The following playbills advertise theatrical performances which took place
in nineteenth-century Leeds.
Several of them are adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin which enjoyed enormous popularity. These would often focus on key scenes such as Eliza's escape to freedom across the Ohio River or depictions of Eva with Uncle Tom.
They were usually very melodramatic and might be part of an evening's entertainment which included extracts from other plays. When the Leeds Grand Theatre opened in 1878, the play was one of those chosen for the opening week.
30 December 1852,
Theatre Royal Hunslet Lane.
An announcement of a 'series of groupings from Uncle Tom's Cabin Or Negro Life in America!'
12 December 1853,
An announcement of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
20 December 1853,
An announcement of an extract from Uncle Tom’s Cabin titled "Eva's Home".
21 June 1862,
Theatre Royal Hunslet Lane.
The playbill announces a performance of Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon. It notes that the audience will see "American Scenes! American Homes! American Characters!" The Octoroon was a hugely popular melodrama which told of a beautiful and virtuous young woman, brought up in a plantation home. When the estate is threatened with sale following its owner's death she suddenly finds herself very vulnerable as she is his illegitimate mixed race daughter, or the octoroon of the play's title. The consequence is that she is a slave, though she has not until this point been treated as one, and can be sold with the rest of the dead man's property. Boucicault wrote two different endings for his play, one for American audiences in which the octoroon kills herself to allow her white lover to marry a white woman. British audiences, on the other hand, see a happier ending in which the octoroon is saved and marries her lover, despite their ethnic differences.
31 January 1853,
An announcement of an adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It includes Eliza's escape across the ice and concludes with the death of Uncle Tom.
17 December 1853,
The playbill notes that the evening's entertainment concludes with an adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
26 December 1857,
Stock Exchange Hall.
An announcement of the presentation of a giant moving panorama of the United States presented by Washington Friend. Panoramas were a very popular form of entertainment in the pre-cinematic era. A painted roll of canvas, attached horizontally to two vertical poles, was gradually unravelled in front of an audience depicting a series of moving images. Watching a panorama was akin to the experience of viewing a film, something audiences would have to wait a few more years for! Henry "Box" Brown used a panorama to depict the gripping events of his dramatic escape from slavery when he toured.
18 November 1878,
Leeds Grand Theatre.
A playbill announcing that Uncle Tom's Cabin will be performed on Thursday as part of the opening events for the Leeds Grand Theatre.