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Advertisement for the Mohawk Minstrels at the Elephant & Castle Theatre

Advertisement for the Mohawk Minstrels at the Elephant & Castle Theatre

Printer: Poulter & Burns

Medium: Print on paper

Date: 1885

Shelfmark: Evan.545

Item number: 545

Genre: Poster

The Minstrel Show originated in the United States, largely from the negro songs performed on stage by T D Rice, or Jim Crow as he became known after the character in the song that made him famous. Inspired by his success and popularity, other 'burnt cork' artistes, who were invariably white men blacked up, developed their own acts featuring songs, smart patter and dancing. Minstrel troupes - particularly the Christy Minstrels, Burgess and Moore, and the Mohawk Minstrels - soon became very popular in the English music halls.

The Mohawk Minstrels, featured on this poster, was a semi-professional group organised by brothers James and William Francis. In October 1873, they took out a lease on the Berners Hall immediately adjoining the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Their success was ensured when Harry Hunter, a well-known song writer and performer, joined their troupe. He was a prolific writer and wrote a number of ballads for the Mohawks full of wholesome sentiments, quaint wisdom and philosophy: 'Do not nurse your anger', 'The baby is the angel in the house', 'Tears are blessings, let them flow'. His talents were undoubtedly responsible for the long and continued success of the Mohawk Minstrels.

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