Today is the birthday of Joe Fox (Joseph Monahan, 1852-?) With William H. Ward (1852-?) he formed minstrelsy’s longest-lasting duo. Having started in Cincinnati in 1868, they were still going in vaudeville as late as 1916 (I found a reference to them playing Pittsburg that year). Painted in burnt cork**, they tumbled and clog danced, and toured throughout the far west in stage coach days. They worked with a long succession of companies: Dan Shelby’s…Dupre and Benedict’s…Barlow, Wilson, Primrose and West…Skiff and Gaylord’s…Haverly’s…Lester & Allen’s…George Arlington’s. For one season (1882), they had their own company, Fox and Ward’s. In their latter decades, they eschewed the burnt cork part of the time and played vaudeville in their own skin. I don’t know how good they were at their singing, dancing and patter. In vaudeville you needed an angle, and there’s was that they had been around so long! In fact, as far as I can tell, they’re still around! (Can’t find their death dates).
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.
**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.