AMUSEMENT ANNALS—CLIPPER SERIES, NO. IV.
Apart from having, as much as Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel itself, been instrumental in fostering the Republican Party, the play of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" possesses a special interest as being the pioneer of the "long runs" familiar to the American stage of late years. It is the purpose of this article to enter briefly into a history of that play, with respect to the early days of which many erroneous impressions exist. It has been supposed that the late George L. Aiken was the first to dramatize it, that it first saw footlights in the Summer of 1853 at the National Theatre, in this city, and that the talented Howard family were throughout identified with the wonderful success it achieved at that establishment. On the contrary, it had been "done to death" in England, France and Germany before it entered upon its protracted "run" in this city.
The first "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of which we have any record was written by Prof. Hewett of Baltimore, Md., and it is said to have been produced at the Museum, in that city, on Jan. 5, 1852. Subsequently in that year it was brought out at the old Marshall Theatre, Richmond, Va. We mention these asserted facts to enable the reader who happens to be in either city to satisfy himself by referring to the newspaper advertisements of the Museum or the Marshall Theatre, as the case may be. Some of our correspondents may have leisure to hunt up the documentary evidence, or some one of our readers may have a bill of Mr. Hewett's play, and may not object to forwarding to us either the bill itself or a copy of it. It was not a dramatization of Mrs. Stowe's novel, but was written as an offset to that book, and was called "Uncle Tom's Cabin As It Is."
The first production, in America at least, of a dramatic conversion of the famous anti-slavery novel occurred at the National Theatre, this city, on Monday, Aug. 23, 1852. It was withdrawn after the night of Saturday, Sept. 4, after being performed eleven times, a change of bill having been made on Sept. 3 for Treasurer Crouta's benefit. Its author was Charles Western Taylor, who died at West Farms, N. Y., about two years ago. He was an experienced dramatist, and he took care not to encroach upon the sentiments of the patrons of a theatre that, if politics is ever permitted to influence a playhouse, was intensely Democratic. His drama was purposely but a feeble reflex of the novel. He even changed the names of some of the characters. It could disappoint the anti-slavery man, but it certainly could not seriously offend the most radical Democrat. As a critic wrote who went there in expectation of seeing benches torn up, as at the Bowery Theatre when George W. Smith, still a ballet-master in Philadelphia, was driven from the stage by the fury of a mob that clamored for Julia Turnbull while not permitting Signora Ciocca to dance—as this critic wrote of the piece: "There was nothing in it." And here is its original cast:
First night of Mr. C. W. Taylor's dramatization of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, entitled
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
The only persons in the cast known to us to be living are Mrs. Nichols, Mrs. Jones, and Mr. Marsh. Miss Mary Barber, after a long connection with the Metropolitan stage, inclusive of that of Mitchell's Olympic Theatre, married and retied. Of Mr. Toulmin we have lost trace, and Miss Armstrong and Miss Thompson have also escaped us. J. M. Cooke, who had come to New York as an equestrian actor and broke his leg by falling with his horse while playing Putnam at the Bowery Theatre, was in this city about seven years ago; but his name is no longer visible, and he may be no longer of mortals. All the others are dead, except possibly Little Ariel—Master Murray. This lad's measure of fame had almost been filled by his portraiture of Little Mose to the Big Mose of Frank S. Chanfrau. What has become of Master Murray? We have not heard of him since about 1859, when he was again at the National Theatre. Possibly he is now a merchant in good standing, perhaps he is under the sod. Mr. Frank S. Chanfrau's lantern of memory may be able to throw light upon this dark subject. As to the three known survivors, Mrs. Jones will appear in a subsequent cast; Robert Guerineau, professionally known as Marsh, and organizer of the once noted troupe of children headed by Little Mary and George Marsh, is in San Francisco; and Mrs. Nicholls (now the wife of Mr. Rogers, a scenic artist) is in Chicago, but is represented among stars by her daughter Genevieve Rogers, now traveling with a company managed by one of the brothers of G. L. Aiken.
It has been remarked that the foregoing was the first dramatization produced in America. It may or may not have been the first anywhere. As early as January, 1853, MM. De Wailly and Texier's version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was being performed at the Gaiety, Paris, while another translation of the novel by MM. Dumanoir and D'Ennery was being enacted at the Ambigue Comique. At the same time versions were being performed in Prussia. About November, 1852, at the Adelphi, London, there was produced "a new version by Mark Lemon and Tom Taylor," it being entitled "Slave Life." There had already been other versions at other London theatres, one having been brought out about September, 1852. These are the results of a cursory glance at our records, among which is a statement that five different versions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were being played in Paris at one time. One of these may have been brought out prior to September, 1852. It is left to others to pursue the foreign branch of the subject.
The since celebrated version by George L. Aiken was the second one brought out in America. The date of its production was Sept. 27, 1852, and the place of the Troy (N. Y.) Museum. We have not at hand a bill of the original cast, but a copy of it will probably be forthcoming in good time. In lieu of it we present the original announcement, which gives the leading characters. "S. Hayes," the scenic artist, must have been the late James E. Hayes, afterwards lessee of the Olympic Theatre, this city.
To conclude with
THE FIRST NIGHT.
Doors open at 7. To commence at 8. Admission, 25c.; children half price; boys to gallery, 12½ c. extra. Seats secured during the day.
As Mrs. E. Fox will not appear again, we shall state that she was the mother of C. K. and G. L. Fox and Mrs. G. C. Howard. George Aiken's name will not appear again, and it may be stated that, while being a contributor to one of our metropolitan story-papers, he died last Spring on Jersey City Heights, and of diphtheria. His drama ran for one hundred nights at the Troy Museum, and was then transplanted to the stage of the Albany Theatre. We remember that the late Asa Cushman, who nearly a dozen years later became a conspicuous Uncle Tom in England, and after his return from that country played it at the Olympic Theatre, this city, to the Eva of his promising daughter, was the original Lawyer Marks in the Troy cast. Before dismissing this cast, a few words are due to the grand-daughter of Joseph Jefferson the first, and mother of Nellie and Effie Germon, the latter of whom was until last week the Mlle. Zulu of trapeze fame in "Forbidden Fruit" at Wallack's Theatre, this city. Mrs. Greene C. Germon, who still adorns the stage upon occasions, was the soubrette of the Franklin Theatre, this city, over forty years ago, at which house her sister Elizabeth, then a very young woman, was at that time playing "old women." The latter lady, now Mrs. Saunders, will be referred to hereafter as Mrs. Jacob Wonderly Thoman. It is a coincidence worthy of at least a line that one of these sisters was the original Eliza in Aiken's transcript of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," while the other was the original Aunty Vermont in Conway's.
The late Henry J. Conway's dramatization had its initial representation at the Boston Museum, because farther on we shall present, also upon managerial authority, the statement that, eight months prior to that, the same author has prepared this same version expressly for another house. Apart from these managerial contradictions, we know that the drama had been in preparation at that other house many months before the curtain was first rung up on it. The scenery actually encumbered the place, the management lacking the moral courage to utilize it. "Uncle Tom" at this particular establishment may be likened to the dreaded Sagittary among the people of ancient Troy. The management were afraid of it, and yet could not rid themselves of it. At present let us deal with the cast at the Boston Museum. The bill appended is of the fourth week, and the implication is that the drama was first produced in Boston on Nov. 15, 1852.
BOSTON MUSEUM—CROWDED HOUSES.
dramatized expressly for this establishment, from Mrs. H. B. Stowe's celebrated work, by H. J. Conway, Esq.
ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, DEC. 8, 1852,
and every evening during the week, at seven o'clock, also on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at 2½ o'clock, the performance will commence with an Ethiopian medley overture, composed and arranged for this piece by T[illegible] Comer. After which will be acted the highly successful play, in five acts, entitled
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Those marked with a star are dead. Loker and George Shelby (in fifth act) were doubled by Samuel Palmer. D. E. Ralton, who doubled for Marks and Sambo, is still before the public, and so is J. A. Smith. A. L. Thayer was a negro minstrel specially engaged for Sambo, and Edward Gray, who is dead, was a jig-dancer known as the "Bottom Rattler." William Warren is still the favorite comedian at the Boston Museum; J. L. Monroe will be referred to later in connection with his wife, who played Mrs. Shelby in New York. Ramsay and George were useful persons, but not indispensable, and may be playing yet. Master Preston, son of Mrs. Isabella Preston (Aunt Chloe), and brother of Miss May Preston (Jane), did not pursue the profession of which his mother and sister are yet members. Miss Mason played in Boston for many years, and her present whereabouts is unknown to us. Miss Lucy A. Cutler, who doubled for Mrs. Shelby and Rose the quadroon, was a native of Boston, and is no longer on the stage. Mrs. Thoman is now Mrs. Charles Saunders, and is residing in California, not having formally retired from the stage, yet not playing of late. Mrs. J. R. Vincent is still before the Boston public. Mme. Radinski was a fine vocalist, who afterwards played at Barnum's Museum, this city, has since turned her attention to opera, and is still living. Miss Gazinski was a dancer, and married and withdrew from public life. Special mention is due one of the females who are know to be dead. Helen Western, who personated little Eva, and afterwards became a star, was the sister of Lucille, who died in Brooklyn on Jan. 11 last.
We next hear of Conway's version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at the late William C. Forbes' Providence Museum, where it ran for four weeks and one night, and was revived twice or thrice during the same year. We as yet lack the cast, although courteous friends are industriously hunting up a bill of it. Here is the sole announcement in the Providence press. It was its first night in that city:
will be performed the new and interesting play in five parts, entitled
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, OR, LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY.
dramatized from Mrs. Beecher Stowe's celebrated work by H. J. Conway, Esq., and will be produced with new scenery painted by J. V. White.
On account of the length of the play, no other piece will be acted.
After leaving Albany, the Howards produced Aiken's version on July 18, 1853, at the National Theatre, this city, where it was performed almost consecutively until April 19, 1854, and thereafter for three evenings a week, besides Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, until May 13. We now give its original cast in New York. But seven are known by us to be living. The dead are marked by a star. Those whose whereabouts are unknown to us are marked by a dagger. They are Miss Mary Barber, previously spoke of; Mr. Toulmin, who had played Marks in C. W. Taylor's version of the year before; and Miss Fanny Landers, who was a pupil of the late Henry E. Stevens, who had made her debut at the Bowery Theatre, and who probably married early and re-entered private life. Mrs. J. W. Lingard is now the wife of a physician in this city; Mrs. W. G. Jones, now Mrs. Benjamin Dean, still pursues her profession; Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Howard still pursue theirs in "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" G. L. Fox is a convalescent in Brooklyn, N. Y.; Cordelia Howard married and retired; and H. F. Stone and Edward Lamb continue in that vocation which both adopted at about the same time, the latter being now at the Grand Opera-house, this city. Mrs. Bradshaw, mother of Blanche Bradshaw, is living in Canada.
Uncle Tom.............G. C. Germon*
Cordelia Howard continued to play Eva, and G. L. Fox also continued as Fletcher; but G. C. Germon and G. C. Howard withdrew shortly, J. W. Lingard assuming the role of Uncle Tom, while Siple took that of St. Clair until superseded by J. B. Howe, now in England, and who as St. Clair made his American debut. H. F. Stone took the place of C. K. Fox as Gumption Cute, Mrs. J. J. Prior succeeded Mrs. Jones as Eliza, and Mrs. Mack for a month took the place of Mrs. G. C. Howard as Topsy. Some of these changes necessitated others, until it may be said that before the close of 1853 but little remained of the original cast. On Jan. 9, 1854, new scenery and new character were introduced. The last performance was on May 13, 1854, for the benefit of Cordelia Howard. It was her Eva that made the piece a fixture. While Topsy's antics delighted the children, Eva's gentle voice and sweet face won the ladies. G. C. Howard had composed some pretty song-music for the drama; but the warblers of the street and of the fireside spurned all tunes but those that had been impressed upon them by the death-scene of Eva. Wherever a whistle or a vocal note was audible could be heard "Eva to her Papa" or St. Clair's "Eva, Eva, darling daughter, smile upon me from above."
CONCLUSION NEXT WEEK.