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Cabin" the only street attraction preceding the performance was "little Eva," who attracted great crowds when she appeared with her long golden curls and angelic face, accompanied by her father, who was a picturesque figure in the same black broadcloth coat with brass buttons and the same lavender trousers that he wore on the stage in the rôle of St. Clare. George C. Howard was his name. He was the proprietor of the first Tom show. The play had been written by his nephew, George L. Aiken, especially for his fouryear-old daughter, "Little Cordelia Howard, the Youthful Wonder," who had made such a pronounced success in "Oliver Twist," that she was to be starred in the first dramatization of Mrs. Stowe's novel. The play opened at the Museum in Troy, New York, September 27, 1852, and ran for three months, a record which still remains unbroken in Troy, although the population has doubled many times since then.

Closing in Troy, the play ran for nearly a year at the National Theater in New York. Cordelia's mother played Topsy while her grandmother had the rôle of Ophelia. A sprinkling of uncles and cousins among the men in the cast made the performance look like a family reunion. Little Cordelia starred in the rôle of Eva for eight years with great success in this country and Europe and then retired from the stage at the age of twelve. She is still living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as Mrs. Cordelia Howard Macdonald.

Although it was seventy-five years ago to-day that the child actress reached the height of her first phenomenal success, her memory is

keen and vigorous. The first little Eva has recalled many interesting things in connection with the first production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and she is probably the only living person who can remember the première performance of the slave play.


But what of all the other little Evas? Who were they and where are they now? They must have interesting tales to tell, if one only knew where to find them. It must be that many distinguished living actresses were the Evas, the Topsys and the Elizas of yesterday, but the historians of the theater have held themselves smugly aloof from "Uncle Tom's Cabin," for although it has been the most influential and the most successful play that the world has known, it has been looked upon for half a century as a "rube show" and was regarded with disdain by scholarly chroniclers during its heyday.

After the bloodhounds, jubilee singers, the street parade and other circus features were added to the venerable production, actresses who played in Tom shows, as they were termed professionally, did not usually boast about it in their reminiscences.

The tide seems to have turned, for the slave drama is enjoying a new vogue. Mary Pickford and Eva Tanguay are proud to recall how their endearing young charms were poured into the rôle of Eva. Marjorie Rambeau, Francine Larrimore and Effie Shannon were distinguished in the same rôle. Fay Templeton, Jennie Yeamans, Pearl White, Mary McVicker, who later married Edwin Booth, and many

others destined to fame made early appearances as Eva. Julia Marlowe says that the part of Eva was the dream of her young life and appeared to her at one time to be the height of all striving, although she never attained to this eminence.

Annie Adams, mother of Maude Adams, played Aunt Ophelia in San Francisco in the early seventies, while David Belasco, in the same city and period, distinguished himself as Uncle Tom. Mrs. Fiske, Nellie Holbrook, mother of Holbrook Blinn, and Henrietta Crosman are three more immortals who made the slave play a whetstone for their genius.

Rose Melville, Lotta Crabtree, Emma Dunn, Laurette Taylor, and even Fred Stone-yes, Fred Stoneessayed the rôle of Topsy. The star of "Stepping Stones" recently obliged the writer by rummaging through the attic and retrieving a playbill of Sutton's Double-Mammoth Uncle Tom's Cabin and Specialty Company, dated 1889, in which his name appears opposite the character "Topsy No. 1." This peculiar billing brings to mind the last word in puerile, absurd showmanship. In their competition for public favor the various proprietors of Tom shows had vied with one another for half a hundred years, adding to the original play new lines and business, bloodhounds in outrageous numbers and other features that appealed to the ingenuous audiences of the period.

In one scene Topsy is made to say, "I was nebber born. I just growed," and the actors of the eighties and nineties might have said with truth that the play was never written. It "just growed."

The last and greatest of these abominations to human intelligence was the introduction of the double Topsy, the double Uncle Tom and the double Marks. Two actors playing the same rôle appeared on the stage at the same time. Some of the lines were spoken in unison. Other lines were soloed by the actor billed as "No. 1" while number two Topsy, Marks or Tom followed the articulate actor like a shadow.

Queerly enough, the idea appealed to audiences and many companies adopted it. Thereafter Topsy, Marks and Tom were seen as twins. more often than not. With this "improvement" the bigger and better Tom show had reached its zenith and there was no direction in which it could progress except downward. With all this, "Uncle Tom's Cabin❞ has never gone completely out. Tom's famous line, “Yo' can kill my body, massa, but yo' caint kill my soul," has proved prophetic. There is something about the old play that refuses to die. For seventy-five years it has played in theaters, halls, barns, tents and showboats. There has never been a season that has failed to provide a living for several companies of Tom troupers.

Emma Dunn, best known as the star of "Old Lady Thirty-one," who played Topsy with the Woodward Stock Company twenty-five years ago, says, "Bad acting couldn't kill it. It always played to big houses no matter how terribly it was played." When she opened in Kansas City she thought it great fun to play Topsy, but all this joy was canceled after the first performance. "I remember that I romped through it and had a very jolly time," she says, "until it

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Miss Dunn was never what was known as a full-fledged Tom actor or she wouldn't have complained about so small a matter, for it was common practice to let Topsy double in another rôle. This necessitated washing off the cork several times during the performance and appearing on the stage alternately black and white. Fletcher Smith tells how he appeared as Tom in the Chloe scene, washed off the cork and entered as George Harris, later blacking his face again to reënter as Uncle Tom in the last act where he was mercifully permitted to die and go to heaven.

Henrietta Crosman, now retired in Pelham, N. Y. is among those who can remember about this "doubling" business, though fortunately her color range did not go to the extremes of black and white, for she played Cassie and Eliza. The latter was an octoroon, and you could use your imagination for the variation in hue. As she remembers, Miss Crosman was sixteen or eighteen when she played Eliza in Brooklyn and in Cincinnati.


Many amusing tales are told of the complications that resulted from these abbreviated casts, for there were twenty-one characters in the play and seldom were there more than a dozen principals in a traveling company.

Frank Gilmore, executive secretary of the Actors Equity Association, tells of a Simon Legree who doubled as Marks. Legree used to

fall dead when a shot was fired offstage by an unseen person, supposedly Marks. He was always careful to die with the upper part of his body concealed behind a wood wing while his boots protruded on the stage. At this point in the performance the actor would subtract himself from the boots without disturbing them, making a lightning change and reenter as Marks, his own executioner. In this character he would turn to the dead Legree (represented by the boots) and fire a parting shot to make sure of the villain's demise.

This trick of cutting a player in half was well known and had a variety of uses. Fred Maynard, who succeeded the late Frank Bacon in the stage production of "The Miracle Man" when the latter quit the cast to star in "Lightnin'," played Marks in Minnie Foster's production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" shortly after the Civil War. He tells how George Wyatt, as Uncle Tom, used to drop dead in the wings, his feet and legs extending on to the stage. From this position he would raise himself on his elbow and play "Hearts and Flowers" on the violin to accompany his own death.

It was not unheard-of for the child -or the woman-who played Eva to let a curtain be solemnly drawn in front of her dying bed while she slipped off the night gown that covered her plantation costume and reëntered a few seconds later as one of the mourners.

"One time," said Maynard, “I put on a benefit performance in Scituate, Massachusetts, with Agnes Allen, mother of the Warren Sisters. There were only three women and three men in the cast. I played

Harris and St. Clare and then blackened up for Uncle Tom.

"In those days the actors used to dress the stage and change the scenery in addition to playing multiple rôles. We used playful mastiffs for bloodhounds. The scenery was all on rollers. We played in schools and town halls-sometimes on twelvefoot stages. Those were the days of oil lamps. If the janitor walked from the wings to the center of the stage to trim a flickering wick during a scene, nothing was thought of it.'

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When Maynard tells of these things he does not smile, nor does he expect his hearer to be amused. "There was nothing funny about it,' he explained. "The wick had to be trimmed and it was trimmed, that's all. Things were different than they are now. People had a different attitude toward the theater. They enjoyed it more. They didn't care whether Eva gave a 'restrained' performance or some other kind; when she died it was sad and they cried. You may think those performances were tawdry and ludicrous, but unless you lived at that time you will never know what realism is. Realism is something the audience does to a play. We always had realism because it came in the front door."

This willingness of the Tom audience to supply from its imagination everything that was lacking on the stage made it possible for lapses to pass without comment that seem incredible to-day.

Tom Wise, shepherd of the Lambs and often called the dean of American actors, made his beginning as Uncle Tom. He is full of recollections of the slave drama and here is one of them:

"I played 'Uncle Tom' the first year I went on the professional stage, for the celebrated Bowery tragedian known in the profession as 'Neck and Neck' Stetson. The company consisted of six people, with no dogs, donkeys or other animals, and no children, which made the casting of the play rather difficult and meager, but as we were playing in a country that saw but few theatrical performances, we were allowed to escape with our lives.

"The next time that I played in 'Uncle Tom' was with a stock company in St. John's, N. B., in 1895. We had a very excellent company but no child actress for the part of Eva. But we found a girl working in a cigar store, who had played Little Eva ten years before. She was at this period about 18 years old, and had development and appearance of a woman of 35, but she was the only thing in the way of Eva that we could find, so she got the part. When she sat in my lap and asked Uncle Tom to tell her about the new Jerusalem, poor old Uncle Tom was nearly covered by her comparative immensity, but the production was a huge success.

"Since then I have not appeared in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' but have always maintained it was a great classic, and Uncle Tom one of the best rôles with which I have ever been associated."


It cannot be denied that the stage production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was one of two things; either it was the world's worst play or it was so good that nothing could be done to it that could utterly spoil it. This play became the "hamfatter's" para

dise, and it is no wonder that during the last thirty years of its run it has been held in low esteem as an artistic vehicle. But there was something about it-an elusive something that has been fanned into new flame. There is something that makes actors who played rôles in the barnstorming Tom shows proud of their heritage to golden memories. Joseph Jefferson, James K. Hackett and Denman Thompson were all, in their time, featured in the play.

Said Holbrook Blinn, "I regret to say I never played in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and during all my career I have deeply regretted the loss of this valuable experience. Furthermore, I have deplored the loss of a topic of conversation always dear to actors. However, I am in a way related, as my mother, Nellie Holbrook, a star actress of her time, was the original Eliza in the San Francisco production way back in the seventies.

"Peter Jackson, the greatest colored pugilist of all time, played Uncle Tom in her production. As an actor he was also in a class by himself, if Bill Nye's estimate of his histrionic power is to be taken as final. When asked his opinion of Jackson's performance of Uncle Tom, Nye replied to his interviewer, 'Well, I would say anatomically perfect, but Uncle Tomically awful!"

John L. Sullivan was another gentleman of the rosined arena who distinguished himself in the slave drama. There is every reason to believe that he was as good in the rôle of Legree as Jackson was in the rôle of Tom. Unable to fully express his tragic urge in the Legree rôle, Sullivan mounted to the dizzying heights of vaudeville and made a triumphant

tour, lecturing on "The Curse of Drink," a subject he knew backwards they say.

Hobart Bosworth, who played a small rôle in "Uncle Tom" in the Golden Gate City in 1887, was in the same company with Annie Adams, mother of Maude Adams, who played Aunt Ophelia. Ethel Brandon was Eliza. Bosworth tells a funny story of Eliza's escape at the opening performance. "I played the bit called Tom Loker. In the scene where Fletcher holds the attention of Loker and the other slave-driver down stage while he describes to Eliza the way she is to escape through the window 'at back' with her pickaninny, Miss Brandon-who stout and matronly-crept through the door at back, mounted the table and stepped through the window as directed. The table gave way and she took a fall which must have been painful, and in full view of the audience she rode the window ledge astride, screaming for help. We slave-catchers acted like gentlemen. We helped her through the window and then came down stage again, continuing our scene as if nothing had happened, and got a big scenecall for our chivalry.


"We used Mrs. Crocker's great Danes for the ice scene, and as they were really fierce, they were supposed to be tied with wires so that they could go only so far on the ice. Stockwell as Marks ran out on the ice, yelling to the dogs, 'Go back! Go back!'

"The dogs were supposed to pursue and snap at Marks on this cue but they did not budge. So Stocky kept yelling 'Go back!' for the benefit of the audience, while under his

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