Harry Evarts: Magician, Minstrel, Martyr

Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad. 

Minstrel man and magician Harry Evarts performed with most of the major cork shows and circuses of his day starting with Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding in 1847, as well as the Dan Rice show, George F. Bailey, and his own show Booker & Evarts Minstrels which launched in New England in 1860, followed by a cruise on a Mississippi showboat.

An ailing arm caused him to gradually change careers, becoming ringmaster, press agent (he wrote wonderful releases) and outside talker for the shows, for which he acquired the soubriquette the “Little Giant Orator”. In these capacities starting in the mid 1870s, he worked for W.C. Coup, Van Amburgh, Sell Bros., and Adam Forepaugh. It was while traveling with the latter show that he was thought to have been killed in a train crash in 1889, although the body was never recovered.

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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