for a year at the University of London. After a year in London, Boursiquot/Boucicault left to pursue acting in Cheltenham; the young actor used the stage name Lee Morton. He joined William Charles Macready and made his first appearance upon the stage with Benjamin Webster at Bristol, England. Soon afterwards he began to write plays in conjunction, his first play, A Legend of the Devil's Dyke, opened in Brighton in 1838. Three years he found immediate success as a dramatist with London Assurance. Produced at Covent Garden on 4 March 1841, its cast included such well-known actors as Charles Mathews, William Farren, Mrs Nesbitt and Madame Vestris, he followed this with a number of other plays, among the most successful of the early ones being The Bastile, an "after-piece", Old Heads and Young Hearts, The School for Scheming and The Knight Arva, all at Her Majesty's Theatre, as well as his successful The Corsican Brothers and Louis XI.
The last two plays were adaptations of French plays. In his play The Vampire, Boucicault made his début as a leading actor as the vampire'Sir Alan Raby'. Although the play itself had mixed reviews, Boucicault's characterisation was praised as "a dreadful and weird thing played with immortal genius". In 1854 he played the title character in Andy Blake. From 1854 to 1860, Boucicault resided in the United States. Boucicault and his actress wife, Agnes Robertson, toured America, he wrote many successful plays there, acting in most of them. These included the popular Jessie Brown. From around 1855 his business manager and partner in New York was William Stuart, an expatriate Irish MP and adventurer. Together they leased Wallack's Theatre in 1855-1856, put on a short season at the Washington Theatre in Washington D. C. In the summer of 1859, Boucicault and William Stuart became joint lessees of Burton's New Theatre on Broadway just below Amity Street. After extensive remodelling, he renamed his new showplace the Winter Garden Theatre.
There on 5 December 1859, he premiered his new sensation, the anti-slavery potboiler The Octoroon, in which he starred. This was the first play to treat the Black American population. Boucicault fell out with Stuart over money matters, he went back to England. On his return he produced at the Adelphi Theatre a dramatic adaptation of Gerald Griffin's novel, The Collegians, entitled The Colleen Bawn; this play, one of the most successful of the times, was performed in every city of the United Kingdom and the United States. Julius Benedict used it as the basis for his Opera The Lily of Killarney. Although it made its author a handsome fortune, he lost it in the management of various London theatres. After his return to England, Boucicault was asked by the noted American comedian Joseph Jefferson, who starred in the production of Octoroon, to rework Jefferson's adaptation of Washington Irving's Rip van Winkle, their play opened in London in 1865 and on Broadway in 1866. Boucicault's next marked success was at the Princess's Theatre, London in 1864 with Arrah-na-Pogue in which he played the part of a County Wicklow, Ireland carman.
This, his admirable creation of "Conn" in his play Conn the Shaughraun, won him the reputation of being the best "stage Irishman" of his time. His reputation was mentioned by W. S. Gilbert in the libretto of his 1881 operetta Patience in the line: "The pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault". Again in partnership with William Stuart he built the New Park Theatre in 1873–1874. However, Boucicault withdrew just before the theatre opened, Stuart teamed up instead with the actor and theatre manager Charles Fechter to run the house. In 1875 Boucicault returned to New York City, where he made his home and for a time his manager was Harry J. Sargent, he wrote the melodrama Contempt of Court in 1879, but he paid occasional visits to London and elsewhere. He made his last appearance in London in his play, The Jilt, in 1885; the Streets of London and After Dark were two of his late successes as a dramatist. Boucicault was an excellent actor in pathetic parts, his uncanny ability to play these low-status roles
Arthur Wyndham Playfair was an English actor and singer. Beginning in Victorian burlesque and comic operas, Playfair became known for his roles in Edwardian musical comedy and in musical revues. Playfair was born in India, he first appeared on the London stage in December 1887. He went on to create roles in the Victorian burlesque Cinder Ellen up too Late, he created the role of Butler in The Man from Blankley's to much success. In 1911, he starred in the title role in Preserving Mr. Panmure, he starred as Baron Dauvray in The Girl in the Taxi. He toured the United States in 1901 and 1903, in the latter year appearing in The Man from Blankley's at the Criterion Theatre in New York with Charles Hawtrey, appearing there as Bernard Mandeville in Letty in 1904. During World War I he appeared in a series of hit revues. In 1914, he played in the successful The Passing Show at the Palace Theatre, followed the next year by Bric-a-Brac and in 1916 in Vanity Fair, both at the Palace, he appeared in the silent film Judged by Appearances in 1916.
In 1917, he appeared in another successful revue, Bubbly, at the Comedy Theatre, followed, in 1918–19, by another hit, Tails Up, at the same theatre. Playfair married the actress Lena Ashwell OBE in 1896. Playfair and Ashwell divorced in 1908, he was the cousin of the actor Nigel Playfair. Playfair died aged 48 in 1918 in England. Playfair in the National Portrait Gallery Collection Reviews of Playfair at the Footlight Notes site