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Music Research

Minstrels in the Hunter Valley

The rise of minstrelsy and the minstrel show in the nineteenth century was something of a phenomenon that must have had a number of contributory factors to explain its popularity and adoption across the colonial world. The craze that began in the US spread west to Australia and east to Britain where an English version of minstrelsy was developed. This version travelled in turn to the antipodean colonies where both American and British style minstrelsy found popularity. The song and dance act, ‘Jim Crow’ that was a precursor to minstrel troupes and shows was heard in Melbourne in 1838. There were touring minstrel companies from 1849 that came to the colonies. Troupes visiting Sydney often moved onto Maitland and Newcastle, which they reached by steamer in the time before the Great Northern railway line was completed in 1889. The first touring minstrel show noted in the Hunter Valley was given by the Blythe Waterland minstrels touring from England.[1] In 1850 they performed at the Rose Inn in West Maitland.[2]

[1] Maitland Mercury (MM), 25 May 1850, 3.

[2] MM, 8 June 1850, 3.