J. K. Emmet's "New Fritz." by Thomas Henry Atwell, 1870s


This black and white print depicts a man recoiling in alarm with his arms raised standing over a girl who is kneeling. She is dressed in a peasant costume, likely German, and appears to be overcome with emotion. In the background, a man takes advantage of the commotion to sneak away with an infant in his arms. Beneath the title, “J. K. Emmet’s ‘New Fritz’” is the statement: “Pronounced by press and public to be the best drama Mr. Emmet has ever appeared in.” The words "Opera House" are printed on a torn top half of a handbill which is pasted across the bottom margin.

Joseph Klein (frequently spelled Kline) “Fritz” Emmet (1841-1891) was a singer and comedian born in St. Louis, Missouri. He was drawn to the stage after apprenticing with a sign maker who also created sets for local playhouses. At around age 17 he began working as a snare drummer for Joseph Escher’s orchestra. He also showed a talent for yodeling and soon got a job with a local minstrel show. Moving on to New York, he appeared with Dan Bryant’s Minstrels, a German blackface group, and then in variety shows. Over time he developed a character called "Dutch," who wore wooden shoes and a cap and sang in fractured English. In 1870 Emmet made his debut in the role that would turn him into one of the most successful performers of his time, as the lead in Fritz, Our Cousin German. Portraying a young man seeking his lost sister, with a signature song called “Emmet’s Lullaby,” he appeared as Fritz on stages throughout the United States and Europe for the rest of his life. His other roles included Carl, the Fiddler (1871), Max, the Merry Swiss Boy (1873), and Fritz in Ireland (1879).

His appeal was enhanced by his dancing skills, his mastery of musical instruments like the guitar, violin, and harmonica, his Irish tenor voice, and his personal charm. Emmet also became celebrated for the eccentric mansion he built on 15 acres overlooking the Hudson River near Albany, New York. "Fritz Villa," as it came to be known, featured an eclectic mix of towers, gables, stained glass windows--even a windmill--and was influenced by Emmet's exposure to various architectural styles during his travels through Europe. Unfortunately, by 1890 Emmet was having sobriety issues. He divorced his wife in 1891, became engaged to his leading lady, and died shortly after.

This lithograph was produced by Henry Atwell Thomas (1834-1904) who was an artist, portrait painter, and lithographer especially well known for his theatrical portraits. His New York firm was called H. A. Thomas Lith. Studio until 1887, when it became H. A. Thomas & Wylie Lithographic (sometimes cited as Lithography or Lithographing) Company.

Date Made: n.d.

Depicted: Emmet, Joseph K.Maker: Thomas, Henry Atwell

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: New York, New York City

Subject: CostumeChildrenArchitecture, Domestic BuildingsTheater


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Advertising, Art, Peters Prints, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.3061Catalog Number: 60.3061Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: lithographObject Type: Lithograph

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)Measurements: image: 20 1/2 in x 16 3/4 in; 52.07 cm x 42.545 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a4-24ce-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_325323

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