James McIntyre (theatrical actor)

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James McIntyre
McIntyre and Heath.jpg
McIntyre and Heath
Born (1857-08-08)August 8, 1857
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Died August 18, 1937(1937-08-18) (aged 80)
Noyack, New York
Known for Vaudeville
Spouse(s) Emma Young (1862–1935)
Children Maud Ainsworth Young (1892–1966), adopted
Los Angeles Herald,January 1907

James McIntyre (8 August 1857 – 18 August 1937), minstrel performer, vaudeville and theatrical actor, and a partner in the famous blackface tramp comedy duo act McIntyre and Heath.[1]

Family and early career[edit]

McIntyre was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and began working at a young age to support his widowed mother.[2] He showed an early aptitude for dancing and acting. McIntyre sold candy on trains and when "the passengers were in danger of being bored Jim would get out in the aisles and entertain them with his clever acting."[3] He learned the dance form known as clogging, which is part of the tap dance style. In his early teens he was keen on joining the circus troupes that passed through Kenosha. His mother initially prevented him from doing so. In 1870 he did join the McKenzie circus and then in 1871 joined the Burton and Ridgeway minstrels and toured the South and Western states for a year. Later he performed with the Katie Putnam Troupe, and toured with the Great Transatlantic circus in 1873.[4]

He married Emma Maude Young (1862–1935). She was a dancer and balladeer known by the stage names of "Maude Clifford", and "Maud Clifton" and she performed as part of the Katie Putnam Troupe.[4] Although they had no natural born children of their own they did adopt a daughter Maud Ainsworth Young (1892–1966).[5] She was the biological daughter of Emma's older sister Annie Young (1860–1906) and Emma's brother-in-law Joseph Charles Ainsworth.[6] In adult life Maud Ainsworth McIntyre became the wife of the Brooklyn criminal trial lawyer and Kings County judge George Washington Martin II (1876–1948).[7] Emma sometimes assisted her husband in negotiating theatre contracts.[8] Emma wrote theatrical scripts using the pseudonym Emily Louise Young, and these included The Rag Time Opera of Trial Marriage (1916),[9] and she co-wrote Red Pepper and Hello, Alexander.[10]

In his peak years as a star performer he gave an interview with the New York Times in which he claimed to have been responsible for introducing to vaudeville the Buck and Wing style of dance that is one form of tap dance.[11]

Partnership with Heath[edit]

In 1874 he met Thomas Kurton Heath (1853–1938) in Texas.[12][13] They developed a blackface tramp duo minstrel act. McIntyre played the character of Alexander Hambletonian who was a buffoonish stable-boy. Heath acted as "Henry Jones" a clever black entertainer who frequently outwits Alexander. Their routines included an oft-performed skit known as the Georgia Minstrels where the character Henry persuades the witless Alexander to quit working as a stable-boy and joins a traveling show where he is promised fame and fortune. None of the fame or fortune materializes and Alexander has comical and outrageous tasks to perform under Henry's direction which allowed them to act out comedic dialogue, dance and songs. Another skit, called the Ham Tree, and which formed the nucleus of a later stage play, involved the two characters discussing how ham grows on trees that are three hundred feet tall.

The Ham Tree Belle Gold 1906

Their acting partnership endured for some fifty years as they worked under the twin influential theatre managers of Tony Pastor and Benjamin Franklin Keith appearing as stars in both vaudeville and Broadway. Their blackface minstrel shows were an influential model followed by later film stars such as Al Jolson. Their best known plays included:


McIntyre died aged eighty at his estate in Noyack, New York.[3] He was buried in Southampton Cemetery.[22]


Further reading[edit]

  • Daniel Blum, A Pictorial History of the American Theatre 1900 – 1950, (New York: Greenberg, 1950).
  • Harold E. Briggs and Ernestine Bennett Briggs, "Early Theater on the Northern Plains," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 37, no. 2 (September 1950), pp. 231–264.
  • Douglas Gilbert, American Vaudeville Its Life and Times (NY Dover 1963, reprint of 1940 ed).
  • Mark Knowles, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002), pp. 113–114. ISBN 0-7864-1267-4
  • Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). ISBN 0-19-507832-2
  • Leslie Joyce Pasternack, "The Bride Wielded a Razor: Images of Women on the Blackface Stage of James McIntyre and Thomas Heath," Comparative Drama, Volume 40 no 4 (Winter 2006–2007).
  • Don Wilmeth, "James McIntyre and Thomas Heath," in The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, edited by Martin Banham (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  • "James McIntyre" in Almanac of Famous People, 9th ed. (Farmington Hills: Thomson Gale, 2007).
  • "James McIntyre" in Biography Index, Volume 4 September 1955-August 1958, (New York: H. H. Wilson, 1960).
  • "James McIntyre" in Oxford Companion to American Theatre edited by Gerald Bordman, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
  • "James McIntyre" in Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Anthony Slide (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994).
  • "McIntyre and Heath" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, 2 Volumes, ed. Dennis Kennedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).


  1. ^ "James McIntyre". William L. Slout. Retrieved 2008-10-16. Of the comedy team of McIntyre and Heath, one of the greatest blackface vaudeville and minstrel acts of all time. Died of uremic poisoning, on his estate in Noyack, near Southampton, LI, NY. In the days following the Civil War, McIntyre and Heath were supreme in the field of minstrel comedy and soft-shoe dancing. For more than 50 years they toured every part of the country, including the Far West when it was really wild. Their famous skit, The Ham Tree, amused audiences for years. They developed the slow-paced, melancholy blackface type of comedy, and were forerunners of Moran and Mack and Amos n' Andy. 
  2. ^ McIntyre at age 13 is described as an "actor in travelling theatre" in 1870 US Federal Census, Kenosha Ward 1, Kenosha, Wisconsin, Roll M593_1770, p. 201, document available to subscribers at http://www.ancestry.com.
  3. ^ a b c "James McIntyre, Stage Star, Dies". New York Times. August 19, 1937. Retrieved 2008-10-16. Vaudeville Favorite Stricken at 80, While Partner, 84, Lies Ill Near By. Wrote 'Ham Tree' Skit. He and Thomas Heath Played for Years in That Sketch All Over the Country Began as a Candy Butcher Joined the Putnam Show On Road to Success When McIntyre Met Heath A "Gag" That Always Scored Some of Their Successes. James McIntyre of the old vaudeville and minstrel team of McIntyre and Heath, died at 6:30 A. M. today on his estate in Nyack, near here, in his eighty-first year. He had been unconscious since last Friday; remained so to the end. 
  4. ^ a b See entry "James McIntyre" in Olympians of the Sawdust Circle, Circus Historical Society.
  5. ^ Maud McIntyre aged 17 is described as "adopted daughter" in 1910 US Federal Census, Brooklyn Ward 32, Kings County, New York, Roll: T624_985, p9B, Enumeration District 1000, available to subscribers at http://www.ancestry.com.
  6. ^ Robert L. Brown and Rosemary Brown, They Lie in Wait To Deceive, Volume 3, Mesa, Arizona: Brownsworth Publishing, 1986, pp. 86–87.
  7. ^ "Mr McIntyre left no close relatives. Chief mourner was an adopted daughter, Mrs Maud Martin wife of County Judge George W. Martin of Brooklyn" in "Old Stage Friends at M'Intyre Rites" New York Times, August 21, 1937, p. 15.
  8. ^ For example see the letter dated September 14, 1898 from M. Shea to Maude McIntyre concerning a contract for 1 week's performances at Shea's Garden Theatre. Letter held in Box 4 Theatre Correspondence, The McIntyre and Heath Archive 1878–1936, at Charles Deering McCormick Library, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
  9. ^ See Box 6 item F.10 "the rag Time Opera of Trial Marriage" "A Merry Musical Melange" 1916 by Emily Louise Young, 80 pp. in The McIntyre and Heath Archive 1878–1936, at Charles Deering McCormick Library, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
  10. ^ See letter dated December 7, 1911, F51 in Box 4 "Theatre Correspondence" from Edgar Smith and Emily Young co-authors of play "Red Pepper" relinquishing rights to McIntyre and Heath in The McIntyre and Heath Archive 1878–1936, at Charles Deering McCormick Library, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
  11. ^ "Introducing Ragtime". New York Times. November 4, 1916. 
  12. ^ "When McIntyre and Heath First Met". New York Times. 1919-11-16. Retrieved 2008-10-17. James McIntyre and Thomas Heath met in San Antonio in 1874, and then and there began a stage partnership which still endures and is the longest of its kind in the world. At the Forty-fourth Street Theatre, where they are at present playing ... 
  13. ^ a b "Heath Dies Year After McIntyre". New York Times. August 20, 1938. Retrieved 2008-10-16. Partner in Famous Minstrel Team Had Been III Two Years. First Joint Act in 1874. Blackface Pair Last Appeared in 'America Sings' in the Early 1930's at Boston. Biographer Visits Him Bedridden at Partner's Death Returned to the Footlights Heath Lost a Partner Helped Introduce Ragtime Only Friend "Jim" Remained. Thomas K. Heath, partner of the late James McIntyre in the famous blackface team whose act, "The Ham Tree," convulsed generations of Americans, died last night at his home here on the anniversary of his partner's death. He was 85 years old. 
  14. ^ "McIntyre and Heath Again Present "The Ham Tree."". New York Times. July 31, 1906. Retrieved 2008-10-17. McIntyre and Heath, droll as ever, and quite inimitable in their own peculiar line, returned to the New York last night, again creating almost continuous laughter in their amplified vaudeville sketch, now known as "The Ham Tree." As Alexander Hambletonian, lured from his "happy livery stable" to the uncertainties of minstrel life on the crossroads, Mr. McIntyre presents about as amusing a character in low comedy blackface as could be imagined. 
  15. ^ "The Ham Tree". IBDB. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  16. ^ "In Hayti". IBDB. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  17. ^ "In Hayti is Shown. McIntyre and Heath Appear. Erlanger Makes Speech in Home City.". New York Times. August 24, 1909. Retrieved 2008-10-17. McIntyre and Health appeared to-night in "In Hayti," a production by Klaw Erlanger, at the Euclid Avenue Opera House. 
  18. ^ "Hello, Alexander". IBDB. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  19. ^ "'Hello, Alexander', Tame. McIntyre and Health Amusing in a Conservative Musical Comedy.". New York Times. October 8, 1919. Retrieved 2008-10-17. "Hello, Alexander" is conservative musical comedy of the vintage of 1906, although here and there it contains a joke older. It is lightened only partially by ... 
  20. ^ "Red Pepper". IBDB. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  21. ^ "Mirth in "Red Pepper". McIntyre and Heath and Mabel Elaine the Leading Comics.". New York Times. May 30, 1922. Retrieved 2008-10-17. James McIntyre and Thomas Heath came back to town last night, to the Shubert Theatre, with a show which lagged lazily through most of its first act but picked up speed in the second and was going well when the final curtain came down. 
  22. ^ "Old Stage Friends McIntyre Rites. Simple Services Are Held at Southampton for Veteran of Black-Face Comics". New York Times. August 21, 1937. Retrieved 2008-10-17. James McIntyre, who entertained the American public for over sixty years as one of the best of the black-face comedians, was buried today in a Catholic cemetery after simple funeral services in his Summer home, Tiana, on Noyback Bay. He died Wednesday, after a brief illness, at the age of 80. ... The Martins' two sons, George W. Martin 3d and James Martin, were among the pallbearers. The others were Mr. Rosenbaun, Raymond Crowsin, Warren Morton and ... 

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