UTC
The Billboard
Doctor Judd
Cincinnati: 10 September 1904

THE OLD SCHOOL ACTORS

The Drama Before and After the Civil War.

  The few remaining actors who trod the theatre boards far back in the early or middle part of the last century can recall with the deepest pleasure the days that have gone, although those days were often fraught with hardship and deprivations which few actors of today can recognize. But since those days years have gone swiftly by, and have brought wondrous changes. Could the old actors of the fifties then have fallen into a Rip Van Winkle sleep, and awaken today, no amount of evidence would convince them that this is the same country they knew and over which they perambulated in the long ago. In no time or country in the world have such wondrous changes taken place in so short a space of time. The old halls have given place to the modern opera houses that have sprung up like mushrooms all over the country.

  The most successful and popular American play that was being produced on our stage before and after the Civil War and even to this day, was Uncle Tom's Cabin.

  The Howard family were the first of the old school actors to play this piece. They staged the adaptation which had been made from Mrs. Stowe's book by Geo. L. Altken. They opened with it in Troy, New York where it had a run of over three months. From there they took it to the National Theatre in New York, where they gave their first performance on July 18, 1853. After the New York run, they took the play entour.

  George C. Howard acted St. Clair, and he made an ideal southern planter. On and off the stage he invariably wore a black broadcloth frock coat with brass buttons, and he always had on lavender trousers. So, when he was around the hotels and on the streets of the towns where he was playing, people who had seen him at the theatre would recognize him at once and would say, "There goes Eva's father." Mrs. Howard was Topsy, and there has never been any one yet to equal her in the character. Little Cordelia, her daughter, was a born actress. I have never seen anything more natural and beautiful than the way in which she played little Eva. She required no training for it: it came natural to her. Many a time I have seen a big crowd following her when she was out on the streets or at the stores shopping with her mother. They wanted to get a peep at little Eva with her long, golden hair.

  The rest of the cast had in it Green C. Germon, who acted Uncle Tom; Geo. L. Fox, who afterwards became the famous pantomimist, Humpty Dumpty, played Phineas Fletcher; his brother, Charles K. Fox, took the part of that droll individual, Gumption Cute. George Harris was played by Samuel M. Siple, and Eliza, by Mrs. W. G. Jones. N. B. Clark was Simon Legree. W. J. La Moyne, who was with the Howard family when they first produced the play at Troy, created and acted the part of Deacon Perry.

  On returning from England the Howards played Uncle Tom in St. Louis and Cincinnati. A few of the southern towns wouldn’t tolerate the piece. It was performed in Baltimore, but Washington had to be avoided for fear of a riot. The pleadings of little Eva were listened to in many a case where some had come intending to interrupt and disturb the performance. Many slave owners having pet slaves beheld the play and went away wondering if slavery was just the thing. Managers in many cases were afraid to book the play at their theatres. Even the Howards’ first appearance in New York had been accomplished with difficulty, owing to the timidity of the various playhouses.