[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]. Thomas Herbert Maguire.
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]
[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]

[Archive of an American Minstrel Performer Touring England with the Ethiopian Serenaders Blackface Troupe.]

[London, 1846–1847]. 2 portrait prints; 6 playbills; 1 illustrated cover with sheet-music; 1 passport; 1 admission document; 2 identical pamphlets; 1 snuffbox; 1 newspaper clipping. Each described in detail below.

A small archive of lithographs, ephemera, and personal belongings relating to an early American blackface performer and his tour in England.

The Boston-born George Warren White (1816–1886)—who also went by G. Warren White and Warren White—was a minstrel performer who was most notably part of the blackface minstrel troupe The Ethiopian Serenaders. Directed by J.A. Dumbolton, the Serenaders’s first major performance was for John Tyler at the White House in 1844. After making their act more ‘refined’ so as to cater to a higher class audience than the traditional audiences of blackface entertainment—dubbing their shows ‘concerts’ and cribbing from popular operas—the Serenaders in turn enjoyed increased success and subsequently toured England from Jan. 1846 to May 1847. Here they would perform at the St. James’s Theatre three nights a week for most of 1846, and play for Queen Victoria and other British worthies. Often mistaken for real black men overseas, they would insist they had not the “least drop of black blood in their veins.” Unsurprisingly, “they lost no time in publishing portraits of themselves with the white faces bestowed upon them by nature.”

Juba Project details their 1846–47 tour of England:

They played for a remarkably broad audience, including appearances at working class taverns and minor theatres, morning concerts for children, private concerts for the aristocracy, and a Royal Command Performance for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington at Arundel Castle late in the year. They were at least partly responsible for standardizing the repertory, costuming and patter used by minstrel troupes after them; the name itself became a common term for all minstrels.

While abroad, the Serenaders’s American competitors such as Christy’s Minstrels gained a greater following in the U.S. Upon their return to the States in 1847, Spirit of the Times would remark that the Serenaders’s ‘refined’ style was too elevated for American audiences used to the racy performances of the Christy’s and other troupes. The Serenaders would later return to London (this time without White) with the addition of William Henry Lane—an actual black dancer known as “Master Juba” (one of the first black performers in America to play onstage for white audiences, and the only one of the period to tour with a white minstrel group.)

Edward Rice’s Monarchs of Minstrelsy describes George White as “a famous vocalist in the early days of minstrelsy.” Having cut his teeth as a boy singer, White performed with various troupes over the course of his career, including Thorpe & Overin’s Minstrels of All Nations; Anderson’s Minstrels; Ordway’s Aeolians (organized in Boston in 1849 by John P. Ordway), and so on. Near the end of his career, White performed in Bryant’s Minstrels, which ran until at least 1868. The New York Clipper’s review of an 1868 Bryant’s performance describes White thus: “Warren White, an old times rocks member of the profession, has been added to the company and is a valuable addition.” During White’s later years he also apparently performed with Campbell-Caste Opera Company and the Kellog Opera Company. White is known to have composed words for the tune, “The Girls of Old I.C.” by George Burton. He died in Somerville, Mass. in 1886.

ARCHIVE CONTENTS:

Maguire, Thomas H., del. “Dan Tucker.” [Lithograph of G.W. White in blackface playing banjo.] 13.8” x 9.75”, image size, 10.25” x 8.25”. London: Published May 8 1847 by John Mitchell, Publisher to her Majesty. 33 Old Bond St., M N Hanhart, Lith. Printers. With facsimile signature “G.W. White” at lower right.

This is one of two lithographs of White included in the archive, the present one showing him in blackface and the other as he appeared offstage. Both were apparently included in a portfolio of ten lithographs published by John Mitchell, entitled Portraits of the Ethiopian serenaders whose performances met with such unparallelled success at the St. James’s theatre, London, during the years, 1846–7 (London, 1847). The portfolio is rare, with just one copy recorded in OCLC, at Harvard. The individual portraits appear to be equally rare. We have been able to locate just one copy of the present image, at The National Portrait Gallery in London.

Thomas Herbert Maguire (1821–1895) was a painter and lithographer specializing in portraits of prominent figures and best known for his series of notable physicians and surgeons, commissioned by the College of Surgeons. Maguire was a pupil of master lithographer and line-engraver, Richard James Lane (1800–1872). Born in London, Maguire studied at the Royal Academy and in 1846 began exhibiting portraits and figure subjects at the Royal Academy and the British Institution. In 1854 he was appointed lithographer to Queen Victoria, and exhibited a portrait of her at the Royal Academy in 1855.

CONDITION: Laid down on paperboard, one small black ink stain at the figure’s left inner thigh, mat toning to margins.

[with]

Portrait of George Warren White. Lithograph, 7.75” x 6”. The second of the two lithographs included here, apparently from the portfolio described above. Annotated in pencil at the upper left by a niece or nephew of White: “Uncle Warren White—This picture taken in England 1846.” CONDITION: Trimmed to the image on three sides and evidently into the image at the bottom; minor discoloration, short tear into White’s head at top edge, break with some loss to upper-right corner, a few scuffs in image.

[with]

G.W. White’s framed U.S. passport dated 18 Nov. 1845, signed by Secretary of State (and later President) James Buchanan. “The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States of America, hereby requests all whom it may concern, to permit safely and freely to pass George Warren White…” CONDITION: Good, old folds, creases, and light foxing.

[with]

Five 12mo (approx. 8” x 5”) playbills produced for the Ethiopian Serenaders’s tour of England listing various songs and glees included in their program. The Serenaders’s performances also included at times “burlesque lecture on phrenology and mesmerism.”

May 30, At His Grace The Duke of Devonshire’s Seat, Chiswick. [London:] Printed by Mr. Mitchell, Royal Library, 33, Old Bond St., and at the Box Office of the Theatre, [1846]. [with] General Programme. [London, 1846]. [with] St. James’s Theatre. Private Morning Entertainment, by Permission of Her Majesty, And His Royal Highness The Prince Albert… June 26; 15 June, At the Viscountess Beresford’s Cavendish Square. [London, 1846]. [with] Last Appearance in London this Season… August the 6th. [London] Printed by Mr. Mitchell, Royal Library, 33, Old Bond St., and at the Box Office of the Theatre, [1846]. CONDITION: Good, quite clean, little wear, tape marking at back pps.

[with]

George W. White’s admission ticket to the State Apartments, Windsor Castle, dated 1 July 1847. 1 p., 5” x 7.5”. “State Apartments, Windsor Castle. Admit Mr. George Warren White and Party of….” CONDITION: Good.

[with]

The Only Correct & Authorized Edition. Music of the Ethiopian Serenaders. Folio (12.25” x 9”) sheet-music, with illustrated cover. 4 pp. The cover shows all five members of the group and facsimiles of their signatures, White appearing at center. Featuring sheet-music for the tune “Mary Blane,” “as sung by the Ethiopian Serenaders at the St. James Theatre London, and Palmos Opera House New York.” CONDITION: Disbound, moderate wear and foxing.

[with]

A List of the Royal Family, Nobility & Gentry. Who have honoured the Ethiopian Serenaders… with their Patronage at the St. James’s Theatre, London, together with the Opinions of the London Press. (London: W.S. Johnson, “Nassau Steam Press.” 60 St. Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, [1846]). 12mo (7” x 4.25”), 44 pp. With extensive reviews advertising the Serenader’s performances in England. Rare. OCLC records just one copy, at Harvard. CONDITION: Wrappers worn, contents intact and clean.

[with]

Brass snuff box (.5”h x 3.5”w x 2”l), engraved: “Presented to G. Warren White by a few of his many friends, Boston, September 26th, 1861.” CONDITION: Very good.

[with]

Newspaper clipping, “Their Art Captured London” (9” x 6.5”) from the Boston Sunday Globe (23 Sept. 1909), offering an account of the Ethiopian Serenaders in London. CONDITION: Good.

All in all, an appealing family archive of an early transatlantic blackface performer.

REFERENCES: Brown, Col. T. Allson. Early History of Negro Minstrelsy (2005) at classic.circushistory.org; Rice, Edward Le Roy. Monarchs of Minstrelsy, from “Daddy” Rice to Date (New York: Kenny Publishing Co., 1911), p. 26.; Toll, Robert C. Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 40; Bryants’ Minstrels at musicingotham.org; George Warren White (1816–1886), American minstrel at npg.org.uk; The Juba Project at utm.utoronto.ca; “Thomas Herbert Maguire, Painter and Lithographer” A Dictionary of Irish Artists (1913) at libraryireland.com

Item #5470

Price: $3,950.00

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