Janus' Home


parts of Topsy, St. Clair, and Marks…elicited great applause, while…Uncle Tom excelled himself. But the gem of the evening was the performance of Eva…whose exquisite pathos drew tears from many eyes.6

The Aiken script is generally considered the best and most popular stage adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and with a few changes remains relatively true to the Stowe novel. The success of this version before a Baltimore audience, a large audience made up of many members of the upper class, indicates the level of tolerance and maturity of the population of Baltimore. Even though many of the most "fashionable" people would be slave owners, this did not preclude them from going out to the theatre with their non-slaveholding friends and watching a show with an abolitionist theme. Just as with the earlier Baltimore version that was close to the novel, perhaps the Aiken script avoided controversy and negative comment in the newspaper because it cast itself as a moral melodrama, like The Drunkard, and not abolitionist propaganda. Aiken's version changed Topsy into an amusing minstrel character, which had the effect of lightening the tone of the show and providing comic relief amidst the seriousness of the other events. The Baltimore audience, in spite of being Southern and slave-holding, was still receptive to faithful versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and raised no serious public outcry against them.

The first Baltimore production of Uncle Tom's Cabin advertised itself as the Southern Uncle Tom, and attempted to represent the author's perception of the reality of the slave system in the 1850s. Many later Baltimore productions also represented the Southern attitude towards the novel, most notably through the form of minstrel shows. Even the Aiken version included Topsy as a minstrel character, who got into mischief, danced breakdowns, and was unaffected by the whippings inflicted upon her. Baltimore minstrel shows either incorporated Uncle Tom characters into their regular acts, or produced entire shows satirizing Uncle Tom's Cabin and attempting to show what the Southern slave system was really like. Kunkel's Nightingale Opera Troupe, also known as Kunkel's Ethiopian Opera Troupe, was a minstrel troupe operating out of Baltimore in the years following the publication of the novel, and they toured the entire South performing their Rebuke to Uncle Tom's Cabin before large audiences in Washington, DC, Richmond, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The Sun commented on the success of this "admirable production"7 and noted that the writer and producer was John T. Ford, the same Ford who would later open Ford's Theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated. Kunkel's minstrel rebuttal to Uncle Tom's Cabin was performed in the Maryland Institute Hall from June 12 to June 27, 1854. At this point there was no direct antagonism between pro-slavery and anti-slavery productions, and none of them had been staged concurrently in Baltimore. By early July, however, the situation was much more

6 The Sun. 36, no.131 (18 April 1855), 2.
7 The Sun. (1 July 1854), 2.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6