Uncle Tom's Cabin



  • The most popular play of the late 19th-century US theater. The firststage version of Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous anti-slavery novel waspresented in 1852 in Baltimore, the year that the book was published. Fromthen on, certain US actors made an entire career of 'Tomming'. London sawseven productions in 1852 and an 1878 spectacular featuring "a hundredreal American freed slaves". In 1879 almost 50 travelling troupes wereperforming the work under tents in America and by the 1890s this had reachedabout 400. Soon, the plot became so well known that individual companies beganto introduce special attractions, such as real bloodhounds to chase theescaped slave Eliza across the river (a scene that does not appear in thebook). Productions ranged in size from one using only three actors to WilliamBrady's spectacular staging of 1901, which involved 200 dancers and singersand 21 transformation scenes. A dozen companies were still touringwith the play in 1927, but the melodramatic style of dialogue led to the playfalling out of favour soon afterwards.