Colored print of a large band performing on the steps of the Capitol (south wing), during the inauguration of the president. A row of Honor Guards stands at attention on the steps, to either side of the band. A large crowd looks on. Haverly's United Mastodon Minstrels was a blackface performers created in 1877, when J. H. Haverly merged four of his companies. The group included a brass band and a drum corp. The shows included lavish scenery and often a circus act.
Entertainment entrepreneur J. H. (Jack) Haverly (1837-1901) was born Christopher Haverly near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He launched his show business career in 1864 in Toledo, Ohio, where he purchased a variety theater. Inspired by entrepreneurs like P. T. Barnum, Haverly went on to manage other theaters, and he created minstrel and comic performance groups on the East Coast and in the Middle West. In the late 1870s he consolidated his troupes into a single company called the United Mastodon Minstrels which included forty performers, along with a brass band and drum corps. The group continued to grow and at one point had more than a hundred members. Around the same time, Haverly took control of a black performing group called Charles Callender's Original Georgia Minstrels, which he renamed Haverly’s Colored Minstrels. He promoted their performances as authentic depictions of black life, even creating a mock plantation with costumed actors portraying slaves and overseers. Haverly’s troupes toured the United States, usually appearing at his own theaters in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. They also traveled to England and Scotland. Featuring lavish stage sets, extravagant special effects, and performers in blackface makeup and exotic costumes, his innovations inspired the creation of smaller minstrel shows during the late nineteenth century.
This chromolithograph was produced by the Strobridge Lithographing Company. The Strobridge firm was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio ca 1847 by lithographer Elijah J. Middleton (cited in some sources as Elijah C. Middleton). Middleton was known as one of the pioneers of chromolithography in the United States. By 1854 another lithographer, W. R. Wallace, along with the bookseller Hines Strobridge (1823-1909) had joined the firm as partners. After the Civil War, Strobridge acquired sole ownership of the company and renamed it after himself. Strobridge and Company became especially well known for circus, theater, and movie posters. After leaving the company, Elijah Middleton established a reputation as a portrait publisher, producing prints of George and Martha Washington, Daniel Webster, and other American historical figures.
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