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Minstrelsy

Minstrelsy was an American form of entertainment developed in the 19th century. Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in make-up or blackface for the purpose of playing the role of black people.
Minstrel shows lampooned black people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, happy-go-lucky, and musical. The minstrel show began with brief burlesques and comic entr'actes in the early 1830s and emerged as a full-fledged form in the next decade. By 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national artform, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience.
By the turn of the 20th century, the minstrel show enjoyed but a shadow of its former popularity, having been replaced for the most part by vaudeville. It survived as professional entertainment until about 1910; amateur performances continued until the 1960s in high schools and local theaters. As the civil rights movement progressed and gained acceptance, minstrels lost popularity.
The typical minstrel performance followed a three-act structure. The troupe first danced onto a stage then exchanged wisecracks and sang songs. The second part featured a variety of entertainments, including the pun-filled stump speech. The final act consisted of a slapstick musical plantation skit or a send-up of a popular play. Minstrel songs and sketches featured several stock characters, most popularly the slave and the dandy. These were further divided into sub-archetypes such as the mammy, her counterpart the old darky, the provocative mulatto wench, and the black soldier. Minstrels claimed that their songs and dances were authentically black, although the extent of the black influence remains debated. Spirituals (known as jubilees) entered the repertoire in the 1870s, marking the first undeniably black music to be used in minstrelsy.
Blackface minstrelsy was the first theatrical form that was distinctly American. During the 1830s and 1840s at the height of its popularity, it was at the epicenter of the American music industry. For several decades it provided the means through which American whites viewed black people. On the one hand, it had strong racist aspects; on the other, it afforded white Americans a singular and broad awareness of what some whites considered significant aspects of black culture in America.
Although the minstrel shows were extremely popular, being "consistently packed with families from all walks of life and every ethnic group", they were also controversial. Racial integrationists decried them as falsely showing happy slaves while at the same time making fun of them; segregationists thought such shows were "disrespectful" of social norms, portrayed runaway slaves with sympathy and would undermine the southerners' "peculiar institution".
Learn more at Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel_show
Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee
1829
1829
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1941
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1941
268 Media in collectionpage 1 of 3
Boston minstrels. The celebrated Ethiopian melodies ...

Boston minstrels. The celebrated Ethiopian melodies ...

Music cover illustrated with caricatures of six minstrels in two scenes.

The crow quadrilles. Piano forte by John H. Hewitt / N. Currier's lith., N.Y.

The crow quadrilles. Piano forte by John H. Hewitt / N. Currier's lith...

Music cover with eight vignettes of caricatures of blacks. Currier & Ives : a catalogue raisonné / compiled by Gale Research. Detroit, MI : Gale Research, c1983, no. 1436.

Long tail blue / Willig's lith.

Long tail blue / Willig's lith.

Music cover showing man wearing top hat and coat with tails, holding monocle and walking stick.

Ginger blue, a popular Negro melody, composed & sung by Mr. R.W. Pelham / Fleetwood lith.

Ginger blue, a popular Negro melody, composed & sung by Mr. R.W. Pelha...

Music cover showing boy dancing in dilapidated room, with kettle in fireplace.

Whitlock's collection of Ethiopian melodies. As sung with great applause by William Whitlock at the principal theatres in the United States

Whitlock's collection of Ethiopian melodies. As sung with great applau...

Music cover showing two men on stage, one dancing and one playing banjo.

Plantation melodies / J.H. Bufford's lith., Boston.

Plantation melodies / J.H. Bufford's lith., Boston.

Music cover showing two boys seated on bench, with one of them playing a flute, and the other holding book of music.

Carroll & Queen's double cloc dance / J. H. Bufford's lith., Boston.

Carroll & Queen's double cloc dance / J. H. Bufford's lith., Boston.

Two men performing dance. Copyright by Oliver Ditson & Co.

Treasury rats - Sung by all the Minstrels

Treasury rats - Sung by all the Minstrels

LOT subdivision subject: Money. Title and other information transcribed from caption card.

[Bryants Minstrels]

[Bryants Minstrels]

Group portrait of nine members of Bryant's Minstrels, a group of white actors impersonating blacks, in particular "plantation life." Title devised by Library staff. Includes identification of members hand-writt... more

San Francisco minstrels

San Francisco minstrels

I5195 U.S. Copyright Office. This record contains unverified data from PGA shelflist card. Associated name on shelflist card: Thomas.

Birch, Wambold & Backus, San Francisco Minstrels from their Opera House, Broadway & 29th Street, New York

Birch, Wambold & Backus, San Francisco Minstrels from their Opera Hous...

I5195 U.S. Copyright Office "Copyrighted by H.A. Thomas." Created by "H.A. Thomas Lith. Studio, 865 Broadway, N.Y." San Francisco Minstrels consist of Billy Birch, Dave Wambold, and Charles Backus. Forms part o... more

Hyde & Behman's Operatic Spectacular Minstrels under the personal supervision of Richard Hyde direct from their own beautiful theatre, Brooklyn, New York.

Hyde & Behman's Operatic Spectacular Minstrels under the personal supe...

P17856 U.S. Copyright Office "Composed entirely of artists of merit. Original in every detail. Perfectly equipped & organized with the intention of presenting minstrelsy as an art ... Reserved seats at usual pl... more

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

Caption: The two Chinese dromios in their original creation, "A holiday in the laundry." Created by "The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cin'ti-N=Y-London." N.Y. 1832. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library o... more

Modern minstrels

Modern minstrels

Consists of multiple portraits, including the Eight Madrigal Boys. "Photos by Falk, N.Y." Created by "H.A. Thomas & Wylie Lith., 7 E 19th St., N.Y." Upper left corner missing; part of title missing. Forms part ... more

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

Caption: Music and it's charms, originated & directed by Mr. Barney Fagan. Created by "The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cinti, N=Y & London." N.Y. 2251. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

[African American, seated, playing banjo]

[African American, seated, playing banjo]

X1249 U.S. Copyright Office Created and "copyrighted 1892 by Calvert Litho. Co., Detroit, Mich." No. 16. Title devised. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

C259695 U.S. Copyright Office Captions: New and superb first part Geo. H. Primrose George Wilson "waltz me again" Milt. G. Barlow, the famous darkey character "Old Black Joe" Quaker City Quartette, the ... more

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

C259696 U.S. Copyright Office Captions: New and superb prismatic first part Wm. H. West in the superb prismatic first part & the great Zouave Patrol Ezra Kendall Carroll Johnson, the Adonis of minstrelsy ... more

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

34413 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Carroll Johnson the comedian. Created and "copyright 1898 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 8093. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Haverly's European Mastodon Minstrels

Haverly's European Mastodon Minstrels

Caption: As they appeared participating in the inauguration of the President of the United States at Washington. Small pieces missing from top of poster. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

"From photo by Falk, N.Y." Caption: Wm. H. West : the most popular minstrel in the world. Created and "copyright 1898 by The Strobridge Litho. Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 8077. Forms part of: Minstrel post... more

Palmer's Uncle Tom's Cabin Co.

Palmer's Uncle Tom's Cabin Co.

Includes small portraits of George W. Goodhart and Tom Dailey.

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin. Caption: Edw. Fox - grotesque dancer & comedian. Created and "copyright 1899 Courier Litho. Co., Buffalo, N.Y." No. 2817. Forms part of: Minstrel pos... more

Joseph Gorton, originator & founder of Gorton's Minstrels and Gold Band in 1867

Joseph Gorton, originator & founder of Gorton's Minstrels and Gold Ban...

Chas. H. Larkin, lessee & manager. Created and "copyright 1899 Courier Litho. Co., Buffalo, N.Y." No. 2604. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress) Pieces missing from left edge.

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

46523 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Tom Lewis, the great comedian. Created and "copyright 1899 by The Strobridge Litho Co, Cin'ti=New York." N.Y. no. 8543. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

William H. West's Big minstrel jubilee a majestic enterprise.

William H. West's Big minstrel jubilee a majestic enterprise.

48674 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: William H. West, the progressive minstrel, sole proprietor, the richest and costliest minstrel organization in existence. Created and "copyright 1899 by The Strobridge Lith.... more

Original Nashville Students consolidated with Gideon's Big Minstrel Carnival

Original Nashville Students consolidated with Gideon's Big Minstrel Ca...

73921 U.S. Copyright Office At head of title: 2 complete faultless institutions now united as one. Caption: Find the tenor. Created and "copyright 1899 by The U.S. Printing Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati... more

Original Nashville Students combined with Gideon's Big Minstrel Carnival

Original Nashville Students combined with Gideon's Big Minstrel Carniv...

73924 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Me and my baby. Created and "copyright 1899 by The U.S. Printing Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." Direction of Rusco & Holland. No. 4209. Forms part of: Mi... more

Rusco & Holland, sole proprietors and managers more money invested than any minstrel firm in the world : the progressive minstrel managers.

Rusco & Holland, sole proprietors and managers more money invested tha...

Portraits of W.A. Rusco and Jno. J. Holland. Captions: Rusco and Holland's Big Minstrel Festival : 55 people, 3 bands, traveling in their own train of cars Original Nashville Students and Colored Concert Co.,... more

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin.

The William H. West calendar

The William H. West calendar

Consists of calendars for July 1899-June 1900, portrait of West, vignettes of his minstrel company and the Battle of San Juan Hill. 56643 U.S. Copyright Office "Minstrelsy as now presented by William H. West." ... more

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin. 35118 U.S. Copyright Office Created and "copyright 1899 Courier Litho. Co., Buffalo, N.Y." No. 2700. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Libra... more

Gorton's famous Minstrels

Gorton's famous Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin. D17229 U.S. Copyright Office Created and "copyright 1900 by the Courier Company, Lith. Dpt., Buffalo, N.Y." No. 3023. Small piece missing from left s... more

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Caption: Waterbury Bros. & Tenny : America's most brilliant musical trio. Created and "copyright 1900 by The Strobridge Litho Co Cin'ti & N.Y." N.Y. no. 9026. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library ... more

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Caption: Billy Van, the monologue comedian. Created and "copyright 1900 by The Strobridge Litho Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 9021. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Caption: Manuel Romain : America's greatest tenor. Created and "copyright 1900 by The Strobridge Litho Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 9023. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

G xxc 3982 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Guess I'll go down an give away a couple of libraries. Created and "copyright 1903 by The U.S. Lithograph Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." No. 6543. F... more

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

G xxc 3986 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: De deacon. Created and "copyright 1903 by The U.S. Lithograph Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." No. 6539. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Li... more

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

Richards & Pringle's Famous Georgia Minstrels

G xxc 3985 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: It's a shame to waste dat on a dog. Created and "copyright 1903 by The U.S. Lithograph Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." No. 6542. Forms part of: Minst... more

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels the show you know.

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels the show you know.

Includes Aug. 1906-July 1907 calendar.

Richards & Pringle's Famous Minstrels

Richards & Pringle's Famous Minstrels

G xxc 16499 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Billy King. Created and "copyright 1907 by The U.S. Lithograph Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." No. 10515. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection ... more

Richards & Pringle's Famous Minstrels

Richards & Pringle's Famous Minstrels

G xxc 16498 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Clarence Powell. Created and "copyright 1907 by The U.S. Lithograph Co., Russell-Morgan Print, Cincinnati & New York." No. 10514. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collec... more

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels oldest 23rd year, best.

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels oldest 23rd year, best.

Includes portraits of Hamilton Alvin and Jack Alvin. "Fun at the Mardi Gras" pasted over caption. Caption: Alvin Brothers, pantomimists & acrobats, a circus nightmare. Created and "copyright 1908 by The Courier... more

Eat, drink, and be merry / L.M. Glackens.

Eat, drink, and be merry / L.M. Glackens.

Illustration shows an angry, well-dressed man labeled "Monopoly" sitting at a table eating from a plate heaped with "Benefits of Protection"; standing next to him is a minstrel holding a song sheet labeled "Tar... more

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels

Al. G. Field Greater Minstrels

"Fun at the Mardi Gras" pasted over part of caption. Caption: Jack McShane. Created and "copyright, 1913 by The Otis Litho. Co., Cleveland, O." No. 20680. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

J.W. Johnson's Old Reliable Virginia Minstrels world's best colored show : the show that is different.

J.W. Johnson's Old Reliable Virginia Minstrels world's best colored sh...

Created by "Erie Litho. & Printing Co., Erie, Pa." Small portrait of J.W. Johnson on upper portion of poster. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

Thatcher, Primrose & West's Minstrels

S15251 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: A new departure. Modern minstrelsy in kingly splendor. Created by "The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cinti, N.Y. & London; copyrighted 1887 by The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cin'ti, Ohi... more

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Includes portraits of Primrose & West in center of poster. B252643 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Our colossal double company. Created and "copyright 1896 by The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cincinnati=New York." No. ... more

Al. G. Field Minstrels

Al. G. Field Minstrels

"Made in U.S.A." Caption: Al. G. Field : oldest - best since 1886. Created by "The Otis Lithograph Co., Cleveland, O." No. O-1602. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

D13818 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: The golf parade : Wm. H. West adopts the latest fad for his great noon-day street display. Created and "copyright 1900 by The Strobridge Litho Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. ... more

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

A247727 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: The grandest first part ever presented. Created and "copyright 1895 by The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cin'ti & New York." No. 6605. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (L... more

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin. 6547 U.S. Copyright Office Created and "copyright 1899 Courier Litho. Co., Buffalo, N.Y." No. 2609. Pieces missing from bottom edge. Forms part of: M... more

Al. G. Field Minstrels

Al. G. Field Minstrels

"Made in U.S.A." Caption: Emmett Miller : clarinet voiced comedian : "A thousand frogs." Created by "The Otis Lithograph Co., Cleveland, O." No. O-1601. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Al. G. Field Minstrels

Al. G. Field Minstrels

"Made in U.S.A." Caption: Emmett Miller : clarinet voiced comedian : "A thousand frogs." Created by "The Otis Lithograph Co., Cleveland, O." No. O-1601. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Caption: Richard J. Jos : America's greatest singer. Created and "copyright 1898 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 8092. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).

Caption: Richard J. Jos : America's greatest singer. Created and "copyright 1898 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cin'ti & New York." N.Y. no. 8092. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

A247725 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Wm. H. West's original production under his personal direction, entitled The vanishing grenadiers : this act is a revelation, and produced at an expense of $10,000.00. Cre... more

Fourteenth appearance in this country of the celebrated New Orleans Ethiopian Serenaders

Fourteenth appearance in this country of the celebrated New Orleans Et...

"This evening, Tuesday, March 16th, 1847, the performances will commence with Bellini's celebrated opera, in three acts, La Sonnambula." At head of title: Princess's Theatre, J.M. Maddox, sole lessee and manage... more

Fourteenth appearance in this country of the celebrated New Orleans Ethiopian Serenaders

Fourteenth appearance in this country of the celebrated New Orleans Et...

"This evening, Tuesday, March 16th, 1847, the performances will commence with Bellini's celebrated opera, in three acts, La Sonnambula." At head of title: Princess's Theatre, J.M. Maddox, sole lessee and manage... more

[African American in tuxedo and top hat, seated, playing banjo]

[African American in tuxedo and top hat, seated, playing banjo]

V35185 U.S. Copyright Office Created and "copyrighted 1890 by The Calvert Litho. Co., Detroit, Mich." No. 5. Title devised. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection (Library of Congress)

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Gorton's Original New Orleans Minstrels

Includes small portraits of Jos. Gorton and Chas. H. Larkin.

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

B252649 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Our great champion cake walk, open to all comers. Created and "copyright 1896 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cinti & N.Y." No. 7325. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection ... more

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

B252649 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Our great champion cake walk, open to all comers. Created and "copyright 1896 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cinti & N.Y." No. 7325. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collection ... more

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

Primrose & West's Big Minstrels

B252640 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Geo. H. Primrose, Wm. H. West, the acknowledged leaders of minstrelsy. Created and "copyright 1896 by The Strobridge Lith Co, Cinti & N.Y." No. 7319? Forms part of: Minstr... more

Oliver Scott's Big Minstrel Carnival

Oliver Scott's Big Minstrel Carnival

52069 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: James White, vocal comedian. Created by "The Russell-Morgan Print; copyrighted 1899 by The U.S. Printing Co., Cin., U.S.A." No. 3820. Forms part of: Minstrel poster collecti... more

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Consists of portraits of Carroll Johnson, Tom Lewis, Geo. B. Mack, and Ed. Howard, all in blackface. 44240 U.S. Copyright Office Title from item. Caption: Four of our nation's fun makers. Printed on upper right... more

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

39291 U.S. Copyright Office Captions: The world's greatest minstrel vocalists: Clement Stewart, T.H.P. Harle, Arthur Ansdell, J.P. Rodgers, Jos. Garland, Geo. P. Marshall, Richard J. José. Created and "copyrigh... more

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Tobacco label showing the U.S. Capitol, with troops in front. LOT subdivision subject: Views, U.S. Title and other information transcribed from caption card. Copyright by Wm. H. Palmer

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Tobacco label showing the U.S. Capitol, with troops in front. LOT subdivision subject: Views, U.S. Title and other information transcribed from caption card. Copyright by Wm. H. Palmer

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Tobacco label showing the U.S. Capitol, with troops in front. LOT subdivision subject: Views, U.S. Title and other information transcribed from caption card. Copyright by Wm. H. Palmer

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Haverly's European and American Mastodon Minstrels

Tobacco label showing the U.S. Capitol, with troops in front. LOT subdivision subject: Views, U.S. Title and other information transcribed from caption card. Copyright by Wm. H. Palmer

George Thatcher and Carroll Johnson's Minstrels

George Thatcher and Carroll Johnson's Minstrels

A24005 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Thatcher and Johnson's original 'first-part' creation, The Minstrels at the Hunt Club. Created and "copyright 1895 by The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cinti=N.Y." No. 6295. Forms ... more

George Thatcher and Carroll Johnson's Minstrels

George Thatcher and Carroll Johnson's Minstrels

A24005 U.S. Copyright Office Caption: Thatcher and Johnson's original 'first-part' creation, The Minstrels at the Hunt Club. Created and "copyright 1895 by The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cinti=N.Y." No. 6295. Forms ... more