Homepage   A to Z Index    Book outline     EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page 

Uncle Tom's Cabin,
Dred or the Dismal Swamp,  Octoroonand other slave plays

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, Toronto theatre historian,  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. 

Antebellum plays about slavery were more than just Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Tom Taylor and Mark Lemon had fourteen Royal Lyceum Theatre performances during the season of 1853-1854. In 1856 Uncle Tom was produced in October and December (seven performances), and in Feb 1857 (one performance).  This performance had Den Thompson playing Uncle Tom, Charlotte Nickinson as Eliza, EJ Phillips as Cassy and Virginia Nickinson as Topsy.

Dred or the Dismal Swamp by John Brougham had six  performances in 1856, and one  each in 1857 and 1858, based on the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Stowe was even more concerned in 
Dred than in Uncle Tom's Cabin with making her portrayal of slavery seem as real as possible. Southern and Northern critics had tried to dismiss Uncle Tom's Cabin as an exaggeration of the truth, if not an outright slander. To answer those charges, Stowe followed up the first novel with a "Key" documenting her sources. For Dred, Stowe included appendices of citations with the novel to prove the plot was based on real events.  http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/stowe2/summary.html

Arthur Hobson Quinn says of Dred "was dramatized several times, CW Taylor's version going on the stage of the National Theatre in new York on Sept 22, 1856...It proved fairly popular for five weeks more so than John Brougham's version which was ut on at the Bowery Theatre on Sept 29. On Oct 26, 1856, a version by JH Conway was played at Barnum's Museum, in which Tom Tit was played by the dwarf General Tom Thumb. But the great sentimental appeal of Uncle Tom's cabin was not present in Dred, and it soon ceased to attract."

The Old Plantation, or The Real Uncle Tom by G. W. Jamison had two Toronto performances in March 1858, and has been described as a "pro-slave play".  Arthur Hobson Quinn writes that "George jamieson, who had played Old Pete in The Octoroon, produced his own play, The Old Plantation; or, The Real Uncle Tom, at the "Old Bowery" THeatre on March 1, 1860 precluding the advertisements with "Union! Union! Union". The play dealt witht he forcible abduction of a quadroon slave by a Yankee aboitionist who is foiled at get the worst of it.  This play ran for a week only and both of these attempts {Distant Relations; or a Southerner in New York" ] illustrated the unfortunate fact that  peace plays never make the appeal on the stage that war plays are able to secure."

George W Jamieson (1810-1868) Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Jamieson

didn’t become available for production until after the Royal Lyceum closed, but Nickinson produced it in Ottawa a year and a half after it had opened in New York.

What is interesting is that John Nickinson produced these plays very soon after they became available. We have long known about Uncle Tom's Cabin, but the others only surfaced after I found a 1973 PhD thesis about the Royal Lyceum Theatre and John Nickinson, and only recently noticed Dred and the Old Plantation when looking into EJ Phillips' list of people she had known in Toronto, which included John Brougham.

What did John Nickinson – and EJ Phillips think about slavery?  What did they think about it after they moved to Cincinnati in 1862/1863?  Was producing Uncle Tom in any way a political statement?  Was it a crowd pleaser with the bloodhounds, Negro melodies and the Canadian Ethiopian Serenaders? Were the other plays attempts to capitalize on popular sentiment and increase the box office at a time when theatrical fortunes were sinking?   

Uncle Tom The Theatre and Mrs. Stowe by Richard Moody, published in American Heritage in October 1955 provides some clues. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/uncle-tom-theater-and-mrs-stowe   Brought to the stage without her consent, this enduring American drama did not bring the author a cent—but it gave actors a living for generations.

John Daniel Collins PhD thesis. "American drama in antislavery agitation, 1792-1861.”, State University of Iowa, 1963. http://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/5091 describes the as The Old Plantation; or, The Real Uncle Tom as a pro-slave drama, and The Octoroon as the “neutral" treatment of slavery.  John Brougham's adaptation of Mrs. Stowe*s second antislavery novel, Dred, also precipitated something of a "war" during the fall of 1856. John Brougham dramatized the novel for the stage of his Bowery Theatre, and opened a two-week run on September 29, 1856…. Boucicault's The Octoroon also achieved a relatively long run for the times. It was seen almost continually in New York City from December 5, 1859 to March 15, I860… Brougham apparently had more than a passing interest in the problem of slavery.

David S. Hawes points out that’ ’Brougham’s attitude on the question of Abolition was first presaged by his sympathetic treatment of the negro slave in The Pirates of the Mississippi (July 21, 1856)," an attitude which "became much stronger when he made his dramatic adaptation of . . . Dred." “Richard Moody, in his "Uncle Tom, the Theatre and Mrs. Stowe, conveniently summarizes the stage history of the many versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin during the 1850's, and goes on to indicate the extensiveness of "Tom shows" after the war. Harry Birdoff earlier devoted an entire book to the stage history of "the world's greatest hit."

Yet, in none of these studies have the authors dealt with the specific relationship between the whole body of plays and antislavery agitation, especially in terms of how the plays furthered that agitation. The corpus of antislavery plays, especially for the period after 1845, has been well established by such literary historians as Turner and Arthur Hobson Quinn. … The term “antislavery" is generic, and is used in this study to refer to those authors who, however indirectly, indicate an opposition to slavery. Within the antislavery movement itself, however, there were considerable doctrinal differences, and these differences are often reflected in the dramas. In this more technical sense, then, "antislavery” refers primarily to those who advocated the gradual emancipation of the slaves while "abolition" is a term reserved for the more militant antislavery group who advocated immediate emancipation, A further term, "colonization," refers to the position of those people who claimed they opposed slavery, but who desired to see the freed slaves resettled outside of the United States.

Before the 1830*s most of the people who opposed slavery were "gradual emancipationists"; that is, they believed that slaves should not be freed unless they had been thoroughly prepared for freedom. After the 1830's many of the antislavery host continued to adhere to the doctrine of gradual emancipation, and many, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Abraham Lincoln, continued to advocate colonization. However, those who became most closely identified with the antislavery movement--at least in the popular mind--were the radical abolitionists who preached the immediate emancipation of slaves. The plays included in this study generally reflect this doctrinal shift. Most of the plays which were devoted exclusively to the attack on slavery were written after 1845, and many of them can be considered as antislavery "tracts"— an extension of antislavery propaganda in dramatic form…. Uncle Tom’s Cabin itself was one of the most influential plays in American drama. Not only was it important in its own right as an abolition document, but, according to Reardon and Foxen, it influenced the pattern of all subsequent propaganda drama.

The other plays, while not so successful as Uncle Tom's Cabin, are indicative of one of the major functions of American drama. The antislavery movement was only one of several reform movements which swept the United States during the nineteenth century, and drama also served to popularize and propagandize many of these reforms.”

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.

John Nickinson also produced Dred or the Dismal Swamp by John Brougham at the Royal Lyceum, based on the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1856 Oct 7-10 and 14-18 and 20th.  Also in 1857 Feb 4 and March 11.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act gave the settlers of Kansas the right to decide through popular sovereignty whether Kansas would be a free or slave territory. Due to many charges of electoral fraud, competing free and slave legislatures were set up in the territory. The resulting debate in the U.S. Congress led to pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks viciously attacking antislavery Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate with a cane, nearly killing him.  In the midst of this turmoil, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, her second popular novel, which addressed the question of slavery, as she had previously done in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851). Dred focuses on slave owners and their slaves in the South, with particular emphasis on the mistreatment of slaves.  Nat Turner does not specifically appear in the novel, but he was the inspiration behind the character of Dred. Dred’s childhood is much like Turner’s: he was precocious and religious, with his mother telling him he was destined for great things. Unlike Turner, Dred escaped from his plantation and went to live in the Dismal Swamp (which was, in some accounts, the planned location to regroup after Turner’s uprising). Dred offers a free life to the slaves with whom he interacts and, when slaves escape, he helps them elude capture. As in some depictions of Turner, Dred believes that violence is the only way to escape the bonds of slavery, but unlike Turner, Dred is able to help free slaves through his work in the Dismal Swamp.

Stowe’s novel was a success upon its initial publication and by the end of 1856, actor and playwright John Brougham had written a stage adaptation, Dred; or, The Dismal Swamp. As in Stowe’s novel, Dred is portrayed as a deeply religious revolutionary leader who sees it as his divine mission to help runaway slaves and kill the white slaveholders who pursue them. In the play’s fourth act, when Dred is helping a group of runaway slaves, he kills a slave owner pursuing them. This spurs the other slave hunters to revenge, and Dred is wounded in his attempt to help his fellow slaves escape their cruel masters. Though Dred dies, the slaves he was helping successfully escape, and they go on to inspire other slaves to escape, carrying on Dred’s legacy.  http://www.americanantiquarian.org/NatTurner/dred-the-novel

There are several ways in which Dred represents both a continuation and an extension of the abolitionist arguments Stowe made in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Like its predecessor, Dred was aimed primarily at Northern white readers in an effort to convince them of the humanity of slaves and the ways in which slavery corrupted white Southerners. Uncle Tom's Cabin, however, had presented both kind and cruel masters, thus placing blame on the individual, not the larger institution. By contrast, in Dred, Stowe indicts the entire system of Southern slave statutes. Stowe argues that enshrining slavery in law did not prevent abuses. Rather, it released the passions of slave-owners from personal control and gave social sanction to the horrors of slavery. In addition, Stowe uses the swamp setting of Dred to represent the indolence and stagnation of Southern civilization and morality caused by slavery. Aside from its symbolic value, the Great Dismal Swamp was also where runaway slaves from nearby plantations in North Carolina and Virginia actually did hide out. Some of them even plotted rebellions.   http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/stowe2/summary.html

Dred or the Dismal Swamp script https://archive.org/details/ASPC0001981200

Octoroon by Dion Boucicault

The Octoroon is a play by Dion Boucicault that opened in 1859 at The Winter Garden Theatre, New York City.  Extremely popular, the play was kept running continuously for years by seven road companies.

antebellum melodramas, it was considered second only in popularity to Uncle Tom's Cabin(1852).[3]  Boucicault adapted the play from the novel The Quadroon by Thomas Mayne Reid (1856). It concerns the residents of a Louisiana plantation called Terrebonne, and sparked debates about the abolition of slavery and the role of theatre in politics.  Wikipedia Octoroon  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Octoroon Accessed August 30, 2016

The only direct knowledge I have of EJ Phillips in The Octoroon is a color copy which hangs in my living room.
Playbill for Dion Boucicault's Octoroon, May 8, 1861
Metropolitan Theatre, Hamilton, Ontario CANADA

For the Benefit of Mr. J Nickinson. Positively the last night of the great play of the OCTOROON! MISS KIMBERLY having in the handsomest manner and most tenderly rendered her valuable aid and the use of the above splendid piece for the occasion will appear as Zoe. The WHOLE OF THE COMPANY, all the splendid GROUPING, SCENERY, INCIDENTS and TABLEAUX VIVANTS will be performed. The most successful play produced in modern time, in Five Acts and written by the most popular dramatist of the day M. DION BOURCCICAULT [sic] .

John Nickinson Stage manager and Salem Scudder, Miss Phillips as Dora Sunnyside, Mrs. Bradshaw as Mrs Peyton, WH Briggs as George Peyton, REJ Miller as Jacob McCloskey, Ward as Pete, HB Hudson as Tibadeaux [sic], Davis as Sunnyside,  JM Charles as Wah-no-Tee the Indian (first appearance of), Miss Blanche as Paul, the “yellow boy”, and Ashley as Ratts, mate of the Magnolia steamer and Colonel Poindexter, John Glynn as Solon, and Mrs. Ward as Dido, the cook, a slave.  Also planters, slaves, deck hands and Ladies [and many more in handwriting]..

Could Miss Kimberly have been the elocutionist Harriet Kimberly?  Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow https://books.google.com/books?id=h1cV5JHbsdEC&dq=harriet+kimberly+longfellow&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Characters [from the playbill, and the Octoroon script]
Zoe: An octoroon slave
Mrs. Peyton, of Terrebonne Plantation, in the Attatak, widow of the late Judge Peyton
George Peyton, her nephew, educated in Europe, just returned home
Jacob McClosky, formerly overseer of Terrebonne, but now half owner of the estate.
Salem Scudder: a Yankee from Massachusetts, now overseer of Terrebonne, great on improvements and inventions, once a photographic operator and had been a little of everything generally
Pete:  an ‘old uncle, once the late Judge’s daily servant, but now “too ole to work sa”
Tibadeaux: A young Creole planters
Sunnyside: a planter, neighbor and old friend of the Peytons
Dora Sunnyside: his only daughter and heiress, a Southern belle
Wah-no-Tee an Indian chief of the Lepan tribe
Paul: a yellow boy, a favorite of the late Judge, and so allowed to do much as he likes
Ratts: Mate of the Magnolia steamer
Solon a grief boy slave
Dido, the cook, a slave

The script describes  Zoe: an Octoroon girl, free, a natural child of the late Judge, by a quadroon slave.

After the play, Miss Phillips will recite in character [Joseph Rodman] Drake’s address to the American Flag of the Union  http://www.poetry-archive.com/d/the_american_flag.html

The performance concluded with Box and Cox OR The Hatter and The Printer , with the hatter and the printer played by amateurs of this city and Mrs. Bouncer by Miss Phillips.   Box and Cox: A Romance of Real Life, John Maddison Morton, 1850 https://books.google.com/books?id=ZtlUAAAAcAAJ&dq=box+and+cox+++morton&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Admission front seats Lady and Gentleman 70 Cts, Single Gent 35 Cts; to all other parts of the house 25 Cts. Doors open at  7˝ -- curtain raises at 8o’clock precisely.   Dispatch Power Presses.

The theatre is listed as Metropolitan Theatre [Hamilton, Ontario Canada?] and Farrar Hall [Erie PA?] with JB Tozer, Lessee and FG Kidder, Treasurer [nothing in Google I could find to further identify the location].  Was it in Canada or the US?  And what did people in Canada think about slavery in the US before the Civil War? I’d love to know how many non New York productions of The Octoroon were done in 1861.Was this one of many?

Quinn writes of The Octoroon  "Best of the plays delaing with slavery was Dion Boucicaul'ts Octoroon (1859) ...Part of its merit was due to its lack of the element of propaganda. It simply revelaed the situation, one of the most tragic in human history, in whicht he traint of blood condemns a women who is loved by one man to be sold as the property of another whon she hates.

Octoroon Project Lisa Merrill, Hofstra University 
This project will be the construction of an annotated, digitized text of the American and British versions of Dion Boucicault’s controversial 1859 melodrama of interracial relationships and plantation life in antebellum Louisiana, with an archive of materials on performance for scholarly and pedagogical use. 
 In 1861, after Boucicault and Robertson returned to Britain, and just months after the start of the United States Civil War, Boucicault debuted the Octoroon at the Adelphi Theatre in London; at first staging it as it had been performed in America. But in Britain (where slavery had been abolished a half century earlier) the Saturday Review noted, spectators for whom “the law of Louisiana that forbids an amiable gentle man to marry a pretty young woman, merely because there is an infinitesimal drop of black blood in her veins” seemed “absurd to an Englishman.

Audiences expressed audible disapproval and scores of letters were written to Boucicault and published in the British press, imploring him to re-write the play and allow the character of Zoe to survive, marry her British suitor, and return with him to Britain. At first Boucicault resisted, claiming that such a change would destroy the artistry, effect, and political import of his tragedy. But by 21 December 1861, the Saturday Review reported Boucicault “wisely wielded to the wishes of the public and allowed an Octoroon to escape . . . to a land where an eighth part of black blood is not an insuperable bar to marriage.” Boucicault declared his new ending was “composed by the public” and merely “edited by the author.”ii  Lisa Merrill, Hofstra University https://digitalexhibits.hofstra.edu/s/octoroon/page/home

Octoroon  Theresa Saxon,, University of Central Lancashire, UK
Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama of race and slavery, The Octoroon, was initially staged in New York, then almost immediately pulled due to contractual disagreements between Boucicault and the Winter Garden Theatre Its initial staging, however, was significant, taking place within two weeks of the execution of John Brown for his anti-slavery raid on Harper’s Ferry. Boucicault returned to England in 1860 and December 1861, Boucicault launched The Octoroon at the Adelphi: a famous battle between playwright and audience ensued, culminating in a rewriting of the fifth act of the play. In the New York production, Zoe Peyton committed suicide; in this new version, George and Zoe are united. My research so far has explored: 1. Boucicault’s rewriting of the play 2. That, in no other play did Boucicault attempt to kill off his heroine and 3. Boucicault's transatlantic dynamic http://ibaruclan.com/partners/dr-theresa-saxon/ .

For over 150 years, productions and adaptations of Irish playwright Dion Boucicault's explosive 1859 melodrama The Octoroon have reflected differing and sometimes contentious meanings and messages about race and enslavement in a range of geographic locations and historical moments. In this melodrama, set on a plantation in Louisiana, audiences witness the drama of Zoe Peyton, a mixed-race, white-appearing heroine who learns after the sudden death of her owner/father that she has been relegated to the condition of "chattel property" belonging to the estate, since she was born of a mother who had herself been enslaved.2 Rather than submit to a new master after having been sold at auction, Zoe poisons herself and dies, graphically, onstage. 

The play is famous in the annals of theatre and performance history for reactions to its depiction of slavery in antebellum America, and for the various rewrites to which the script was subjected in a Britain that had already abolished the slave trade. In London, in 1861 Boucicault famously rewrote the ending, allowing the heroine to survive and be united with her white lover in another (presumably more just) country, ostensibly England. Critical accounts of this adaptation have relied upon newspaper reports, as the playscript itself was never published. Within a short time Boucicault changed the ending again, this time leaving Zoe silent  in the arms of her lover as both witnessed the burning of the steamboat Magnolia. This four-act edition was published widely, and it and the original US version have formed the basis for most critical assessments of The Octoroon. A key assumption so far has been that this four-act version became an authoritative text for UK productions and thus Zoe died no more on British stages. But we have found this not to be the case.

Here, we discuss our archival discoveries of Octoroon promptbooks and playbills that reveal previously unknown aspects of the play's stage history and critically illuminate the ways that the transatlantic theatre of the mid-nineteenth century portrayed enslaved mixed-race figures and interracial relationships. Although theatre historians have known about Boucicault's original adaptation for over 150 years, no extant script for that original "British" version has heretofore been discovered. Now, however, our recent archival discoveries reveal portions of that long-missing script. At the University of Canterbury Kent we have discovered promptbooks of a later 1871 production of The Octoroon that provide specific textual evidence and blocking details that represent the first amended version as witnessed by London audiences a decade earlier, and described at the time in the London press. In addition, in the same archive we have uncovered evidence, which we discuss below, establishing that multiple versions of The Octoroon were being staged simultaneously, thereby further decentering nineteenth-century perceptions of both mixed-race bodies and contemporaneous binary definitions of race, thus complicating the received narratives of race and reception regarding this play. Replaying and Rediscovering The Octoroon, Lisa Merrill and Theresa Saxon  Theatre Journal, Volume 69, Number 2, June 2017 pp. 127-152 | 10.1353/tj.2017.0021 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/663994/pdf

Great to meet Lisa Merrill at a party in the Pulitzer Mansion in New York in October 2016.

US flag on the playbill has 13 stars, but does not seem to correspond to any of the 13 star flag designs. The US flag in May 1861 had 33 stars [July 4, 1859 – July 3, 1861].  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States 

US Antebellum and Civil War timeline
1857 March Dred Scott decision
1859 October John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, 1859 Dec 2 John Brown hanged
1860 December South Carolina is first state to secede from Union

1861 Jan 9-Feb 1 Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas secede from the Union.
1861 March 4 Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth President of the United States.
1861 April Fort Sumter is bombarded and surrenders to South Carolina.
Lincoln declares a state of insurrection and calls for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months of service.
1861 May John Nickinson’s production of The Octoroon.
1861 July 21 Confederate forces win a victory at the First Battle of Manassas. 

CivilWar@Smithsonian Timeline http://www.civilwar.si.edu/timeline.html
Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, Gorton Carruth, 1966 

Life of Denman Thompson, James Jay Brady 1888 https://books.google.com/books?id=QI0VAAAAYAAJ&dq=inauthor:%22James+Jay+Brady%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s 
Denman Thompson’s favorite roles included Salem Scudder in The Octoroon and Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thompson later gained fame and fortune as the author of The Old Homestead and starred in it as Joshua Whitcomb.
Canadian Monthly and National Review Vol 9 1876, page 256
https://books.google.com/books?id=e45PAQAAMAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s  mentioned “Miss Virginia Marlowe” [Virginia Nickinson, Mrs Owen Marlowe] as Paul in the Octoroon at Toronto’s Grand Opera House, then managed by her sister Charlotte Nickinson Morrison.   Charles Walcot, husband of Isabella Nickinson Walcottplayed Pete in the Octoroon according to Clapp's Players of the Present Vol. 3.

New York performances of The Octoroon
The Career of Dion Boucicault
, Townsend Walsh, Dunlop Society 1915 https://books.google.com/books?id=2woEAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22the+octoroon%22++ward+pete&source=gbs_navlinks_s The Octoroon was produced at the Winter Garden in New York Dec 9 1859 with Joseph Jefferson as Salem Scudder and Agnes Robertson as Zoe, Dion Boucicault as Wah-no-Tee, George Holland (father of EJP’s colleague EM Holland], TB Johnston as Jacob McCloskey, AH [Adolphus H. “Dolly” Hoyt] Davenport as George Peyton, JH Stoddart [colleague of EJP] as Lafouche, Harry Pearson as Captain Ratts, George Jamieson [a colleague of Edwin Forrest] as Pete, Ione Burke as Paul, Mrs JH Allen as Dora Sunnyside and  Mrs WR Blake as Mrs. Peyton.  This book says that WJ LeMoyne (a colleague of EJP) and Charles Walcott(husband of Isabella Nickinson Walcot) also played Old Pete.  

AM Palmer, EJ Phillips’ manager for many years at the Union Square Theatre Co, Madison Square Theatre Co and Palmer’s Theatre was also associated with Dion Boucicault, first with his play Led Astray, and later offering him the directorship of a school of acting with the Madison Square Theatre Company when Boucicault very much needed money.  Two years before his death Boucicault staged Captain Swift for Palmer at the Madison Square Theatre.

History of the American Stage, Thomas Alston Brown, 1902 https://books.google.com/books?id=CDALAAAAIAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s  gives the Jan 1 1860 Winter Garden cast as the same with the exception of H Pearson as Wah-no-Tee,  FC Bangs as McCloskey, Mrs. JH Stoddart as Dora Sunnyside and Mrs. JH Allen as Zoe. Fanny Brown as Dora Sunnyside in Nov 1861

JH Stoddart, Recollections of a Player, Century Co, 1902 https://books.google.com/books?id=ASZaAAAAMAAJ&dq=inauthor:%22James+Henry+Stoddart%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s   writes about trouble in the original production of  The Octoroon. He and his wife were in the cast and  “Matters did not progress altogether smoothly.  Mrs. John Wood had a misunderstanding and withdrew; then Mr. Boucicault had trouble and he and Miss Robertson retired to join Laura Keene. Mr. Jefferson then took hold, directing the affairs of the theater for some time.”

Quinn writes of the Octoroon "in which Boucicault showed his ken sense of the dramatic possibilities of an American theme ...Mayne reid had ublished in new York in  1856 a novel The Quadroon, ..Boucicault skilfully altered this material and added new characters ...[Joseph] Jefferson who acted Salem Scudder, rightly accounts for the approval with which audiences made up of both parties tot he slavery struggle, vieweed the play/ The truth of the matter is" he says,"it was noncommittal. The dialogue and characters of the play made one feel for the South, but the action proclaimed against slavery and called loudly for its abolition." ...The casual reader of the text can now only dimly sense the effect which the lines produced when recited by that cast in which George Holland played Sunnyside, AH Davenport George Peyton, George Jamieson, Old Pete; Mrs. JH Allen Dora, and Agnes Robertson [wife of Dion Boucicault] Zoe, at the Winter Garden Dec 5 1859. After the play had run a week, Mr. and Mrs. Boucicault withdrew on account of a dispute concerning their share of the profits and it was continued with out them It was played in many places in the United States for years and also in London. In the English versionZoe, instead of dying of poison is allowed to live, for to a British audience a hapy solution seemed possible.

A footnotes reads  that an anonymous article in the New York Mirror states that one scene [in the Octosoon] is based on a play The Old Plantation by George Jamieson.. But the Old Plantation was not produced until 1860.   However Old Plantation was produced in Toronto at Nickinson's Royal Lyceum in 1858.

Dion Boucicault Collections; Octoroon, University of Kent https://www.kent.ac.uk/library/specialcollections/theatre/boucicault/plays/octoroon.html

Octoroon now
I wish I had gone to An Octoroon, by Branden Jacobs Jenkins, performed in Boston in 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-dance/2016/02/02/revealing-mashup-present-and-past-octoroon/shVXIsOeWLiRg51XBzEBnM/story.html 

And I’ve finally read the play https://archive.org/details/octoroonplayinfo00bouciala but only with the American ending.

It is hard to know now just what to make of 19th century literature about slavery, and it is difficult to think about all these white people playing in blackface. Boucicault seemed to have a great ability to convince both sides of his sympathy and had great commercial appeal.  We still need to have more conversations about race and justice.   I was excited to go to a British Library party in New York in Oct 2016, at the invitation of Phil Davies, then director of the Eccles Centre for American Studies, held at the Joseph Pulitzer Mansion  http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2011/05/1903-joseph-pulitzer-mansion-no-11-east.html  where I met Lisa Merrill who had been a Visiting Professor at the Eccles Centre.

An Octoroon, The Octoroon, James Leverett, 2014 

Gender and Race in Antebellum Popular Culture, Sarah N. Roth, Cambridge University Press, 2014 https://books.google.com/books?id=RpPfAwAAQBAJ&dq=%22The+octoroon%22+toronto+canada&source=gbs_navlinks_s

From Abolition to Rights for All: The Making of a Reform Community in the Nineteenth Century,  John T. Cumbler  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011 https://books.google.com/books?id=chDAtuwo4ZMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false  

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  EJ Phillips as Emilia and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln   The Nickinsons in Canada  in Cincinnati during the Civil War  Canada, the US and the Civil War

Clara Morris on Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth

The Frohmans were also involved in Uncle Tom's Cabin productions 
Gustave and Charles Frohman financed a number of theatre productions, often featuring African American actors. For instance, in 1878, they starred Sam Lucas in the first serious stage production of Uncle Tom's Cabin with a black man in the lead role. Gustave Frohman saw his greatest success in blackface minstrelsy. In 1881,

Many thanks to Susan Swan and her master's paper on Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin on her recommendation was a very powerful experience. So much of it was familiar, in unexpected ways. 

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/
Queen, Frank, Clipper 1877 Uncle Tom's Cabin: its early days and the people who played it  Part 1 http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/onstage/revus/osar15aat.html Pt 2 http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/onstage/revus/osar15abt.html
Quinn Arthur Hobson, History of the American Drama from the Beginnings to the Civil War, FS Crofts, 1943 https://books.google.com/books/about/A_History_of_the_American_Drama_from_the.html?id=9GIrAAAAMAAJ
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
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/uncletom/key/kyhp.html
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
Uncle Tom's Cabin playbills 1852-1953 Guide, Houghton Library, Harvard

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

Last updated August 24, 2020

Homepage   A to Z Index    Book outline     EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page 

1850 9 18   Wash DC   Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress       "Bloodhound law"         Wikipedia
1852 4 30       Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe published       1st Pub National Era serial 1851 June 5 1852 April 1   Wikipedia
1852 9 27   Troy NY Troy Museum Uncle Tom's Cabin by George Aiken                   Clipper 1877
1852 11 29   London UK Adelphi Theatre Uncle Tom's Cabin by Mark Lemon and Tom Taylor                   Umass Adelphi theatre project
1853 5 31 to Jun8 20 Toronto Royal Lyceum Uncle Tom's Cabin by Lemon and Taylor             thesis 
1856 0     Boston MA Phillips Sampson & Co Dred A Tale of the Dismal Swamp published by Harriet Beecher Stowe                   Wikipedia
1856 10 7 to 11 Toronto Royal Lyceum Uncle Tom's Cabin by Lemon and Taylor             thesis 
1856 10 14 to 20 Toronto Royal Lyceum Dred or the Dismal Swamp Brougham               thesis 
1857 2 4 6-Mar Toronto Royal Lyceum Dred or the Dismal Swamp Brougham               thesis 
1857 2 6   Toronto Royal Lyceum Uncle Tom's Cabin EJP as Cassy Charlotte as Eliza Den Thompson Uncle Tom Eliza Va N Topsy               Lemon & Taylor   playbill Harvard
1857 3 6   Wash DC  Supreme Court Dred Scott decision                   Wikipedia
1857 3 8 and 11 Toronto Royal Lyceum Old Plantation  pro slavery play               thesis 
1858 3 10   Toronto Royal Lyceum Dred or the Dismal Swamp Brougham               thesis 
1858 6 ? ? Toronto Prince of Wales Uncle Tom's Cabin EJP Cassy     Mark Lemon Tom Taylor John Nickinson   playbill where?
1858 10 16 to 18 Harpers Ferry WV John Brown's raid                   Wikipedia
1858 12 2   Charles Town WV John Brown hanged                   Wikipedia
1859 3 4   Wash DC   Abraham Lincoln inaugurated as president                   Wikipedia
1859 12   to Mar 1860 New York NY Winter Garden Octoroon                   Wikipedia
1861 5 7 1 nite only Erie PA Farrar Hall  Uncle Tom's Cabin EJ Phillips Cassy J Nickinson Phineas Fletcher by permission Harriet Beecher Stowe   playbill
1861 6 , to July 26 Ottawa Her Majesty's Theatre Octoroon John Nickinson as Salem Scudder in Boucicault's Octoroon Shortt
1876 3     Toronto Grand Opera House Octoroon Virginia Nickinson Marlowe as the boy Paul            Charlotte Nickinson Morrison mgr 38 Canadian Monthly