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Professor Nathan holds a doctorate from Berlin University and has done postgraduate study at Harvard University. In addition to published articles on Walt Whitman, minstrel music, and American folk music, he has completed a book on the minstrel -composer Daniel D. Emmett and an anthology of early minstrel music. His other publications range over such diverse topics as the medieval motet, ninteenth-century opera, and contemporary music. Formerly on the staff at Michigan State University, since the fall of 1957 he has been doing research at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. Emmett's Walk-Arounds: Popular Theater in New York HANS NATHAN the name of Daniel Decatur emmett, once on the lips of millions of Americans, is now all but forgotten. Yet many of the best-known songs, dances, and banjo tunes ofthe forties, fifties, and sixties came from his pen. He was a vital contributor to nineteenth-century Negro minstrelsy, entertaining urban and rural audiences as a banjoist, fiddler, singer, and comedian . His work not only includes music but lyrics, stump speeches, and plays. Their importance transcends their contribution to the history of the early American popular theater and of early popular music, for their hard-bitten humor, theirdisarmingfreshness lend them an instrinsic value. Like the oUs ofitinerant American painters, Emmett's is a folk art, addressing those who, either out of naïveté or sophistication, can delight in something unpolished and limited in character but direct and sharply defined. • · · The Bryant's Minstrels in New York, whom Emmett joined in late 1858, were one of the most energetic and resourceful troupes of their time. Directed by three young comedians, Dan, Jerry, and Neu, and consisting of about a dozen performers, they began their shows on February 23, 1857, at Mechanics' Hall (472 Broadway), a place made famous previously by E. P. Christy. They aroused immediate attention, and after a few months were 213 214HANS NATHAN obviously so far ahead of their competitors that the New York Clipper observed : "The different bands of Minstrels, in this city, have experienced a wonderful falling off in patronage since the advent among us of the 'Bryants ' " and soon spoke of them as "a combination of comical talent . . · never before witnessed in Ethiopian Minstrelsy. . . Z'1 During the faU of 1858 a financial crisis swept the country and was bound to affect pubUc entertainment. It was soon evident however, that minstrelsy did not suffer at all. On the contrary, it was "increasing in popularity " to the point that it began "to become a formidable rival to the more legitimate branches of the profession." The situation worked entirely to the advantage of the Bryants. Because of their high standards of performance, they drew enormous crowds and continued to do so even during the ensuing years when various reorganizations within the company and the death of Neü threatened to weaken them. There was a slight slackening of pubUc interest in June, 1861 at the outbreak of the Civü War, but prosperity returned shortly after. ExceUing in the "delineations ofthe plantation negro of the South, as well as ofthe uncommon darkey of the 'high latitudes' . . . ,' 2 the Bryants stayed at Mechanics' Hall with undiminished acclaim up to the end of the season of 1866.3 This, for all practical purposes, was the end of their prominence as Negro impersonators, although they continued to appear at different places until the late seventies. The fault Ia)' with the practice of minstrelsy itseU, which no longer encouraged them. It had becomemore and more an efficient variety show, featuring "snatches of opera, songs abounding in high-flown sentiment and considerable orchestral crash" instead of the vigorous, crude old-time songs. It is not surprising that under these circumstances, appearance in blackface was like "playing under false pretences" and that minstrels seemed less Negroes than a "pack ot Signor Maccaronis in disguise."4 What animated the Bryant's Minstrels was the musical and theatrical skill and imagination of the three brothers. Dan was a banjoist and, like Jerry, a tambourine and bone player; both were expert dancers, while Neil exceUed on the accordion and the flutina.5 Dan's and Jerry's abilities as 1 New York Clipjier, February...


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