Edwin Pearce Christy

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Edwin Pearce Christy
Edwin Pearce Christy circa 1850.jpg
Born (1815-11-28)November 28, 1815
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died May 21, 1862(1862-05-21) (aged 46)
Manhattan, New York City
Cause of death Suicide

Edwin Pearce Christy (November 28, 1815 – May 21, 1862) was an American composer, singer, actor and stage producer. He is more commonly known as E. P. Christy, and was the founder of the blackface minstrel group Christy's Minstrels.[1]

Biography[edit]

He was born on November 28, 1815 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Robert F. Christy and Ruth Wheaton.[2]

Christy began his career as a minstrel in Buffalo, New York. By 1836 he was a member of the Company managed by Edwin Dean at the Eagle Street Theater in Buffalo.[3] He toured upstate New York from 1843 to 1845. The group took the name of its founder and became known as the Christy's Minstrels. In April 1846 Christy and his band of six performers began performing in New York City at Polmer's Opera House. The group performed at Mechanics Hall from February 15, 1847 to July 15, 1854. After performing at a benefit performance for Stephen Foster in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 25, 1847, the group specialized in performances of Foster's works. Foster sold his song, Old Folks at Home, to Christy for his exclusive use.[2]

Christy retired as a performer in 1855.[2]

He operated a chain of theaters called Christy's Opera Houses in several cities. The name of the original group, Christy's Minstrels, was licensed for use by a new organization and became synonymous with the performance tradition of blackface minstrelsy.[2]

Fearful of financial reverses due to the upheaval of the American Civil War, Christy committed suicide by throwing himself from a window in his home at 78 East Eighteenth-street in Manhattan, New York City on May 20, 1862.[2] He died on May 21, 1862 of his injuries.[4] He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. His oral last will and testament that was made while hospitalized was declared void by the surrogate court when it ruled that there were no witnesses, other than the person providing the testimony.[5] In 1881 his widow died and her will was contested.[6]

Legacy[edit]

Christy is played by Al Jolson in the Foster bio-pic Swannee River in 1939.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Millionaire Negro-Singer". New York Times. February 9, 1857. ... having made a princely fortune out of burnt cork and Ethiopian melodies now lives the life of a wealthy and fashionable New-Yorker. ... His wealth is prodigious, and, as he has been economical and laborious while earning it, he feels authorized to spend it freely. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Edwin Pearce Christy archive". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  3. ^ Buffalo Courier July 8, 1894 p. 18; Buffalo Courier July 29, 1917
  4. ^ "The Death Of E. P. Christy". New York Times. May 22, 1862. 
  5. ^ "The E. P. Christy Will Case". New York Times. October 28, 1862. 
  6. ^ "Mrs. Christy's Estate. Litigation Over Property Left By A Noted Minstrel's Widow". New York Times. December 11, 1881. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]