Popular Entertainment: 19th Century (OL76)

In the reading, McNamara describes the period after the Civil War and before radio and film as a period of variety entertainment. For each of the three forms I asked you to read about (burlesque, minstrelsy, vaudeville), find a passage that discusses the “multi-form” character of each. Cite the passages below (3). Once you are done with that, go to this website slideshow and look at the images. Which images might be used as evidence that would describe theater architecture or stages? Find one songbook image that you believe can help us understand how minstrel acts were actually performed and then describe in words what you see in the image that could explain a historical performance.

24 thoughts on “Popular Entertainment: 19th Century (OL76)”

  1. Stephen Foster helped modernize the music of minstrelsy by mining contemporary musical arrangements for inspiration instead of relying on older dance songs such as jigs and reels. Even as his music was populist, his lyrics were safe for the white middle class, stripped of the sexually and politically suggestive material common among other songwriters.

  2. The minstrel show emerged from many disparate yet distinctly American sources. It is multi-racial, black and white; multi-ethnic, Jewish, Irish, Italian, African, etc; and aesthetically wide ranging. The American minstrelsy borrows from opera, English farce, Shakespeare’s plays, and Irish jigs. It also borrows from such African American forms as the juba, the knock Jim Crow , the ring shout, and the cakewalk. One could even find the striking poses of Josiah Wedgwood’s anti-slavery medallions on the minstrel stage.

  3. In minstrel show, it states ” Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a
    number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out,
    such as “Hibernian” minstrels and the so-called female minstrels, who helped
    to originate burlesque. “, then in Vaudeville it states ” However, comedy scenes known as “two acts,” sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared. “, and in burlesque it states ” First, there was socalled “wheel” burlesque in which shows were sent out on the road, rotating
    from one theatre to another like spokes on a wheel. Unlike vaudeville circuits,
    shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more
    girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic-and-straightman team or a singing, dancing juvenile. ” which showed multi form in all three of those passages. Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” (1843), Old King Crow “Virginia Minstrels” (1843) are the two minstrels images that helps me understand how minstrels were performed.

  4. Regarding the Minstrel show McNamara states that, “New elements appeared. Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out …” (Pg 388). Shows started out somewhat basic and ended up adding much more after the managers wanted to attract a wider audience. They go onto say that stuff like songs and dances started to persist in their acts, which before then was never really one cohesive act.
    Vaudeville was a multi form act because McNamara says, “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.” (Pg 391). Vaudeville became a mixture of many different types of things, and an example that was brought up was a male-female comedy team. They not only had comedy, but also had acts similar to modern day magic shows like juggling.
    Burlesque is likely the most “multi-form” of the three forms because it is the least specific. McNamara says ” Within a short time, most of the shows had taken their standard form: variety acts; short comic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scantily clad dancers.” (Pg 394). These shows had many types of different skill sets, from comedy to music and variety acts. This is probably because Burlesque just had to include scandalous material, and as such was much easier to classify as Burlesque, leaving more material and forms.

    For the pictures:
    Picture #11 may be helpful in seeing some of the architecture because we can see what looks like a stage and a backdrop with no real set or many set pieces.
    Picture #14 shows a relatively nice drawing of the theater, and we can gather information of the architecture from that.
    Picture #25 instead of showing the stage, focuses on the audience and shows more of the seating arrangements in this shabby theater.

  5. Orientation:
    “By the Civil War Americans had been attending organized circuses for more than a half century. The period following the war, however, ushered in important changes in the shows. In general, the scope and size of traveling circuses increased. Many shows now moved by rail and, in later years, by truck, instead of in wagons or flatboats.”
    Minstrel show:
    “After the Civil War some African Americans also turned to the minstrel stage. In a sense, it seems ironic that men who may have been former slaves would have chosen to perform songs and sketches that ridiculed their lives and culture and upheld the values of their former masters. ”
    Burlesque:
    “Within a short time, most of the shows had taken their standard form: variety acts; short
    comic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scantily clad dancers.”

    oh! wake up in De Morning (1846) it gives a sense of what the audiences of early blackface minstrelsy might have seen when they attended a performance.

  6. – Minstrel Show:
    “Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a
    number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out, such as “Hibernian” minstrels and the so-called female minstrels, who helped to originate burlesque….minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways.”pg.389
    -comedy, songs, language, multi racial
    – Vaudeville
    “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up
    of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossibleto illustrate in all their variety.” Pd.391
    -ability to dance, sing, and act in all different locations.
    – Burlesque
    “catered primarily to a male audience and came to trade on risque jokes and sketches and scantily clad female perormers….most of the shows had taken their standard form: variety acts; shortcomic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scantly clad dancers.” Pg.394
    – Dancing, sining, comedy,sandelous material

    Pic #11 provides different sorts of acts (instruments)
    Pic #23 shows different people doing different things

  7. Mistrel show is multi-form because after the civil war white males were still allowed to do parts of a show that included doing black face, although it was wrong in their part the managers did it in a way to attract more audience.
    Quote: “minstrel shows performed by white men in blackface did not disappear after the Civil War, but, as with the Wild West show, managers began to alter them to attract broader audiences.”

    Burlesque is a multi-form because it this was the first place to ever introduce women with very little clothing as entertainment for men. After the war was when more women were brought out to do this type of performances, as more women started doing this is became a popular entertainment.
    Quote: “Toward the end of the nineteenth century, minstrel producers, in search of some sort of novelty to promote flagging public interest in a seriously declining form, had added women to their shows and helped create a new kind of popular entertainment.”

    Vaudeville is a multi- form because it had so many concepts that showed entertainment, it wasn’t just focused on playing out one type of play. It was focused on keeping the crowed entertained and finding new ways to entertaining the people.
    Quote: “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.”

    After analyzing all the images throughout the slideshow the images than can be used as evidence and describe theater architecture or stages are the following:
    – The Loghouse (1826)
    – Jim Brown (1836)
    – Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” (1843)
    – Dandy Jim From Carolina (1843)
    – Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)
    – The Raw Recruits (1862)
    – The Dear Old Home We Loved So Well (1874)
    – Close Dem Windows (1879)
    – Moses Cart Dem Melon Down (1880)
    All of the images above help understand how the stages or architecture was since it shows very little background of where they would perform. I also tried to pick one from different years because you can see how they had improved from the previous years.

  8. In Orientation one passage that describes a multi-form is “The famous and talented Bert Williams, one of America’s greatest black stars, typifies another kind of movement common to some of the most talented popular performers – progression up through the various forms of popular entertainment to more elevated areas of the amusement business.” (pg.379)

    In Minstrel Show one passage that describes a multi-form is “Ironically, the black minstrel show was indeed to stand behind a whole series of African American-based popular entertainments and to serve as introduction to the field for many talented black performers who moved into other areas of entertainment.” (pg. 389)

    In Vaudeville one passage that describes a multi-form is “As George Jean Nathan saw it in 1918, vaudeville was made up, “for the most part, of young men whose coat pockets are cut on a slant of ninety degrees and embellished with flaps fashioned in the shape of W’s, and of young women whose speaking voices resemble that of Galli-Curci’s cab starter” (pg.392)

    In Burlesque one passage that describes a multi-form is “The three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who was a singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue, who played wide-eyed innocent roles.” (pg. 395)

    The “log house, zip coon, long time ago, all coons look alike to me” are images that can be used in minstrel acts

  9. Orientation
    “was Harry Helms, a turn-of-the-century popular entertainer, whose specialties included magic, juggling, and playing various

    Minstrel Show
    “minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs”

    Burlesque
    “Three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who a singer: the soubrette, who was a dancer, and the ingenue, who played wide eye innocent roles”

    The image that helped my best understand minstrel acts was Jim Brown 1986, Sich a Gitting up Stairs, Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels”. The reason being is because these covers are much more descriptive, they have the ability for the reader to somewhat understand what will be taking place. For example, the cover for Cudos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” shows the reader the characters that are going to be in the play which is the Ethiopians of the southern state.

  10. -Multi-form is discussed in the Minstrel Show like “In a sense, it seems ironic that men who may have been former slaves would have chosen to perform songs and sketches that ridiculed their lives and culture and upheld the values of their former masters.” And in Vaudeville as “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.”And finally in Burlesque like “The first real burlesque entrepreneur was M. B. Leavitt, who, in the 1870s, combined material from the minstrel show, the concert saloon, and other popular forms and made it a new kind of theatre attraction. Within a short time, most of the shows had taken their standard form: variety acts; short comic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scant-ily clad dancers.”

    -The image “Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)” can be used as evidence to describe stages.
    -The images “De Camp Meetin’ Fire Bell (1800)” and “All Cooks Look Alike To Me (1896)” can help us understand how minstrel could have been performed.

  11. Orientation
    “was Harry Helms, a turn-of-the-century popular entertainer, whose specialties included magic, juggling, and playing various

    Minstrel Show
    “minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs”

    Burlesque
    “Three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who a singer: the soubrette, who was a dancer, and the ingenue, who played wide eye innocent roles”

    The image that helped my best understand minstrel acts was Jim Brown 1986, Sich a Gitting up Stairs, Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels”. The reason being is because these covers are much more descriptive, they have the ability for the reader to somewhat understand what will be taking place. For example, the cover for Cudos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” shows the reader the characters that are going to be in the play which is the Ethiopians of the southern state.

  12. Orientation
    “was Harry Helms, a turn-of-the-century popular entertainer, whose specialties included magic, juggling, and playing various

    Minstrel Show
    “minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs”

    Burlesque
    “Three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who a singer: the soubrette, who was a dancer, and the ingenue, who played wide eye innocent roles”

    The image that helped my best understand minstrel acts was Jim Brown 1986, Sich a Gitting up Stairs, Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels”. The reason being is because these covers are much more descriptive, they have the ability for the reader to somewhat understand what will be taking place. For example, the cover for Cudos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” shows the reader the characters that are going to be in the play which is the Ethiopians of the southern state.

  13. Minstrel show can be best defined as “A quintessential American form and one of signal importance to the growth of the whole field of American entertainment, minstrel shows performed by white men in blackface did not disappear after the Civil War, but, as with the Wild West show, managers began to alter them to attract broader audiences.” It can be best explained as a show that has white men portraying the role of a black man in blackface. (Quote from page 388 paragraph 1 in Minstrel section)
    Vaudeville can be best defined as “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song, and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety” in other words Vaudeville can be explained as a shows that can use multiple types of variety entertainment it can be a show that included song and comedy or song in dance and in most cases all three comedy, song and dance in a show. (Quote from page 391 paragraph 1 in Vaudeville section)
    Burlesque can be best defined as a more plebian form than vaudeville, “Catered primarily to a male audience and came to trade on risqué jokes and sketches and scantily clad female performers” that is a good example to explain what Burlesque is and how it differs from Vaudeville. (Quote from page 394 paragraph 2 in Burlesque section)

  14. Minstrel Shows: “Yet traditional figures and the old stereotypes – the End Men, the Interlocutor, the ridiculous dances and racist songs – often remained important features of the shows” (389)
    Vaudevilles: “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety. However, comedy scenes known as ‘two acts,’ sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared” (391)
    Burlesque: “In any case, burlesque, seen by many people inside and outside the theatre world as a more plebian form than vaudeville, catered primarily to a male audience and came to trade on risque jokes and sketches and scantily clad female performers” (394)
    “Oh Wake Up In De Morning” (1846) is good example of the how the minstrel acts were actually performed. In the image you can see the limited scenery of what is most likely supposed to be a backdrop depicting a southern plantation. You also can see how the physical space of the theatre looks, which appears to be a proscenium stage.
    “De Camp Meetin Fire Bell” (1880) is another good example of probably the earlier years of minstrel shows showing how it even more simpler with audiences simply sitting on benches with a small set which took place in a small non-conventional theatre space.

  15. Minstrel Shows:
    “…minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs…” – McNamara p. 389
    Minstrel shows were usually just comedy for a group of people. They did black face. After more immigrants came to this country, they had to add more then just black face to draw a larger crowd such as jokes, skits and comic songs.

    Vaudeville:
    “…Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties…” – McNamara p. 391
    Vaudeville expressed “multi-form” in this form of entertainment. They would typically end their performance with a comedy scene called “two acts” where two actors would speak back and forth. For the most part, the piece performed was not original material.

    Burlesque:
    “…combined material from the minstrel show, the concert saloon, and other popular forms and made it a new kind of theatre attraction.” – McNamara p. 394
    Burlesque also has “Multi-form” which was expressed by adding things like concert saloons, minstrel shows and woman to keep people coming.

    I believe that the image of the songbook “Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)” is a great example that would describe stage and architecture. There is an obvious stage with performers on it. There is also a proscenium arch, legs and imagined areas off stage. This looks like how the acts were performed because it is only a small group of people on the stage. Since there is potentially backstage areas, the next performers could be preparing for their performance.

  16. “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety. However, comedy scenes known as “two acts,” sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared” (McNamara 391). Vaudeville was in British theater in 1890’s. This form had two different acts both showing different comedic scenes, song and dance. They were mostly whole families.
    “In any case, burlesque, seen by many people inside and outside the theatre world as a more plebian form than vaudeville, catered primarily to a male audience and came to trade on risqué jokes and sketches and scantily clad female performers. Besides other influences, burlesque, like vaudeville, however, probably had its origins largely in minstrelsy. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, minstrel producers, in search of some sort of novelty to promote flagging public interest in a seriously declining form, had added women to their shows and helped create a new kind of popular entertainment” (McNamara 394). Burlesque was like vaudeville in the sense of different acts, songs, dance, etc. However, it was catering to male audiences. Burlesque used females as actors to play parts instead of families like in Vaudeville to preform skits and acts.

    “A quintessential American form and one of signal importance to the growth
    of the whole field of American entertainment, minstrel shows performed by white men in blackface did not disappear after the Civil War, but, as with the Wild West show, managers began to alter them to attract broader audiences. New elements appeared. Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out, such as “Hibernian” minstrels and the so-called female minstrels, who helped to originate burlesque. Yet traditional figures and the old stereotypes – the End Men, the Interlocutor, the ridiculous dances and racist songs – often remained important features of the shows” (McNamara 388,389). Minstrel show was a racist show where actors would paint or wear a black face to represent African Americans in their shows and perform racist dances and songs in their play. However, after the war they needed to change a bit to gain more viewers to their shows.

    The coal black rose image is a great example because it shows black faced people dances and singing in the image. This was a song basically making of fun of African Americans just like the minstrel shows.

  17. The period after the Civil War and before radio and film was a period of different kinds of entertainment. For example, in Minstrel shows, when large numbers of immigrants began entering the United States, these immigrants were ridiculed. During these minstrel shows there were jokes, skits, and comic songs making fun of their different languages and cultures (389). Vaudeville circuits were often preformed by lower class people and was often looked down upon by those involved in “legitimate” theaters. These Vaudeville acts were somewhat unique because they did not show traditional plays but instead preformed small circus acts or more even magic acts. The magician Harry Houdini was a very famous Vaudeville performer in New York’s Palace (393). Burlesque was very different from the other two acts. Burlesque was mostly directed towards men with very scandalous acts and dirty jokes. Most of these acts were performed in night clubs. This form of entertainment really shocked and outraged city officials and church officials (395).

  18. For Vaudeville
    “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up
    of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible
    to illustrate in all their variety. However, comedy scenes known as ‘two acts,’
    sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared.”

    For Minstrelsy
    “the black minstrel show was indeed to stand behind a
    whole series of African American-based popular entertainments and to serve as introduction to the field for many talented black performers who moved
    into other areas of entertainment. By the turn of the century minstrelsy had been an American institution for
    some sixty years.”

    For Burlesque
    “Unlike vaudeville circuits, shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic-and-straight-
    man team or a singing, dancing juvenile. The three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima
    donna, who was a singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue, who played wide-eyed innocent roles.”

    Images:
    In the Jim Crow image you have a man wearing dirty clothes and standing a certain way. According to the description a black faced performer overheard an elderly man singing and dancing to the song. The performer then used the act in his performance which then lead to a big change in minstrel theater.

  19. After reading each section on the reading McNamara (burlesque, minstrelsy, vaudeville), it addresses the following of the “multi-form” from the beginning of Orientation its states that “After the Civil War to around 1930 – or in some cases later – can be divided roughly into four broad categories: variety entertainments, popular theatre, environmental entertainments, and optical and mechanical amusements.”(pg380) it also states that Burlesque was made up of their standard form: variety acts; short comic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scantily clad dancers(pg 394). For minstrelsy its states the following “minstrel shows performed by white men in blackface did not disappear after the Civil War, but, as with the Wild West show, managers began to alter them to attract broader audiences…New elements appeared. Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out, such as “Hibernian” minstrels and the so-called female minstrels, who helped to originate burlesque. Yet traditional figures and the old stereotypes – the End Men, the Interlocutor, the ridiculous dances and racist songs – often remained important features of the shows.” (389)

  20. Burlesque – catered primarily to a male audience and came to trade on risque jokes and sketches and scantily clad female performers. (pg. 394).
    Minstrelsy – Shows increased in size and elaborateness, and a number of variations on the traditional minstrel-show format were tried out, such as “Hibernian” minstrels and the so-called female minstrels, who helped to originate burlesque. Yet traditional figures and the old stereotypes of the End Men, the Interlocutor, the ridiculous dances and racist songs often remained important features of the shows. (pg. 394).
    Vaudeville – Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety. However, comedy scenes known as “two acts,” sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared. A brief selection from a typical two-act runs as follows. (pg. 391)

  21. Burlesque
    “…burlesque came in two basic forms. First, there was socalled “wheel” burlesque in which shows were sent out on the road, rotating from one theatre to another like spokes on a wheel. Unlike vaudeville circuits, shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic-and-straightman team or a singing, dancing juvenile.” (McNamara, “Popular Entertainment”)

    Minstrelsy
    Minstrel shows featured “ragtime music; the latest popular dances as well as tap dance, soft-shoe, and sand dance; the popular songs of the period; and comedy sketches and farcical skits performed by a troupe of 12 men including a master of ceremonies called Mr. Interlocuter and two clowns named Tambo and Bones. It is the forerunner to vaudeville and musical theater.” (Williams, “American Minstrelsy”)

    On Slide 13, we see De Skeeters Do Bite “Harmoneons” (1846). The picture shows a band of performers in blackface ready to play their music. According to Williams’ article, Minsteral shows featured ragtime music, which is most likely what the band performed. It is interesting to note that one of the players is holding a banjo, an instrument created by slaves which was based on African Instruments.

  22. Vaudeville-
    shows multi- form because it provides numerous ways that depicts popular entertainment. it was a huge crowd of people all preforming, hence being the wild era and people enjoying popular entertainment. for example: “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.”
    Mistrel –
    shows multi-form by white men during after civil war dressing up in “black face” for example, “former slaves would have chosen to perform songs and sketches that ridiculed their lives and culture and upheld the values of their former masters. ”
    Burlesque-
    shows multi-form by being the first theatre act of women being revealed and having feminist power, women had some sort of power for the first time towards men, and this was popular entertainment. For example “in search of some sort of novelty to promote flagging public interest in a seriously declining form, had added women to their shows and helped create a new kind of popular entertainment.”
    Image slideshow:
    Picture #11 shows architecture and backgrounds of the theater.
    Picture #25 zooms in on the audience rather than framework of the theater.

  23. Vaudeville-
    shows multi- form because it provides numerous ways that depicts popular entertainment. it was a huge crowd of people all preforming, hence being the wild era and people enjoying popular entertainment. for example: “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.”
    Mistrel –
    shows multi-form by white men during after civil war dressing up in “black face” for example, “former slaves would have chosen to perform songs and sketches that ridiculed their lives and culture and upheld the values of their former masters. ”
    Burlesque-
    shows multi-form by being the first theatre act of women being revealed and having feminist power, women had some sort of power for the first time towards men, and this was popular entertainment. For example “in search of some sort of novelty to promote flagging public interest in a seriously declining form, had added women to their shows and helped create a new kind of popular entertainment.”
    Image slideshow:
    Picture #11 shows architecture and backgrounds of the theater.
    Picture #25 zooms in on the audience rather than framework of the theater.

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