Scribner's Magazine
J. Frank Davis
New York: April 1925

Tom Shows



  CHILDREN rushing out from school on Friday afternoon found standing at the schoolhouse gate a young man, gaudily dressed but somehow shabby notwithstanding his plug hat, who handed each one of them a little pasteboard bearing this intriguing legend:




to O. T. Thespian's


Grand Opera House

Saturday Afternoon, 2 p. m.

Moral. Instructive. Educational.

See the Troupe of Genuine Siberian Bloodhounds


  Shown to drama-disapproving parents, with sufficient teasing and emphasis on the moral, instructive, and educational argument, this ticket produced the necessary dime, and that Saturday afternoon became one marked in memory by a bright stone. Neither the school-child nor the conceding parent ever seemed to grasp the fact that ten cents without the ticket would buy admission just as well as with it.

  Throughout the northern part of the United States, in about 1880, were tens of thousands of good people of Puritan upbringing to whom the theatre and play-acting were anathema. "The School for Scandal," no. "Romeo and Juliet," no. A minstrel show, oh, horrors! But "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was something altogether different. That was a moral lesson.

  In America to-day are vast numbers of middle-aged men and women who remember that "Uncle Tom" was the first theatrical performance they ever saw. Also the second, third, and fourth, very likely, unless "Ten Nights in a Barroom" also happened to come to that town. I was one of those. Until I was thirteen years old I never saw a professional company of actors in anything but "Tom"—but I had seen that sterling production five or six times.

  Each time with a new excitement, too, a thrill such as never will be known by the modern sophisticated infant who comes home from the feature picture to remark that Jackie Coogan wasn't half bad.

  No statistician has the figures of how many times "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has been played in America since its first performance in 1852. If they could be assembled, the result would be staggering. No play in the world, probably, has ever had half so many productions. Tom has appeared in the very biggest cities and the most gosh-awful tank towns. He has humbly but smugly remarked to Simon Legree that you may kill my body, mas'r, but you can't kill my soul, in the largest metropolitan theatres, the dinkiest kerosene-lit halls over the headquarters of volunteer fire-engine companies, and every kind of a show-tent that ever a weary crowd of troupers ranted in.

  In the patter of Dramatic Mirror and Clipper advertising they were U. T. C. Companies, but when actors spoke one to another they were Tom Shows.

  Right after the Civil War, and into the 70's, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a headliner of American drama. In the 80's it became the reliable stand-by of every company of "rep" barnstormers. It was still going strong out in the sticks in the 90's, and the Western tent shows had it until close to 1910 and perhaps later than that. Thus for more than fifty years it shrieked its improbabilities across the footlights. The childhood of two generations wept bitterly over Tom's wrongs


and screamed with hysterical laughter at the impossible horse-play of Marks.

  I am not sure that I do not hold the amateur world's record as a Tom spectator, although in avoidance of controversy I'll claim only the New England title. I have seen at least a part of the show close to twenty-five times.

  Having been of the breed that in childhood was not allowed to see anything else theatrical, the various versions and improvisations that time developed came to have a fascination. I was ever curious to know what they would do to it next. Becoming, while still very young, a newspaper reporter with access gratis to theatres and, later, something of a specialist in dramatic reviewing, I had opportunity to see Tom Shows without paying for the privilege, and for as long as it lasted I made it my business to drop in upon every one that appeared on the horizon, for at least part of an act. If it was bad enough, I stayed through. I became, in a way of speaking, a Tom Show collector.

  In all that score and more of performances, I have never seen the same version twice. There seem to have been as many manuscripts of the play as there were early companies. In the later years of the show's life, there were no manuscripts. Tom actors knew every part in the piece according to one version or another, and usually according to many versions. They put the thing together, then, by word of mouth, according to the limitations of cast and scenery.

  At its very best, it was structurally a poor play. It had to be; there were so many diverse and rambling threads of plot to be followed.

  Early in the performance George Harris was the hero, and the heroine was his wife, Eliza. Presently George and Eliza vanished from the stage—to rush to their dressing-rooms and get ready to double as the New Orleans auctioneer and Marie St. Clare—and Uncle Tom became the hero, with Eva St. Clare pressing him hard for stellar honors until her untimely and pathetic death, with slaves on their knees cluttering up the room and singing "I wonder where my Eva's gone." After this it was all Tom until Simon Legree, the dirty scoundrel, called him a black Methodist dog and beat a twelve-hundred-dollar piece of property to death.

  Everybody knows the story of how Harriet Beecher Stowe thought, when she wrote the book, that it would probably antagonize her abolitionist friends but that her Southern acquaintances would not find it unfriendly, because, of the three slaveholders who owned Tom, she made two kind and good and one cruel and bad, and of how surprised she was when the public promptly overlooked all the fine points of Arthur Shelby and Augustine St. Clare and concentrated its full attention upon the brutalities of Legree, so that his name became, in the Northern popular mind, the very synonym for slave-owner. But the shock of this surprise cannot have been as great as that which came to her if she ever, in her later years, witnessed what they did to her classic on the stage.

  No manuscript could have made the play altogether coherent short of five hours and fifty scenes. Few versions even tried to. Each, in an attempt to crowd as many incidents from the book as possible into the acted work, took outrageous liberties with the plot. Additional outrages were perpetrated to put comedy relief into scenes where comedy neither belonged nor fitted. It made a rare hash.

  Sometimes it was played in more than twenty scenes and sometimes in only six or seven. The less acts, the more disconnected became its odds and ends of plot. An auditor followed the thread of the thing only because he already knew it.

  Rarely the play began approximately where the novel began, with Tom being called from his cabin at night by Eliza Harris and told that he had been sold, together with her little boy, and that she, with the child, was going to attempt to escape across the Ohio. More often Tom didn't come into the piece at all until he appeared at the St. Clare home in New Orleans, along in the middle of the play.

  The show usually opened with a tavern scene in which George Harris, on his way toward the river, read on the wall the notice of a reward for his capture and, peeling off a kid glove, exhibited to a friend his branded hand, with a fine highfalutin speech in language such as few white men could have got off, let alone a runaway slave.

  Every other negro in the play except


Eliza always spoke more or less in dialect, such as it was, but it was a Tom tradition that George Harris should talk like a highly educated Northern white person who had specialized in political orations. There was sound authority for this tradition; Mrs. Stowe had done it in the book.

  There were other traditions not so well grounded. Tom was always played with a white, or at least a grizzled, wig. If any negro of forty years or so in real life ever had gray hair, he was as freakish as an albino, but it got more tears to make him look old.

  The good master Shelby almost never appeared. St. Clare was made good enough, so far as he went, but he was a colorless person, a mere feeder for the fat lines of Tom, Eva, Topsy, and Miss Ophelia. And never, never have I heard it even intimated in the play that while Shelby and St. Clare, the two kind masters, were Southerners, the dastardly Simon Legree was a Yankee, born in New England.

  But then, few people who read the book ever grasped that point or, if they did, ever seemed to remember it.

  Eliza, who skipped across the floating ice with her baby, and who quite possibly doubled as Topsy in later scenes, was likely to be a flippant soubrette. Phineas Fletcher, the Quaker, was a low comedian. And Marks, the lawyer, a more prominent but even lower comedian, was a silly ass who spouted inanities, always, for some obscure reason, wore white leggings, and invariably, indoors and out, carried a fat umbrella.

  And of all the absurd hokum that ever passed for comedy on the American stage, the Tom Shows had the worst. Consider:

  "Can you inform me, sir, whether it is possible for me to secure any sort of a vehicle to take us to the next town?" asked George Harris, the escaped slave, of Phineas, the Quaker.

  "Friend George," replied Phineas in a high nasal whine, placing the ends of his fingers precisely together and rising slowly on his toes with the final two words of the speech. "I cannot say if thee can get a ve-hy-cle or any other kind of a ve-ho-cle, but I will be glad to carry thee thither in a carriage. Yea-a-a, veri-lie!"

  That one was good for a great laugh, which explains why, after some ham actor first tried it, it ever thereafter stayed in.

  And Fletcher had another sure-fire hit, in the later scene where Haley and Loker, the slave-dealers, accompanied by Marks, the lawyer, intercepted George, Eliza, and the baby, escorted by the Quaker, in a pass in the Ohio hills.

  "We're looking for a runaway nigger named Harris," Haley said, "belonging to Mr. Harris of Shelby County, Kentucky."

  "I am George Harris," orated that person, stepping forward with a Congressional gesture. "A Mr. Harris of Kentucky did call me his property. But now I'm a free man, standing on God's free soil, and my wife and child I claim as mine. I shall not surrender. Come, seize me at your peril. I have a pistol here, and I promise you I shall sell my life dearly."

  Consultation between the slave-dealers and Marks. Loud threats and bullyragging. Then came the Quaker's chance, as he stepped forward.

  "Pistol and bullets and firearms have I none," he chanted, "and fighting is unbecoming to a regenerated man—but if worse comes to worst, this right hand is sudden death and this left hand is six weeks in the hospital. Yea-a-a, veri-lie!"

  That doubled the audience up in its seats. When worse did come to worst, presently, and the gun-play began, they were still laughing. They laughed even harder when Marks, the cut-up, trying to hide behind a too small rock, opened his umbrella to protect himself from the flying bullets as Haley was shot, the Quaker knocked Loker down, and the curtain fell.

  However the different companies put the show together by acts and scenes, and however the cues and lines surprisingly assembled themselves to fit the altered situations, this scene in the mountain pass was never left out; this one and four others—Eliza's escape across the floating ice, Topsy's "Golly, I'se so wicked" confession (sometimes with song and dance interpolated right there in the St. Clare parlor), Eva's death-bed, and the killing of Uncle Tom.

  Legree always did that killing personally, and did it very easily and expeditiously. Tom lifted up his arms so as not to get hurt and Simon, with a snake


whip, cut him three times around the body, shouting, with each stroke, "Take that! And that! And that!" Then he hit him lightly over the head with the butt of the whip and Tom took his fall.

  And right there was where some barbaric artist put in a line that always got murmurs of righteous anger from the audience and laid the foundation for a later scene that would have given Mrs. Stowe a sleepless night if she had ever seen it.

  Legree called to Sambo and Quimbo, the two field-hands who also worked in the jubilee quartette, played in the orchestra, and doubled in brass in the street parade, and commanded them, with fine effect: "Take him out and throw him in the hog-pen." Oh, what a brute!

  Then a couple of scenes later Legree got his. Not by the good, old-fashioned D.T. route, as in the book. Not by any plausible means whatever, but at the hand of none other than that jumpingjack Marks, who properly had no business appearing anywhere in the play after George and Eliza got away in safety, but was usually dragged in at least once after that.

  Young George Shelby, son of the old Kentucky master, appeared to buy Tom back and found him dying; this was in most of the versions, young George being played by the middle-aged company man-


ager in his street clothes and no make-up, who hurried on back to do it after he had finished taking tickets at the door. And the play, in its early incarnations, usually stopped right there with Tom's death and perhaps a transformation scene of Eva floating up to heaven as a pious climax. But in the weird version in which Legree got his come-uppance, Tom died according to the accepted ritual and then, while young George knelt reverently beside his clay and Legree stood down-stage, sneering, who should come in but the Ohio lawyer half-wit?

  He made his inevitable entrance announcement that "I am a lawyer, and my name is Marks," and then delivered himself of a snappy speech to the effect that he had been retained by New Orleans parties to prosecute Legree for the murder of St. Clare—it never previously having been even intimated that St. Clare's death was anything but an accident. It also now appeared that lawyers, under such circumstances, had power to make arrests, for Marks produced the warrant.

  Snarling defiance, the wicked Simon went after a pistol, Marks beat him to the draw, a shot rang out, and Legree crashed lifeless to the stage. Whereupon Marks waved his umbrella and cried, shrilly: "Take him out and throw him in the hog-pen."

  Retribution, what? Ah, that was a line that used to make them sit up and wear their hands out!

  In the 70's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was given large and dignified productions, according to the facilities of that day. In the early 80's it had begun its long career with the road companies.

  Properly presented, there could not be less than eighteen characters in the play, and these did not include Eliza's baby and the slave background. It usually was played by not more than twelve people and I once saw it done, I think, with eight. Tom himself, and perhaps Little Eva and Marks, in such a company, were the only ones who didn't double in at least one other part. When, even with doubling and tripling, there weren't enough actors to go around, they calmly cut out as many parts as necessary and faked the connections.

  The audiences never seemed to mind the faking. In the 80's, at least three or four Tom Shows came to the local opera-house every season, no two of them alike. If the spectators missed anything im-


portant out of one of the presentations they could imagine it as having taken place in one of the others. So long as Eliza was barkingly chased across the ice, Eva went prettily to heaven after telling her father to be sure to set Uncle Tom free, and Simon Legree was villainous enough and, in latter years, got his needings with the hog-pen line, they were satisfied.

  Every stage accident in the world happened with those barnstorming companies. Eliza lost her balance, fell off the ice into the cold blackness of the rushing river, and climbed back again dry-shod. The pistols missed fire. The dogs chased the wrong people. Eva's ascension into heaven stuck, and the red fire wouldn't burn. But nothing that was supposed to be serious got a laugh out of those audiences. They knew how it ought to be and accepted it as such.

  Out where the East left off and the tanks began, a child of tender years who is now a stock-company star was playing Eva with a tent show. She was doing her death-scene, one night, her stage father, mother, Uncle Tom, and the rest of the household on their knees about her bed, when a heavy shower came up. The tent was old. A stream of rain came through the canvas and hit her in the neck. It was ruining her stuff. Gravely her weeping sire rose, went out into the wings, returned with Marks's comedy umbrella, and, kneeling again there in the ground-floor drawing-room of the St. Clare palatial residence in New Orleans, held it over her head and let her die dry.

  "And will you believe it?" she told me not long ago. "Not one soul in the audience laughed."

  The book Eva was seven or eight years old at the time of her death. In the play they ranged from five to thirty-five.

  Topsy, who should have been about nine, was seldom a child either in fact or character interpretation, and in an occasional emergency not even feminine. Once, in the trouping days of the actress who underwent the damp death-bed experience just recorded, the woman who played Topsy was taken suddenly ill and, as there was no Marie St. Clare in that cast and one person was doing Eliza and Miss Ophelia, all the doubling possibilities had already been exhausted. So the company manager came back-stage, blacked up, and did Topsy—but flatly


refused to sacrifice a most luxuriant mustache.

  Legree—the pet part of the actor of the old school who liked to have lines he could get his teeth into—I have heard played with every dialect known to American white men, and seen in every kind of dress the period could produce and once in white silk tights, patent-leather top boots, a red sash, a white coat, and seventeenth-century costume-play hat. My mind, on that occasion, naturally reverting to the not-unheard-of predicament of wardrobe trunks held at a previous town for unpaid board, I made it my business to get introduced to the actor and ask him why he did it.

  "It is a matter I have long wished to do, muh boy," he informed me. "It has always been a theory of mine that Legree, in past productions, has been improperly dressed. My conception of the part is that of a rich, aristocratic planter—perhaps of the French type."

  A little later in our conversation I asked him how long since he had read "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Smilingly and rather patronizingly he said that he had never read it.

  In listing the number of parts in a Tom production, back yonder, I didn't count the bloodhounds. It was a poor show that carried no dogs. It ought to have a donkey for Marks to ride, but that animal's absence could be overlooked. Failure to provide at least two dogs, however, was the unforgivable sin.

  It is a tradition in the profession that once upon a time a Tom impresario, desirous of doing something truly great, sent down into the South somewhere and bought some real bloodhounds. He had them in the street parade and the performance exactly one day.

  Northerners were unfamiliar with the low-lying, sad-faced, lop-eared dogs of the true breed—and nobody except Northerners ever saw "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The public jeered his canine exhibit off the street and off the stage. Having brains, he wasted no time trying to convince them he was right and they were wrong, but promptly got rid of the harmless-looking animals that were the real thing and went back to the kind of bloodhounds his audiences expected—big, ugly-looking mastiffs.

  Not all Tom dogs were mastiffs. If they were "Siberian" bloodhounds they were Great Danes. A full-grown Great Dane is an impressive figure, and he has a deep, soul-satisfying voice. Two or three Great Danes, well trained to chase Eliza, were the salvation of many a Tom Show.

  I had the good fortune to witness a picturesque episode in the training of such a troupe. It was in the winter of 1888, in the office of A. B. Stover, of Stover's "Original Uncle Tom's Cabin," in Boston.

  There were several managers whose advertising matter modestly proclaimed them to be the "Original," but A. B. Stover and Charles Smith, both Boston men, were probably the most famous.

  Stover was a distinguished-appearing person of middle age, tall, with graying hair and mustache, and he wore well-tailored, expensive clothes, a beautifully ironed silk hat, and a handsome overcoat with fur collar and cuffs. He occupied the top floor of a loft building in Eliot Street. I climbed the stairs to it one Wednesday or Thursday forenoon with an out-of-work actor friend.

  The hall door opened into an office, in which were a hot stove, an ancient desk, some chairs, a collection of actors and actresses "at liberty," and three dogs. The dogs looked prosperous.

  They were magnificent Great Danes and they reclined bulkily in various parts of the room and refused to pay the slightest attention to overtures made them by the waiting professionals. Through a door into the loft in the rear could be seen bits of scenery, cakes of ice for Eliza to cross, angels waiting to escort Eva heavenward in the transformation scene, and odds and ends of props.

  The assembled barnstormers, who included a leathery-skinned old tragedian with ripped kid gloves and a wise old-young woman who did banjo selections at local entertainments when the road had nothing for her, conversed on professional subjects. Each of them, it appeared, had recently scored personal triumphs which had been nullified either by the rotten acting of the rest of the cast or the incredibly poor judgment of managers in their selections of repertoire.

  The dogs heard a footfall on the stair,


sat up eagerly, and Mr. Stover came in, bearing a bundle done up in the yellow straw-paper that was the meat-market wrapper of the period.

  He nodded casually to the men and women and spoke genially to the dogs, which picked up their feet, licked their chops, and otherwise registered interest.

  He took off his gloves, hung up his plug hat and fur-trimmed coat, opened the package, cut up the considerable quantity of raw meat it contained into small pieces, divided them into three piles, and got out of a drawer a big red bandanna handkerchief, which he draped about his neck with the fulness in front, first protecting his immaculate shirt front with another handkerchief, a clean white one.

  He filled the pouch in the bandanna with a third of the meat, called one of the dogs by name, and began gravely to step and turn in a sort of slow war dance. The dog, barking incessantly followed him, springing high into the air without striking his master with his feet, and at each successful leap gulping such part of the meat as he was able to pick out of the handkerchief. When he had secured it all, Stover showed him the empty bandanna, refilled it, called to another dog, and repeated the programme of dancing and dodging. He did it a third time. The dogs retired to their corners.

  By feeding them in this manner daily, the manager had the beasts trained to follow, baying madly, any Eliza crossing the ice who wore a red handkerchief about her neck filled with meat, whether they had ever seen the lady before or not. If they caught up with her in the trip across the Ohio, they leaped authentically at her throat but never touched anything save the bandanna. Safe in the wings on the Ohio shore, she tore loose the handkerchief and let them have it.

  The dog-breakfast ritual out of the way, Mr. Stover washed his hands, glanced over his mail, and then addressed the actors.

  "I'm going to put on Tom at Gloucester, Saturday," he said. "Who wants to work?"


  Except this outsider, everybody did.

  Stover began to cast the parts.

  "You'll play Haley and Legree," he said to one man.

  "Oh, Mr. Stover, I have never doubled when I did Legree," the actor protested reproachfully.

  "You will this time—if you go," Stover unemotionally advised him.


  Stover looked at the banjo soubrette. "You can do Topsy with songs and dances, and Eliza, I suppose."

  The girl said she was a wonderful Topsy and nobody in the profession had better banjo notices, but she didn't know the lines of Eliza. This produced polite looks of incredulity from one and all, it being regarded in those circles as impossible that there should be any actor or actress in the world who did not know every part in Tom.

  "Well, you can learn 'em if you want work Saturday," Stover said. His manner implied that he suspected she was trying to get out of doing a double that was always difficult because of the short time elapsing between the appearance of the two characters. He was probably right.

  He went on with his casting. The old broken Shakspearian with the ripped gloves rumbled in his best Edwin Booth voice, when Stover got to him, that he had usually played Legree.

  "This isn't any double Tom Show," the manager reminded him, "and I've already got one Legree. You'll play Marks."

  To readers under the age of forty-five this reference to a double Tom Show probably needs to be explained.

  It was in the late 70's or very early 80's that some Uncle Tom manager, to make his production different, got up a version that had two Toms, two Evas, two Topsies, and two Legrees. I saw it, and even to my child mind the result was nonsensical. It was too absurd to last long. But that it was possible to do such a thing at all illustrates what a hold, in its day, the drama had upon the public, those tens of thousands who seldom or never saw any other play and were tolled in to see it again by the promise of innovations. I have wondered if the two-ring circus, which came in about that time, didn't give the double-Tom impresario his idea.

  Completing his cast, so far as the number of applicants present allowed, Mr. Stover told them how much money, with three meals, Saturday night's lodging and railroad fares added, each would get for the one-day engagement—I think it was five dollars for the principals—and instructed them to meet him at the railroad station in time for a certain Saturday forenoon train. The men, he said, must wear high hats; there would be a street parade at noon. He would have uniform overcoats for them at the theatre. After the parade they would eat, and then show at two o'clock and again at night.

  Nobody said anything about any rehearsals, or apparently dreamed of such a thing. They had never all worked together in a Tom Show. They didn't know which of innumerable versions it was proposed to put on, or what scenes would be left in or cut out. They didn't care; time enough to have that explained to them by Mr. Stover on the stage at noon while the parade uniforms were being doled out. If things didn't always jell, in the performance, they would ad lib. until they did. Somebody's lines would come out right sooner or later. It was said in those days that any Tom actor could be given a cue out of the last act in the middle of the first scene, and if he didn't straighten it out somehow he wasn't a trouper.

  At Gloucester, no doubt, they assembled, paraded with the big dogs led by scared but happy small boys, Marks on a donkey, Little Eva in a pony-cart (Stover's "Original" prided itself on pulling a good parade), and a bright-coated band of six or eight darkies who later would give a concert outside the theatre, transform themselves into an orchestra inside, and at the appropriate moments slip up back-stage, don overalls, and be the slave color with jubilee selections.

  Meantime, on Friday, representatives of the management had visited the grammar-schools as their pupils were being dismissed and pressed into each eager hand one of those "This Ticket and Ten Cents" pasteboards. And parents presently were being urged, all over Gloucester: "Ple-e-ease, papa! I can go, can't I, ple-e-ease? This ain't a theayter, papa. You your ownself have been to 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' you said you had. Gimme ten cents to go, won't you, ple-e-ease."


  Tom was already beginning to slip, then. No longer was the A. B. Stover Original Company going out on the road for weal or woe, six nights a week and Saturday matinee. Instead, it had become a kid and Rube show, for Saturdays only, kids in the afternoon and Rubes in the evening, of all the company only the dogs who were its stars doing their daily dozen during the remainder of the week. It was still going fairly strong in the provinces, as part of the barnstormers' repertory, with "The Ticket of Leave Man," "The Lancashire Lass," "Kathleen Mavourneen," "The Hidden Hand," "East Lynne," "Ten Nights in a Barroom," and the other old standbys that nobody had to pay royalties to use, but in the cities it was slipping.

  It finally disappeared altogether from the big and medium-sized towns, except for a rare metropolitan revival. The most notable of these, in 1901, was staged by William A. Brady at the Academy of Music in New York with nationally famous players in the cast, including Wilton Lackaye as Uncle Tom and Theodore Roberts as Legree. In the same city, only this past season, the play was produced by a company of earnest Greenwich Village volunteers in which negro parts were portrayed by persons of that color.

  In both these productions the worst of the hokum that in years of trouping had become part of the show was cut out and the play was as near as more modern act-and-scene construction would allow to the versions of the day when the book was still doing its big bit toward dividing the country in war. Dramatic reviewers were kind—some of them even enthusiastic—and the revivals were artistically successful.

  But save for these two productions and perhaps a few not widely heralded experiments by stock companies (the music comedy, "Topsy and Eva," which is running in New York when this is written, while based upon the old classic, is not, course, a Tom Show), the play has not been seen in large cities for close to a quarter of a century.

  Outside the big towns it lasted years longer, but Tom had already begun to fade from even the most distant provinces when the motion picture arrived to shoulder aside minor road companies in even the best of spoken dramas. Its performances grew more and more infrequent, then ceased and Legree and Marks and Eliza and the ferocious Siberian bloodhounds became things utterly unknown to the younger generation, and to the older one only a memory.

  "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at last had been outgrown by shifting standards of public sophistication and was gone.


  It had travelled from the greatest theatres in the country to the shabbiest little tents on the tank circuits so small that they possessed no town halls. It had helped to make vital history. It had done more, probably, than any other one thing to keep alive for years sectional misunderstandings and hatreds that were ready to die, although it had never by deliberation done this; "Uncle Tom," the book, may have been ante-bellum propaganda, but "Uncle Tom," the after-the-war show, was never consciously anything but entertainment. It lasted more than five decades for no reason save that to the simple folk of its day it was just that—a forthright, familiar, shrieking melodrama, slipshod, raw, and often most terribly man-handled, but entertainment.

  At its best it was seldom art. At its worst it was the crudest kind of theatrical bunk. But a unique American institution passed out when the last Tom Show died.