Saturday, December 6, 2014

They All "Blacked up"

I was recently reading the wonderful book Monarchs of Minstrelsy (which is a great source for anyone interested in minstrels from the 1830's to 1911 when the book was written) and they had a big "They all blacked up" page with some surprising names listed. So in seeing that, I wanted to list some that weren't on this page with their names, jut as the book did.
                            Dan W. Quinn

                               Byron G. Harlan
                                George Graham

                    George J. Gaskin

Len Spencer (pretty obvious, he should really have been on the page...)

J. W. Myers 

And to close off, I need to explain why I think this picture is so important: 
this is what the website I found it from says about it:

"Len Spencer's "Columbia Minstrels" on display at Coney Island in 1907. The music and talking was concealed by Columbia Sound-Magnifying Graphophones. One of the wax models was supposed to represent Billy Murray. (Can you tell which one?) Others include Len Spencer, Arthur Collins, Byron G. Harlan, Steve Porter, Frank C. Stanley, Albert Campbell, Henry Burr, and J. W. Myers. The exibit was later destroyed by a fire. Library of Congress, Jim Walsh Collection."
this picture is very important, regardless of the fact that it isn't in the best of quality. I know that Spencer is in the middle, no doubt. And that I can kind of identify who everyone is(not everybody though! Don't get your hopes up...) I am certain that Collins is the second from the left end, and that Harlan is most likely on his right, I can kinda see it. I can't really make out everyone else at the moment, but if you want to know who anyone is, just make a comment about it and I'll try my best to figure it out.

 So this was one of the MANY schemes that the notorious hustler Len Spencer came up with. He decided(since he lived at Coney Island in 1907), to display a grand stage dedicated to the minstrel records that he and his "Columbia Minstrels" (really just the people he worked with at Columbia who were also minstrel singers).
Spencer also must have done vaudeville acts with his brother Harry in the 1890's at the famous shows that Coney Island is often known for in this time period. As they were and act and Spencer must have gotten his sketch writing skills from somewhere. He must have also found several new recording artists while visiting fairs and shows. This is another possibility as to where Columbia found Hylands...(hint, hint)...

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