Very interesting, this, about "Uncle Tom":
Dear Nomad—Apropos of an article in the Saturday Evening Post, by Wesley Winans Stout, dealing with the history of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" shows, wherein ridicule is heaped upon the vogue, during the 80's, of companies featuring two Topsys, two Evas, two Uncle Toms, &c., it is interesting to learn how the custom of providing these double casts originated. Mr. Stout does not mention it. The story was told me by Jay Rial, in his later years press agent for the Barnum and Bailey and Ringling shows, but four decades ago proprietor of an "Uncle Tom" company that toured everywhere. Mr. Rial was exhibiting his unparalleled attraction in Fall River, and following the street parade strolled into the box office of the Academy of Music for a chat with the manager, Charlie Smith. There was much "kidding" about the show, when Smith said by way of a joke, "Say, Rial, why don't you put out a company with two Topsys, two Evas, and so on, and make a real hit?" "Great," rejoined Rial, with enthusiasm, "I'll do that very thing." Smith did not suppose his suggestion would actually be adopted, but that was the beginning of the double cast system, and the idea was quickly copied by Rial's envious competitors.
Mr. Stout, in listing those who have played the role of Legree, might have mentioned John L. Sullivan. About twenty years ago or more John L. toured in vaudeville with a sketch from "Uncle Tom," in which he was Legree to the life. His burly figure gave an added touch of realism to the characterization, and he plied the slave whip to the entire satisfaction of the audience.
In this connection let me note that the New York Times said a few days ago regarding "Abie's Irish Rose": "The production has without doubt been offered in more cities, towns and hamlets than any other in the history of the theater." But, after all, how about "Uncle Tom's Cabin"?