William H. West (entertainer)

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For other people of the same name, see William West (disambiguation).
George H. Primrose and Billy West
West minstrel jubilee rough riders.jpg

William H. West (June 18, 1853 – February 15, 1902), known as the "Progressive Minstrel," emulated the British minstrel owner Sam Hague and became one of the first white owners of a minstrel troupe composed of black performers in the United States.

He often produced and played minstrel shows with George Primrose, first with a minstrel troupe owned by J. H. Haverly, and later in a show known as Primrose and West starring entertainers Milt G. Barlow and George Wilson, under the management of Henry J. Sayers.

Primrose and West had a hit, and they came to be called "The Millionaires of Minstrelsy."[1] He became the sole producer of the supposedly Richest and Costliest Minstrel Organization in Existence: West's Big Minstrel Jubilee, which featured some of the leading performers of the day, always ending with the cast, in blackface, singing songs of the period.

William H. West is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York City, New York. On his grave marker are these words: "None Knew Him But To Love Him. None named him save in praise."


  1. ^ 1882. Newspaper clipping from "How Burnt Cork Pays." Quoted in Toll 154.

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