The name Al G. Field or Al G. Fields (1848-1921) pops up in many a former minstrel’s** biography. His birth name was Alfred G. Hatfield, the G. standing either for Griffin or Griffith. He was from the Leesburg. Virginia/ Morgantown, West Virginia area, which leads me to suspect that he was related to the feuding Hatfields of song and story. At fifteen,he went to work as a ballad singer with Sharpley, Sheridan, Mack, and Days Minstrels. Field had a good reputation as a performer, and was well known for his comedy monologues. Other organizations he worked for included Sells Bros. Circus and Duprez & Benedict’s Minstrels. By 1882 he had worked his way up to advance agent of Miles Orton’s Mastodon Show and Royal German Menagerie. From 1884 through 1886 he managed the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, one of the top jobs in the circus world. By 1886 he had amassed enough capital (nicknamed “The Millionaire Minstrel) to start his own minstrel show organization, which he operated until his death of Bright’s Disease in 1921.
**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.
To find out more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,