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Christy's Minstrels

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Title: Christy's Minstrels  
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Subject: Edwin Pearce Christy, Camptown Races, Blackface minstrel troupes, George Christy, George Holland
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Christy's Minstrels

1844 sheet music cover for a collection of songs by the Christy's Minstrels. George Christy appears in the circle at top.

Christy's Minstrels, sometimes referred to as the Christy Minstrels, were a blackface group formed by Edwin Pearce Christy, a well-known ballad singer, in 1843,[1] in Buffalo, New York. They were instrumental in the solidification of the minstrel show into a fixed three-act form.[2] The troupe also invented or popularized "the line", the structured grouping that constituted the first act of the standardized 3-act minstrel show, with the interlocutor in the middle and "Mr. Tambo" and "Mr. Bones" on the ends.


  • Early years 1
  • Christy Minstrels in Britain 2
  • Style of performance 3
  • New Christy Minstrels 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early years

In 1846 they first performed in Polmer's Opera House in New York City. From March 1847, they ran for a seven-year stint at New York City's Mechanics' Hall (until July 1854).

After performing at a benefit performance for Stephen Foster in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 25, 1847, the group specialized in performances of Foster's works. Foster sold his song, Old Folks at Home, to Christy for his exclusive use. The troupe's commercial success was phenomenal: Christy paid Foster $15,000 for the exclusive rights to the song.[3]

Besides Christy himself, the troupe originally included Christy's stepson

  • Sheet music - 1848
  • Sheet musicl - 1850
  • "Old Folks at Home" - 1851
  • Illustrated "Christmas Annual" - 1868

External links

  • Edwin Pearce Christy, at the University of Pennsylvania site. Accessed 6 Sept 2005.
  • Lott, Eric (1993). Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford University Press.  
  • Toll, Robert.C (1974). Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-century America. Oxford University Press.  
  • Foster and the Christy Minstrels


  1. ^ Or possibly in 1842: In 1855 the New York Times reported a law case in which Christy took out an injunction against the troupe continuing to call themselves "Christy's Minstrels" even though he no longer had a connection with them; in it the 1842 date is given. "In 1842 Edwin P. Christy established in this city the band, which since has become so celebrated as "Christy's Minstrels".New York Times September 14, 1855.
  2. ^ New York Times, September 14, 1855: during a legal dispute about the continuing use of the name 'Christy's Minstrels' after the departure of E.P.Christie, the surviving members of the troupe admitted to giving a performance at the Athenaeum hall, Brooklyn, on September 10, 1855 which "consisted of musical, terpsichorean and humorous exhibitions of an Ethiopian character."
  3. ^ Lott, 1993, 267
  4. ^ According to the New York Times report, Edwin Christy took out an injunction against the troupe calling themselves 'Christy's Minstrels' "though there was no person among them by the name of Christy." The troupe, then headed by a Joseph Murphy, did perform on September 10th as 'Christy's Minstrels' and were sued for contempt of court. The judge, Mr Justice Clerke, dismissed the contempt charge after the defendants claimed they had announced to the audience prior to the performance that they were not now 'Christy's Minstrels' and had expressed an intention of continuing under a different name. New York Times September 14, 1855:'LAW INTELLIGENCE: MINSTRELS IN COURT'
  5. ^ , November 1977 issueTalking Machine ReviewArticle by Michael Walters, citing Andrews, Frank,


The New Christy Minstrels, a folk group from the 1960s, were named with reference to this group, but they did not perform in blackface.

New Christy Minstrels

Part three ended the show with a one-act play, typically a vignette of carefree life on the plantation. After Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852 and the play became famous, minstrel shows appropriated the major characters for sketches that changed the abolitionist themes in the original into an argument for the supposedly benign character of slavery.

Part two (the "olio") was the variety section, a precursor to vaudeville. It included singers, dancers, comedians and other novelty acts, as well as parodies of legitimate theater. A preposterous stump speech served as the highlight of this act, during which a performer spoke in outrageous malapropisms as he lectured. The performer's demeanor was meant to be reminiscent of the hilarious pomposity of Zip Coon; he aspired to great wisdom and intelligence, but his hilarious mangling of language always made him appear foolish and ignorant.

Christy's novel three-part shows began with a "walkaround", the company marching onto the stage singing and dancing. A staple of the walkaround was the cakewalk, which white audiences loved despite not realizing that it originated with plantation slaves imitating their masters' walks. The troupe was then seated in a semicircle, with one member on each end playing the tambourine or the bones. The endmen were named Brother Tambo and Brother Bones, and they engaged in an exchange of jokes between the group's songs and dances. It was customary for Tambo to be slim and Bones to be fat. A character called Mr. Interlocutor sat in the middle of the group, acting as the master of ceremonies. As the interlocutor took his place in the middle of the semicircle he uttered the time-honored phrase: "Gentlemen, be seated. We will commence with the overture." During the performance he conducted himself in a dignified manner that contrasted well with the behavior of the rowdy endmen.

Style of performance

J. W. Raynor and Earl Pierce formed a new troupe, using many of the former Christy Minstrel members. It opened in London, England, as "Raynor & Pierce's Christy Minstrels" at the “Pony” Moore and Frederic Burgess surviving into the 1870s. Therefore, the troupe changed its name to the "Moore & Burgess's Minstrels". Other groups continued to use the title "Christy", but historian Frank Andrews describes their quality as poor. Some of them continued to perform into the twentieth century.[5]

1874 Advertisement

Christy Minstrels in Britain

, and committed suicide in 1862. American Civil War Christy was emotionally affected by the [4]

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