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Dan Emmett

Head shot of an older man with white hair and moustache, dressed in tuxedo and bow tie.
Photograph of Dan Emmett in his later years, taken from the belongings of Ben and Lew Snowden of Clinton, Knox County, Ohio.

Daniel Decatur "Dan" Emmett (October 29, 1815 – June 28, 1904)[1] was an American songwriter, entertainer, and founder of the first troupe of the blackface minstrel tradition.[2]

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Death and posthumous recognition 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Biography

Of

  • Wikisource logo Works written by or about Daniel Decatur Emmett at Wikisource

External links

  • Crawford, Richard. An Introduction to America's Music. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.
  • Hall, Roger Lee. Lincoln and Liberty: Music from Abraham Lincoln's Era. Stoughton, Massachusetts: PineTree Press, 2009.
  • Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-507832-2.
  • Nathan, Hans. Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962
  • Robert Stevenson. "Emmett, Dan." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online.
  • Dan Emmett at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
  • Dan Emmett at the Internet Movie Database
  • Free scores by Dan Emmett in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  • Free scores at the Mutopia Project
  • Free scores by Dan Emmett at the International Music Score Library Project

References

  1. ^ Findagrave: Dan Emmett
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to Music, Oxford University Press 1955 (Percy A. Scholes, ed.)
  3. ^ [3] at www.oxfordmusiconline.com
  4. ^ Whitlock, who detailed the beginnings of the group, stated that the event was a benefit for Pelham. See Lawrence Hutton, "The Negro on the Stage," Harpers New Monthly Magazine, June 1889, p. 140. Such an event occurred on 31 January. See The New York Herald, 31 January 1843, p. 3. The following day the Herald reported that the troupe would be appearing at the Bowery Amphitheatre, and an advertisement in 6 February issue refers to their first performance that evening.
  5. ^ Letter from Col. T. Allston Brown to T. C. De Leon. Published in De Leon, Belles, Beaux, and Brains and quoted in Nathan 275.
  6. ^ Speech given on April 10, 1865 and quoted in Hall 10.
  7. ^ Occasionally taking part in performances: "Dan Emmett, whenever he is physically able and can get the chance, 'rosins his bow' for a dance party in Chicago."New York Times, July 10, 1887: 'Drop-Curtain Monographs'
  8. ^ Dan Emmett memorial re-dedicated | mountvernonnews.com at www.mountvernonnews.com
  9. ^ [4] at www.oxfordmusiconline.com

Notes

See also

Emmett published at least 30 songs between 1843 and 1865, most of which are banjo tunes or walk-arounds. During 1859 and 1869, he composed another 25 tunes that are in manuscript at the Ohio Historical Society, in Columbus, Ohio.[9]

Numerous schools, businesses, and other institutions in Mount Vernon, Ohio, are named after Emmett. The official memorial to him is a large boulder with a placard attached located in front of the Knox County Historical Museum.[8]

After a tour that was notably successful in the South Emmett retired to his hometown of Mount Vernon in 1888[7] where he died on June 28, 1904, aged 88 years. From 1893 to the time of his death, he was aided by a weekly allowance from the Actors Fund of America. Emmett was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. A biographical film of his life was produced in 1943, titled Dixie. Starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, it is a musical directed by A. Edward Sutherland.

Death and posthumous recognition

Another writer named William Shakespeare Hays (1837–1907) (pen name: Will S. Hays), claimed to be its true author. Members of the Snowden Family of Knox County, Ohio, have also been named as writers of the song.

Emmett is traditionally credited with writing the famous song "Dixie". The story that he related about its composition varied each time he told it, but the main points were that he composed the song in New York City while a member of Bryant's Minstrels. The song was first performed by Emmett and the Bryants at Mechanics' Hall in New York City on April 4, 1859. The song became a runaway hit, especially in the South, and the piece for which Emmett was most well known. Emmett himself reportedly told a fellow minstrel that "If I had known to what use they [Southerners] were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it."[5] After the South began using his song as a rallying call, Emmett wrote the fife and drum manual for the Union Army. Emmett's song was a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln, who said after the war ended in 1865, "I have always thought that 'Dixie' was one of the best tunes I ever heard. I had heard our adversaries had attempted to appropriate it. I insisted yesterday that we had fairly captured it."[6]

Although blackface performance, in which white men painted their faces and hands black and impersonated caricatures of African-American men and women, was already an established performance mode at that time—Thomas D. Rice had created the character of Jim Crow nearly a decade earlier, and blackface had been widely popular ever since—Emmett's group is said to be the first to "black up" an entire band rather than one or two performers. The group's full-length blackface performance is generally considered to have been the first true minstrel show: previous blackface acts were usually either an entr'acte for a play or one of many acts in a comic variety show.

Photo of a man in blackface dressed in nondescript clothes behind a small table with a top hat at his feet.
Photograph of Dan Emmett in blackface, probably early 1860s.

In association with Virginia Minstrels, which made their first appearance before a paying audience at the Chatham Theatre in New York City in 1843.[4]

[3]

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