Minstrel Song Sheets

    One indication of the popularity of blackface minstrelsy throughout the country is the number of songs that were published as sheet music by companies like Oliver Ditson in Boston, William A. Pond in New York, J. L. Frederick in Philadelphia and Geo. Willig, Junr., in Baltimore. As you can see from the twenty examples here (all but the last from the 1830s and 1840s), the illustrated covers of these songs created very stereotypical images of slaves -- but these images were also probably the images of slaves that most people in Stowe's audience would have been most familiar with when she began the novel in 1851.

    How minstrelsy and its attendant images of blacks influenced Stowe's novel is a crucial question. How "Uncle Tom" influenced minstrelsy is suggested by the final image is this series, a sheet music cover from 1860. The song is "Old Black Joe," but the image was copied from a photograph of Dan Bryant (and an unidentified actress) in character as Tom and Eva (see COMPOSITE IMAGE).

Courtesy of the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music,
Special Collections, The Johns Hopkins University.

Courtesy Harvard Theatre Collection, The Houghton Library