Archive of Theatre Broadsides and Programs for Blackface Comedian George Dixon and His Partners during Tours in Europe and South America, 1878-1895
(various): (various), 1878-1895. 22 broadsides, ranging in size from 12 x 7 inches to 32-3/4 x 11-1/4 inches; 3 programs in varying sizes, up to 15 x 11 inches. Broadsides: chipping and marginal loss to many, with some occasional loss of text; old fold lines, some starting to split at the ends; occasional tape repairs to versos; holograph notations to some versos and one recto. Programs: some marginal loss and chipping; old fold lines, some starting to split. Good condition overall.
An archive of rare theatre broadsides and programs documenting performances primarily by James Mason and George Dixon throughout Europe, South America, and possibly northern Africa in the latter portion of the 19th century, as well as performances by Dixon with other partners Charles Mack and, in one instance each, Udell (possibly Charles Udell) and Petrie. Touted as "negro burlesques," Mason and Dixon, and later, Mack and Dixon, performed minstrel songs and dances, as well as pantomimes, an Irish routine and a routine called "Photographic Fun." They were particularly known for their physically demanding "knock-about" routine, a slapstick-style boxing match that seems to have wowed audiences with its sheer physicality and outlandish maneuvers.
Mason and Dixon performed individually and together in the United States in the early 1870s, primarily in and around Buffalo, New York, where both may have been from. At some point, they performed together in the Parlour Minstrels, an ensemble act, then around the mid-1870s formed a partnership and began appearing as "Mason and Dixon" -- certainly an apt name for minstrel performers. They had obviously already made a name for themselves by 1878, when they recieved top-billing at a benefit show in their name in London, at Beaconsfield Hall. In subsequent performances they appeared in France (including twice at Folies-Bergere), Germany, Italy, and other locations in the UK, sometimes with top billing.
That said, they weren't exclusively performing together even during this time. In April 1881, Mason advertised for a partner in Buffalo in the New York Clipper, and by July, Dixon was touring Europe with Charles Mack (formerly of Worden and Mack). Also, at some point -- possibly in the early 1870s -- Dixon and Udall were a pair, as were Mason and Udall. Nevertheless, the dated material in this archive (the Dixon and Udall broadside is undated) is solely for Mason and Dixon until 1893, after which it is entirely for Mack and Dixon. It is also worth noting that the compositors were often careless with spelling: "Masson and Dixon" and "Max and Dixon" are just two of many mispellings in this material.
A long list of other performers appeared with Dixon and his various partners, including Ada Thompson, "serpentine dancer"; Dot D'Alcorn; Les Deux Coqs; Miss Zelia; Miss Edison; Becarre; the Sisters Archer; Rose Wynne; and many more stars of the 19th century variety stage.
In total, a typographically stunning window into George Dixon's performance career, as well as a record of the global reach and appeal of American blackface performers, and of the many performers who shared the stage with them.
OCLC locates one holding for other George Dixon material, an archive at Duke University.