Rice, Daddy [Rice, Thomas Dartmouth]
- Robert B. Winans
[Rice, Thomas Dartmouth]
(b New York, May 20, 1808; d New York, Sept 19, 1860). American minstrel performer. He trained to be a woodcarver, and occasionally performed small parts at the Park Theatre in New York. He then became an itinerant player, and it was probably in Louisville in 1828 that he created his famous ‘Jim Crow’ act, the first solo act by a blackface performer (see illustration). His first performance as Jim Crow was an instant sensation, and Rice rose from obscurity to ever increasing success in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York (in 1832) and even London (1836). Rice’s popularity was unprecedented, and Jim Crow was the first American song to become an international hit. The tune resembles Irish and English tunes, but the lyrics are purely American; many verses are crude attempts at satirical and topical humour. Jim Crow was the first example of what became a stock character in minstrelsy, that of the southern plantation field hand, who was not only naive and fun-loving, but also boastful, like the frontiersman or river boatman. Dance was an essential part of the act, and it has been claimed to be the first clear use of African American dance on the popular stage. Rice also added other blackface songs to his repertory, such as ...