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Uncle Tom's Cabin

American dramatists had little success during the first half of the century, but in the 1850's a number of authentic American plays made a hit in the States, and were accorded a Toronto production... Uncle Tom's Cabin was the outstanding success of [John Nickinson's first Royal Lyceum Theatre, Toronto season, which achieved an unprecedented run of nine performances, from May 31 to June 8, 1853. Toronto's first production was a tremendous hit, and the first production to have an extended run. [Mary Shortt letter,  Feb 16, 1979]

Uncle Tom's Cabin playbill
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Toronto, Feb. 6, 1857

THE DRAMA OF "DRED" having been received with great gratification by a Full and Fashionable Audience, induces the Manager [John Nickinson] to announce for repetition this evening Mark Lemon and Tom Taylor's celebrated London Version of Mrs. Beecher Stowe's work.  UNCLE TOM'S CABIN  OR SLAVE LIFE.  Produced with due regard to effective Scenery, Properties, Dresses, Decorations, Negro Melodies, Etc. Etc.

Mr. Petrie as Simon Legree, Mr. D.[enman] Thompson as Uncle Tom, Mr. H. Cook as George Harris, Miss [EJ] Phillips as Cassy, Miss V.[irginia] Nickinson as Topsey. All the company and numerous auxiliaries, Negro Minstrels, etc.

The performance will commence with the laughable farce  IRISH ASSURANCE, OR, YANKEE MODESTY.  Pat Mr. D. Thompson,    Nancy  Miss I[sabella] Nickinson  Miss Phillips played Miss Buffer in this, followed by a DANCE --  BY  --  MAD'LLE ELISE

To conclude, a Revival,. with all its Original scenic effects, machinery, etc. entitled

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: or Slave Life  

Note: -- It should be stated, alike in justice to MRS. STOWE, and in explanation of the liberties taken with her admirable story in this Drama, that it does not profess to be a mere stage version of the tale, but a Play in which free use has been made of many of her chief personages and most striking incidents?  The interest of MRS. STOWE'S story runs in three distinct channels, following successfully in the fortunes of Eliza and George, of Uncle Tom and Eva and Emmeline and Cassy.  For dramatic effect it is necessary that these threads show be interwoven, and that what cannot be connected should be abandoned. This is what has been attempted in this Drama, in which, there has been both the  wish and effort to preserve the spirit which breathes through Mrs. Stowe's pathetic pages, the relations of characters and the sequence of incidents has been altered without reserve. 

In the course of the piece the CANADIAN ETHIOPIAN SERENADERS will perform the following melodies, etc., Opening Chorus    Master Sound Sleeping    Ring de Banjo    Poor Old Slave   Little More Cider

Charlotte Nickinson played Eliza and sang "Old Folks at Home"  with a chorus. Owen Marlowe, (who married Virginia Nickinson in 1857) played Shelby.   

At the bottom of the playbill 

Denman Thompson (author of the Old Homestead (1887) which EJP and Neppie went to see in 1890)  played Uncle Tom in this production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Toronto in Feb. 1857. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin became an industry in itself.  First successfully produced in 1852, it did not tour extensively until the 1870's.  By 1879 about fifty "Tom Shows" were on the road, and between four and five hundred in the 1890's.  Specially built railways cars (for the prosperous companies) or wagons (for the more modest), garish advertising, parades upon arrival, and bloodhounds bred by kennels established all over the country to supply the productions all contributed to the spectacle. [Blum]

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...  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. THE OLD SCHOOL ACTORS: The Drama Before and After the Civil War, The Billboard, Doctor Judd, Cincinnati: 10 September 1904  http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/revus/osar48dt.html Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, Stephen Railton. 

Another production of Uncle Tom -- this time by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In six acts and twelve tableaux, Davies as Uncle Tom, Miles as George Harris (the fugitive), Nickinson as Phineas Fletcher, Miss Kimberly as Eliza, Miss Blanche as Eva, Miss Phillips as Cassey and Emily L. Miles as Topsy (the girl that never was born). 

No date, "To-morrow evening benefit of J. Nickinson, when a great will be offered. Lady and Gent, front seats 70 cents; single gent, 35 cents other parts of the house admission will be 25 cents. Phineas Fletcher was the Quaker who helped slaves escape. Cassey was a slave belonging to Simon Legree.

Mary Shortt wrote in Feb. 1979 of her interest in the playbills.  "Miss Blanche" who played Little Eva in UNCLE TOMS CABIN and her mother, Mrs. Bradshaw, who played Aunt Ophelia, became prominent and popular members of stock companies in Toronto in the 1870's.  They are both mentioned in Clara Morris's fascinating book Life on the Stage. John Nickinson first introduced UNCLE TOM'S CABIN to Toronto, where it made a tremendous hit and was the first production to have an extended run.

Playbill for Dion Boucicault's Octoroon, May 8, 1861
Metropolitan Theatre, Hamilton, Ontario CANADA

Dion Boucicault's "Octoroon (1860) was notable for its condemnation of slavery ... and features a camera as a major plot device in capturing the villain."   Dion Boucicault: His Life and Times, David W. Dwyer, 1998  http://www.msu.edu/user/dwyerdav/papers/dion.htm

John Brown had been hanged three days before The Octoroon opened. Also included an exploding river boat scene.  http://www.bookmice.net/darkchilde/maude/mplay18.html

Othello      The Nickinsons in Canada

Clara Morris on Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth

The Frohmans were also involved in Uncle Tom's Cabin productions  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Frohman

Andrew DelBanco The impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin 2011
Frick, John Uncle Tom's Cabin on the Antebellum Stage 2007
Gates, Henry Louis, editor Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, Norton 2006 http://www.amazon.com/Annotated-Uncle-Toms-Cabin/dp/0393059464
Harpers Weekly Black America 1857-1874 http://blackhistory.harpweek.com/
Alicia Kae Koger,  The 1852-1853 Season, The Adelphia Theatre [London] 1806-1900  
Ralph Eugene Lund, Trouping with Uncle Tom 1928
Terry Oggell
, Writing about race in 19th century America: Literature and Law, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., English 490, 2003  http://www.people.vcu.edu/~toggel/
Stephen Railton, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture,  Univ. of Virginia, 
http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/sitemap.html   http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/sitemap.html

David S Reynolds Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the battle for America  2011  http://www.amazon.com/Mightier-than-Sword-Battle-America/dp/039308132X
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin text  http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/uncletom/uthp.html

Uncle Tom's Cabin Archive, George Mason Univ.
Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site, Dresden, Ontario Canada http://www.uncletomscabin.org/
Uncle Tom's Cabin on Stage http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/oshp.html

Wikipedia, Octoroon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Octoroon Uncle Tom's Cabin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Tom's_Cabin

Last updated June 27, 2011

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