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Nebraska State Journal

7 November 1894
page 5


The Hot Tamales company , headed by Conroy and Fox , played to good business at the Lansing "Hot Tamales" is a rattling Irish comedy, which has nothing whatever to do with the title.  It has two clever dialect comedians, a passable chorus a very skilful little dancer and heavy villain whom nature has cursed with the mad delusion of thinking he can sing bass.  The entire company had a decided talent for high kicking and pretty stockings, and chief of these was Miss Kittie Allen Miss St. George Hussev is as robust and Irish as ever, and her costumes were Hibernian dreams, fringed with shamrock.  With her peculiar makeup, her tendencies to loudness in both dress and manner are rather exhilarating than offensive.  Conroy and Fox carry both their dialect and comedy lightly and naturally.  Many of the jokes, though entirely irrelevant, were really sharp, and most of them were in the first bloom of their youth.  But some of the songs were relics of border minstrelsy.  In this, the year of our Lord, 1894, the "Old Oaken Bucket" should be left to hang in the well and should not be raised to exhibit the talent of a quartet that cannot find the key even once.  It is indeed "moss covered" and should be left to requiescat in pace.  Also in this day of enlightenment the bass villian should find something else to do with his few quavering tones than rocking them in the Cradle of the Deep


  Hot Tamales company: The Hot Tamales company that played in Lincoln consisted of dialect comedians Conroy and Fox, Kittie (or Kate) Allen, and St. George Hussey, plus a 'heavy' character and a chorus. A cast list in the National Magazine (April 1895) showed seventeen members of the company, but did not include St. George Hussey, although one female character was played by a man, Thomas F. Watson, and a male character was played by a woman, Kate Florence Ellis.

  Conroy: Irish-American comedian John H. Conroy (1849-1923), after appearing with James L. Dempsey in the early 1880s, was teamed up with John C. Fox in 1887, forming the team of Conroy and Fox, Irish comedians.

  Fox: John C. Fox (c. 1866-1902) was born in New York City; as a boy he sang in the choir of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he caught the attention of Edward Harrigan of Harrigan & Hart, brought Fox into his company, where he stayed until 1884. After time as a singer-comedian in various companies, a manager had him form a team as Conroy and Fox, Irish comedians. They toured throughout the country, and appeared in London music halls as well in 1893. In 1894 they formed a company to tour in Hot Tamales ; in 1895 they toured in O’Flaherty’s Vacation . The team dissolved in 1896, and Fox married Katie (Kittie) Allen, with whom he toured in vaudeville and with a play they co-wrote, The Flat Next Door (1897). In 1898 he bought a theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, but in 1899 he filed for bankruptcy.

  Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.

The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.

The Oliver Theater, Lincoln, Nebraska. The theater was originally named The Lansing Theater.

  Hot Tamales: Neither the New York Times drama review index nor Odell's Annals of the New York Stage notes a play of this name appearing in New York. The Reading Eagle described it as a farce-comedy with which Conroy and Fox toured in 1894-95 (8 May 1898). The National Magazine (April 1895) said of it that "It was 'hot stuff,' and that was all the appropriateness in the title. Specialties crowded out the plot, which it was as wholly unnecessary as well as impossible to remember" (201).

  Miss Kittie Allen: The New York Times drama review index and Odell's Annals of the New York Stage do not list an actress named Kittie or Kitty Allen as appearing in New York. A Kitty Allen had a minor role in The Crystal Slipper, A Spectacular Extravaganza touring in 1889-90; she may be the same Kittie or Kate Allen who joined the Conroy and Fox company in 1894 and married John C. Fox in 1896. She co-wrote their successful farce, The Flat Next Door (1897).

  Miss St. George Hussey: British singer St. George Hussey was billed as "the Female Irishman" in an 1880 variety show in London, and Irish roles continued to be her specialty. She was appearing in New York by 1885, where she was referred to, perhaps ironically, as "the lovely Miss St. George Hussey" (New York Times, 25 February 1885). Several songs were associated with her; including "Mary Ann Malone, The Agricultural Irish Girl" (1885), with words and music by J. F. Mitchell; and "My Dad's Old Violin" (1883) with words by William Carleton and music by David Braham.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

  Hibernian: The Roman name for Ireland was Hibernia, hence Irishmen were jocularly referred to as Hibernians.

  Conroy and Fox: The duo of Irish dialect comedians Conroy and Fox was formed about 1887 and toured widely; by the 1890s they played in some of New York's best music halls and vaudeville houses, and they spent a season in the London music halls in 1893. They were part of Capt. Samm's Majestics company in the early 1890s (Odell XV, 224). In 1894 they formed a theatrical company and toured in Hot Tamales and O'Flaherty's Vacation. The duo broke up in 1896.

  first bloom of their youth: A cliché based on the standard comparison of young women to flowers; it usually refers to young women (and men) in their late teens.

  Border minstrelsy: Possibly an allusion to Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), which collected old Scottish folk songs.

  Old Oaken Bucket: "The Old Oaken Bucket" (1818), a poem by American writer and journalist Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842), was a favorite for recitations and singing; the tune by English composer George Kiallwork (1870) is the one best-known. The last two lines of the first stanza constitute the refrain in other stanzas:

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,When fond recollection presents them to view!The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,And every loved spot which my infancy knew!The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell,The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well-The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

  Moss covered: "Moss-covered" is a description of the old oaken bucket in the poem of that name by Samuel Woodworth and thus to anything old or outdated.

  Requiescat in pace: Requiescat in pace, Latin for "rest in peace" (often abbreviated R.I.P.), was often used on tombstones.

  rocking them in the cradle of the deep: The poem, "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep" (1839) by Emma Hart Willard, was a popular favorite. It was set to music by Joseph Knight (1812-1887), the best-known of his more than two hundred compositions. It begins:

Rocked in the cradle of the deep I lay me down in peace to sleep; Secure I rest upon the wave, For thou, O Lord! hast power to save. I know thou wilt not slight my call, For Thou dost mark the sparrow's fall; And calm and peaceful shall I sleep, Rocked in the cradle of the deep.