George H. Coes
|George H. Coes|
George H. Coes
|Origin||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Died||March 16, 1897|
|Associated acts||Luke Schoolcraft|
Coes was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1828.
Career in minstrelsy
Minstrelsy was America's first original contribution to the theater arts. It was popular from just before the American Civil War to the end of the 19th Century. Today, minstrelsy and its attendant blackface is viewed as racist and anachronistic; however, it was the preeminent entertainment in the United States during the life of George H. Coes, and he was one of the most well-known and successful performers.
Coes went to California in 1852 and was associated with a number of minstrel acts, principally in San Francisco before returning East and opening with Woods and Christy's Minstrels in New York City in 1857. In 1858, Coes returned to California and joined with Sam Wells to form Coes and Wells' Minstrels. That partnership did not last and Coes returned to performing in other companies. In 1867, after years of performing in the minstrel companies of others, Coes joined with S.S. Purdy and Frank Converse to form Coes, Purdy and Converse's Party which opened in Harlem on March 19, 1867.
Partnership with Schoolcraft
Coes joined with his old friend Luke Schoolcraft in 1874 and they formed "one of the most famous minstrel tandems in history."  Schoolcraft & Coes appeared with a number of leading companies including Emerson's Megatherian Minstrels and Barlow, Wilson, Primrose & West. By 1880, the two settled with their families in Cambridge, Massachusetts and continued to tour throughout the country performing their minstrel act in a variety of shows and venues.
When Coes was unable to continue his career due to poor health in 1889, the partnership dissolved. Coes was stricken with paralysis in 1891 and died at his home at 205 Hampshire Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 16, 1897.
George H. Coes produced a book of music in 1877, entitled George Coes' Album of Music which included a number of hits, including:
- Clouds and sunshine; or, I've just arrived from Dixie (1877)
- Bean, Annemarie; James Vernon Hatch; Brooks McNamara (1996). Inside the minstrel mask: readings in nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy. Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-5294-1.
- McCormack, Mike (February 2, 2003). "Luke Schoolcraft's life touches on minstrel shows, composing". Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Retrieved August 30, 2008.
- Rice, Edward Leroy (1911). Monarchs of Minstrelsy from "Daddy" Rice to Date. New York, New York: Kenney Publishing Company. p. 366.