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42 STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
to Tom Blakeley. Such exhibitions, by the way, ought to be confined to the circus."
The "Courier and Enquirer" thus described Rice's appearance in New York on November 25th, 1832:
When he (Rice) came forward to sing his celebrated song ("Jim Crow") before an overcrowded house, many of the audience were on the stage and had mixed themselves up hilariously in the drama of "Richard III," forming a ring about Booth and his opponent in the battle scene. They not only made Rice repeat the song some twenty times, but hemmed him in so that he actually had no room to perform the little dancing and turning about appertaining to the song. In the "after-piece," when a supper table was spread, the hungry swooped down like harpies and devoured the edibles.
With increasing popularity, the black-faced "song and dance artists" forsook the society of the sawdust ring and set up in business for themselves. Singers organized themselves into quartet bands, adding the fiddle and tambourine to the banjo and bones, introduced the hoe-down and conundrums to fill the intervals between songs, and went from town to town, hiring halls where there were no theatres.
One of the earliest of these "wandering minstrel" companies was that of Nelson Kneass, who, in addition to singing, and playing the banjo, could also play the piano, a distinction not possessed by many of his confreres. He also had some ambitions as a composer, and provided himself and his "minstrels" with a large part of their program. He has been credited with being the author and composer of the song "Ben Bolt," an honor to which he is not entitled. The poem, as is well known, is by Thomas Dunn English; the melody is an old German tune which was adapted to the words by Kneass, who first sang the song at a theatrical performance in Pittsburgh.
Kneass visited Pittsburgh from year to year, and finally disbanded his company there in 1845, owing to the "retirement to private life" of one of his "artists," one "Mr. Murphy." Some time after this a certain Mr. Andrews, dealer in confections, cakes and ices, rented a