Imatges de pÓgina


popularity all others, and to make the waddled into view. The extraordinary name of the obscure actor, W. D. apparition produced an instant effect. Rice, famous.

The crash of peanuts ceased in the pit, As his engagement at Cincinnati had and through the circles passed a murnearly expired, Rice deemed it expe- mur and a bustle of liveliest expectadient to postpone a public venture tion. The orchestra opened with a in the newly projected line until the short prelude, and to its accompaniopening of a fresh engagement should ment Rice began to sing, delivering assure him opportunity to share fairly the first line by way of introductory the benefit expected to grow out of recitative : the experiment. This engagement had

“O, Jim Crow's come to town, as you all must already been entered into; and accord

know, ingly, shortly after, in the autumn of An' he wheel about, he turn about, he do jis so, 1830, he left Cincinnati for Pittsburg.

An' ebery time he wheel about he jump Jim The old theatre of Pittsburg occupied the site of the present one, on

The effect was electric.

Such a Fifth Street. It was an unpretending thunder of applause as followed was structure, rudely built of boards, and never heard before within the shell of moderate proportions, but sufficient, of that old theatre. With each sucnevertheless, to satisfy the taste and ceeding couplet and refrain the upsecure the comfort of the few who roar was renewed, until presently, dared to face consequences and lend when the performer, gathering courpatronage to an establishment under age from the favorable temper of his the ban of the Scotch-Irish Calvinists. audience, ventured to improvise matter Entering upon duty at the “Old Dru- for his distiches from familiarly known ry” of the “ Birmingham of America,” local incidents, the demonstrations were Rice prepared to take advantage of deafening. his opportunity. There was a negro

Now it happened that Cuff, who in attendance at Griffith's Hotel, on meanwhile was crouching in dishabille Wood Street, named Cuff, - - an exqui- under concealment of a projecting flat site specimen of his sort, — who won a behind the performer, by some means precarious subsistence by letting his received intelligence, at this point, of open mouth as a mark for boys to the near approach of a steamer to the pitch pennies into, at three paces, and Monongahela Wharf. Between himself by carrying the trunks of passengers

and others of his color in the same from the steamboats to the hotels. Cuffline of business, and especially as rewas precisely the subject for Rice's pur- garded a certain formidable competipose. Slight persuasion induced him tor called Ginger, there existed an acto accompany the actor to the theatre, tive rivalry in the baggage-carrying where he was led through the private business. For Cuff to allow Ginger entrance, and quietly ensconced be- the advantage of an undisputed descent hind the scenes. After the play, Rice, upon the luggage of the approaching having shaded his own countenance to vessel would be not only to forfeit all the “ contraband” hue, ordered Cuff

considerations " from the passengers, to disrobe, and proceeded to invest but, by proving him a laggard in his himself in the cast-off apparel. When calling, to cast a damaging blemish the arrangements were complete, the upon his reputation. Liberally as he bell rang, and Rice, habited in an old might lend himself to a friend, it could coat forlornly dilapidated, with a pair not be done at that sacrifice. After a of shoes composed equally of patches minute or two of fidgety waiting for and places for patches on his feet, and the song to end, Cuff's patience could wearing a coarse straw hat in a melan- endure no longer, and, cautiously hazcholy condition of rent and collapse arding a glimpse of his profile beyond over a dense black wig of matted moss, the edge of the flat, he called in a hur


VOL. XX. - NO. 121.


ried whisper : “ Massa Rice, Massa and house-maids repeated it to the Rice, must have my clo'se ! Massa clink of crockery in kitchens. Rice Griffif wants me, - steamboat 's com- made up his mind to profit further in'!"

by its popularity: he determined to The appeal was fruitless. Massa publish it. Mr. W. C. Peters, afterRice did not hear it, for a happy hit at wards of Cincinnati, and well known an unpopular city functionary had set as a composer and publisher, was at the audience in a roar in which all other that time a music-dealer on Market sounds were lost. Waiting some mo- Street in Pittsburg. Rice, ignorant ments longer, the restless Cuff

, thrust himself of the simplest elements of ing his visage from under cover into musical science, waited upon Mr. Pefull three-quarter view this time, again ters, and solicited his co-operation in charged upon the singer in the same the preparation of his song for the words, but with more emphatic voice: press. Some difficulty was experi“ Massa Rice, Massa Rice, must have enced before Rice could be induced my clo'se! Massa Griffif wants me, to consent to the correction of certain steamboat's comin' !"

trifling informalities, rhythmical mainA still successful couplet ly, in his melody; but, yielding finally, brought a still more tempestuous re- the air as it now stands, with a pianosponse, and the invocation of the bag- forte accompaniment by Mr. Peters, gage-carrier was unheard and unheed- was put upon paper. The manuscript ed. Driven to desperation, and forget- was put into the hands of Mr. John ful in the emergency of every sense of Newton, who reproduced it on stone propriety, Cuff, in ludicrous undress as with an elaborately embellished titlehe was, started from his place, rushed page, including a portrait of the subject upon the stage, and, laying his hand up- of the song, precisely as it has been on the performer's shoulder, called out copied through succeeding editions to excitedly: “ Massa Rice, Massa Rice, the present time. It was the first spegi' me nigga's hat, — nigga's coat, cimen of lithography ever executed in nigga's shoes, — gi' me nigga's t’ings! Pittsburg. Massa Griffif wants 'im,

Jim Crow

was repeated nightly BOAT 'S COMIN'!!"

throughout the season at the theatre ; The incident was the touch, in the and when that was ended, Beale's mirthful experience of that night, that Long Room, at the corner of Third passed endurance. Pit and circles were and Market streets, was engaged for one scene of such convulsive merri- rehearsals exclusively in the Ethiopiment that it was impossible to proceed

an line.

“ Clar de Kitchen” soon apin the performance ; and the extin- pearci as a companion piece, followed guishment of the footlights, the fall of speedily by "Lucy Long," " Sich a the curtain, and the throwing wide of Gittin' up Stairs,” “ Long-Tail Blue," the doors for exit, indicated that the and so on, until quite a repertoire was entertainment was ended.

at command from which to select for Such were the circumstances - an evening's entertainment. thentic in every particular - under Rice remained in Pittsburg some which the first work of the distinct two years. He then visited Philadelart of Negro Minstrelsy was presented. phia, Boston, and New York, whence

Next day found the song of Jim he sailed for England, where he met Crow, in one style of delivery or an- with high favor in his novel character, other, on everybody's tongue. Clerks married, and remained for some time. hummed it serving customers at shop He then returned to New York, and counters, artisans thundered it at their shortly afterwards died. toils to the time-beat of sledge and of With Rice's retirement his art seems tilt-hammer, boys whistled it on the to have dropped into disuse as a feature streets, ladies warbled it in parlors, of theatrical entertainment, and thence



forward, for many years, to have sur- and to give it full development, retainvived only in the performances of cir- ing unimpaired meanwhile such origicuses and menageries. Between acts nal excellences as Nature in Sambo the extravaganzaist in cork and wool shapes and inspires, was the task of would appear, and to the song of the time. But the task fell into bun“Coal - Black Rose,” or “ Jim along gling hands. The intuitive utterance Joe,” or “Sittin' on a Rail,” command of the art was misapprehended or perwith the clown and monkey, full share verted altogether. Its naïve misconof admiration in the arena. At first ceits were construed into coarse blunhe performed solus, and to the accom- ders ; its pleasing incongruities were paniment of the “show” band; but the resolved into meaningless jargon. Gibschool was progressive ; couples pres- berish became the staple of its compoently appeared, and, dispensing with sition. Slang phrases and crude jests, the aid of foreign instruments, deliv- all odds and ends of vulgar sentiment, ered their melodies to the more ap- without regard to the idiosyncrasies propriate music of the banjo. To the of the negro, were caught up, jumbled banjo, in a short time, were added the together into rhyme, and, rendered into bones. The art had now outgrown the lingo presumed to be genuine, were its infancy, and, disdaining a subordi- ready for the stage. The wit of the nate existence, boldly seceded from the performance was made to consist in society of harlequin and the tumblers, quibble and equivoke, and in the misand met the world as an independent use of language, after the fashion, but institution. Singers organized them without the refinement, of Mrs. Partingselves into quartet bands ; added a fid- ton. The character of the music undle and tambourine to their instruments derwent a change. Original airs were – perhaps we should say implements composed from time to time, but the - of music ; introduced the hoe-down songs were more generally adaptations and the conundrum to fill up the inter- of tunes in vogue among Hard-Shell vals of performance; rented halls, and, Baptists in Tennessee and at Methoperegrinating from city to city and dist camp-meetings in Kentucky, and from town to town, went on and pros- of backwoods melodies, such as had pered.

been invented for native ballads by One of the earliest companies of this “ settlement” masters and brought insort was organized and sustained un- to general circulation by stage-drivers, der the leadership of Nelson Kneass, wagoners, cattle - drovers, and other who, while skilful in his manipulations such itinerants of earlier days. Music of the banjo, was quite an accomplished of the concert-room was also drafted pianist besides, as well as a favorite into the service, and selections from ballad-singer. He had some preten- the inferior operas, with the necessary sions as a composer, but has left his mutilations of the text, of course ; so name identified with no work of any that the whole school of negro mininterest. His company met with such strelsy threatened a lapse, when its success in Pittsburg, that its visits course of decline was suddenly and were repeated from season to season, effectually arrested. until about the year 1845, when Mr. A certain Mr. Andrews, dealer in Murphy, the leading caricaturist, deter- confections, cakes, and ices, being mining to resume the business in pri- stirred by a spirit of enterprise, rented, vate life which he had laid aside on in the year 1845, a second-floor hall on going upon the stage, the company was Wood Street, Pittsburg, supplied it disbanded.

with seats and small tables, advertised Up to this period, if negro minstrelsy largely, employed cheap attractions, -had made some progress, it was not living statues, songs, dances, &c., marked by much improvement. Its erected a stage, hired a piano, and, charm lay essentially in its simplicity, upon the dissolution of his band, en


gaged the services of Nelson Kneass Stephen, although but in his ninth as musician and manager. Admit- year, was admitted, and of which, from tance was free, the ten-cent ticket re- his agreeable rendering of the favorite quired at the door being received at airs of the day, he soon became the its cost value within towards the pay- leading attraction. ment of whatever might be called for At thirteen years of age, he made at the tables. To keep alive the in- his first attempt at composition, proterest of the enterprise, premiums were ducing for a public occasion at the offered, from time to time, of a brace- seminary in Athens, Ohio, where he let for the best conundrum, a ring was a student at the time, the “ Tioga with a ruby setting for the best comic Waltz,” which, although quite a pretty song, and a golden chain for the best affair, he never thought worthy of pressentimental song. The most and per- ervation. In the same year, shortly haps only really valuable reward afterwards, he composed music to the genuine and very pretty silver cup, ex- song commencing, “Sadly to mine hibited night after night, beforehand heart appealing,” now embraced in the was promised to the author of the best list of his publications, but not brought original negro song, to be presented out until many years later. before a certain date, and to be de- Stephen was a boy of delicate concided upon by a committee designated stitution, not addicted to the active for the purpose by the audience at that sports or any of the more vigorous habtime.

its of boys of his age. His only comQuite a large array of competitors panions were a few intimate friends, entered the lists; but the contest would and, thus secluded, his character natbe hardly worthy of mention, save as urally took a sensitive, meditative cast, it was the occasion of the first appear- and his growing disrelish for severer ance of him who was to prove the tasks was confirmed. As has been inreformer of his art, and to a sketch of timated, he entered as a pupil at Athwhose career the foregoing pages are ens; but as the course of instruction chiefly preliminary.

in that institution was not in harmony Stephen Collins Foster was born in with his tastes, he soon withdrew, apAlleghany, Pennsylvania, on the 4th plying himself afterwards to the study of July, 1826. He was the youngest of the French and German languages child of his father, William B. Foster, (a ready fluency in both of which he - originally a merchant of Pittsburg, finally acquired), and especially to the and afterwards Mayor of his native art dearer than all other studies. A city, member of the State Legislature, recluse, owning and soliciting no guidand .a Federal officer under President ance but that of his text-book, in the Buchanan, with whom he was closely quiet of the woods, or, if that were inacconnected by marriage. The evi- cessible, the retirement of his chamber, dences of a musical capacity of no he devoted himself to this art. common order were apparent in Ste- At the age of sixteen he composed phen at an early period. Going into a and published the song, “ Open thy shop, one day, when about seven years Lattice, Love," which was admired, but old, he picked up a flageolet, the first did not meet with extraordinary suche had ever seen, and comprehending, In the year following he went after an experiment or two, the order to Cincinnati, entering the countingof the scale on the instrument, was room of his brother, and discharging able in a few minutes, uninstructed, the duties of his place with faithfulness to play any of the simple tunes within and ability. His spare hours were still the octave with which he was devoted, however, to his favorite purquainted. A Thespian society, com- suit, although his productions were posed of boys in their higher teens, chiefly preserved in manuscript, and was organized in Alleghany, into which kept for the private entertainment of



his friends. He continued with his ular. To what, then, was it indebted for brother nearly three years.

its captivating points? It was to its At the time Mr. Andrews of Pitts- truth to Nature in her simplest and burg offered a silver cup for the best most childlike mood. original negro song, Mr. Morrison Fos- Settled as to theory, Foster applied ter sent to his brother Stephen a copy himself to the task of its exemplificaof the advertisement announcing the tion. Two attempts were made while fact, with a letter urging him to become he yet remained in Cincinnati, the pena competitor for the prize. These sa- cil-drafts of which, however, were laid loon entertainments occupied a neutral aside for the time being in his portfolio. ground, upon which eschewers of the His shrinking nature held timidly back atrical delights could meet with the at the thought of a venture before the abetters of play-house amusements, public ; and so the case stood until he a consideration of ruling importance in reappeared in Pittsburg. Pittsburg, where so many of the sterling The Presidential campaign of 1844 population carry with them to this day, was distinguished by political songby legitimate inheritance, the stanch singing. Clubs for that purpose were old Cameronian fidelity to Presbyterian organized in all the cities and towns and creed and practice. Morrison, believ- hamlets, — clubs for the platform, clubs ing that these concerts would afford an for the street, clubs for the parlor, Whig excellent opportunity for the genius of clubs, Democratic clubs. Ballads inhis brother to appeal to the public, per- numerable to airs indefinite, new and sisted in urging him to compete for the old, filled the land, — Irish ballads, Gerprize, until Stephen, who at first ex- man ballads Yankee ballads, and, prepressed a dislike to appear under such ferred over all, negro ballads. So encircumstances, finally yielded, and in thusiastic grew the popular feeling in due time forwarded a melody entitled, this direction, that, when the November “ 'Way down South, whar de Corn crisis was come and gone, the peculiar grows.” When the eventful night institution would not succumb to the came, the various pieces in competition limitation, but lived on. Partisan temwere rendered to the audience by Nel- per faded out; the fires of strife died son Kneass to his own accompaniment down, but clubs sat perseveringly in on the piano. The audience expressed their places, and in sounds, if not in by their applause a decided preference sentiment, attuned to the old melodies, for Stephen's melody; but the commit- kept up the practice of the mad and tee appointed to sit in judgment de- merry time. cided in favor of some one else, himself Among other organizations that thus and his song never heard of afterwards, lingered on was one, composed of half and the author of " 'Way down South” a dozen young men, since grown into forfeited the cup.

But Mr. Kneass graver habits, with Foster home appreciated the merit of the composi- again, and a link once more in the circle tion, and promptly, next morning, made of his intimates — at its head. The application at the proper office for a negro airs were still the favorites; but copyright in his own name as author, the collection, from frequent repetition, when Mr. Morrison Foster, happening at length began to grow stale. One in at the moment, interposed, and frus- night, as a revival measure for the trated the discreditable intention. club, and as an opportunity for him

This experiment of Foster's, if it fell self, Foster hinted that, with their pershort of the expectation of his friends, mission, he would offer for trial an served, notwithstanding, a profitable effort of his own. Accordingly he set purpose, for it led him to a critical in- to work; and at their next meeting laid vestigation of the school of music to before them a song entitled “ Louisiana which it belonged. This school had Belle.” The piece elicited unanimous been-W

was yet — unquestionably pop applause. Its success in the club-room

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