Written by Kelsey Jacobson
This advertisement from 1898 similarly describes “Al W. Martin’s Mammoth Production,” and the same company continued to produce and grow Uncle Tom’s Cabin until at least 1912 in one form or another (For more information, see also Stephen Railton’s site http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/onstage/performin/martintourshp.html from the University of Virginia for details of the company and two maps of its tours in the United States). The vast size of this production also points to the presence of a Canadian market interested in such performances; audiences of a certain size, and sufficient enough popularity to warrant such a large-scale show touring to Canada, are implied. Further research to be undertaken might consider mapping the routes of popular touring companies through Canada using resources such as the Canada West database https://canadawest.library.utoronto.ca/ as well as additional primary source examination.
This artifact is a short snippet found in a theatrical trade newspaper, the New York Dramatic Mirror, in its January 5th 1907 issue. A special column titled “Christmas in Stageland” contains one sentence mid-way through the column that reads “The members of Al W. Martin’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin company had a Christmas dinner in the Boston Café, Montreal, Can.” While the entry is perhaps slim on details at first glance, it provides several suggestive pieces of evidence when considered more closely. There is, first, its suggestion of the presence of large-scale touring companies from the United States in Canada, including minstrelsy performances. The company was to perform in Ottawa from December 31 to January 2 after its brief stay in Montreal, as detailed in a different section of the same edition of the New York Dramatic Mirror, before heading back down to the United States (5). The company described in the column, Al W. Martin’s, was also evidently popular enough to warrant the details of their Christmas activities being published, and indeed other secondary sources corroborate this. John W. Frick’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen (2012) details that “Al W. Martin’s Famous Ideal Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company was so large that it required three railroad cars to transport the performers, animals, and scenery,” which reportedly included sixty performers along with a veritable menagerie of donkeys, oxen, dogs, and ponies (Frick 141).